SEPTEMBER 23, 1939
DELAVAN, Ill., Friday—We reached Carbondale, Ill., at about four o'clock yesterday afternoon and I did not expect much time to see the countryside. However, the National Youth administrator told me there was a small resident project he would like to show me, so I sallied forth with two very kind and enthusiastic young men as guides.
The fact that Illinois has risen to fifth place among oil- producing states has made a considerable change in the outlook of the people, but it does not seem to have changed greatly the fact that the farming population and mining population in this section are at a very low ebb. One of the counties near Carbondale has the greatest number of people on relief in any one county in the United States.
Most of the young men in the Youth Administration project are boys who never had an opportunity for acquiring any work skill or getting into any job which was more than a temporary day-laborer type of occupation. They are teaching some subsistence farming on this project which, from observation from the train window, I should say is very necessary. How to grow a garden, how to get as much of one's living as possible out of a small acreage, would be very valuable to miners whose work is seasonal. In any case, even when all the mines are open these boys are also given training in auto-mechanics, electrical wiring, woodworking and iron work.
They have the advantage of being near a State Teachers' college which is cooperating in every way. This college also has a large number of NYA students and has found them a valuable addition. The town itself has many monuments to WPA work—a paved and widened main street, a fine armory and several other lasting improvements. The Business Men's club seems to cooperate in all this work and has donated the land on which the new buildings are situated.
I drove through the college grounds and out to the Crab Orchard Lake project. This is a PWA project and has employed a good many persons. Flood control is evidently much needed and the possibility of creating power through a series of these projects might mean a good deal to the development of the area. There are, of course, some natural objections. People will lose their land when the lake is filled up and they do not like the countryside inundated.
It would be impossible for me to pass any judgment on their complaints, but I feel sure that careful consideration was given to them before the work was undertaken.
To our great joy Mrs. Helm drove over from Grayville, Ill., and joined us in Carbondale for a few hours. As we had received several envelopes of mail from Washington, we immediately put her to work folding and stamping letters, so she felt as though she had settled down to work a few weeks too early. We are now in Delavan, Ill., where I give a lecture tonight.