OCTOBER 30, 1939
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sunday—Limited space prevented my telling you about several interesting things which I did in Youngstown, Ohio, last Friday. Today I shall try to tell you a little more about this city, which seems to exist primarily for the production of steel.
There is a certain majesty to this industry which catches one's imagination. We came out from a street to find ourselves looking down over what seemed to be an almost limitless array of factory buildings and chimneys. The driver of our car said: "That is the U. S. Steel Company and it covers six miles." Think of the investment represented and of the stake which the people working here have in the success or failure of that business, not to mention the innumerable people who own a part of the invested capital. It takes your breath away just to think that any human beings are responsible for anything so vast and far reaching.
I saw two WPA projects during the morning. One, a visual education project in a school, was turning out extremely good material such as posters, pictures of birds, samples of grass, trees, bugs, etc. for use in schools throughout the district. The other, an Ohio State project being carried on in several big cities, I have never happened to come across anywhere else, though it is doubtless being done in many places. Newspapers in the various cities are being indexed and microfilms of the pages are being made. These films can be stored and lent with ease, and the indexing material will make available information on the news for the years which these projects cover. It takes several weeks to train a man for work on this project which requires intelligence and accuracy. I was interested to see that men and women of various ages and nationalities, including two colored men, were working on it.
After lunch at one of the clubs in the city, I had an opportunity to talk with a number of WPA and NYA groups. In industrial centers there is a pick-up in employment which is felt on both WPA and NYA projects, but this is not the case as yet in small towns or rural areas.
Youngstown has a symphony orchestra which is entirely self-supporting and which was started by two young Italian boys. Many workers in the steel mill play in it, for among our American citizens of foreign nationalities we are more apt to find artistic ability—one of their contributions for which we should be grateful.
I visited a slum clearance project in the afternoon which covers a large area and which they tell me replaces some long condemned buildings, which had been a blot on the city and a danger to the health of the people. I also had a glimpse of the park, which is one of the most beautiful natural parks I have ever seen.
We left Youngstown immediately after my lecture, spent a few hours in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday and found ourselves engulfed in a football crowd. We were tempted to stay over to see the Cornell-Ohio State game so as to be able to cheer our own state college.
Now, after part of a day and another night on the train, we are in Birmingham, Alabama. This country is a big country when you start to crisscross it!