Hidden sidewalks with historic story

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Wayne Jones and Parish President Natalie Robottom have taken on a major work project in Edgard, Reserve and LaPlace.

They have combined resources to continue the work of the Parish Economical Development Department, which highlights the historical districts in St. John Parish. They are finding sidewalks that were built in the 1930s.

You may be asking, “How you find the sidewalks?”

Remember these sidewalks were built some 76 years ago and grass and dirt have covered them up.

Through my investigation I have discovered that President Franklin D. Roosevelt established two federal work programs in the 1930s. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt wanted to put people to work and stimulate the economy. One program was the Work Project Administration and the other was the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The WPA was responsible for building 661,000 miles of roadway and improving 800 airports. This employed 8.5 million people and paid almost $11 billion to the workers. These workers lived in barracks and were given food, clothes and a free place to stay. Workers were paid $12 per month, but the workers were given $3 spending money and the other $9 went to the worker’s family. This doesn’t sound like much money, but in 1935 you could buy items for pennies.

The CCC workers lived in approximately 4,500 camps across the

U.S. These workers were trained

in skills such as typing, reading, writing, cabinet making, metal craft, etc. The workers were also given entertainment such as plays, movies, pool and games. The CCC workers planted 2.5 billion trees, drained 248,000 acres of swampland, replanted 814,000 acres of grazing land, released 972 million fish,

protected 154 million square yards of river banks and 40 million

acres of farmland from erosion, built 125,000 miles of road and

13,000 miles of trails, laid 89,000 miles of telephone line, created 52,000 acres of campgrounds, established 800 state parks and renovated 4,000 historic building. Approximately 17 million people benefited from these two programs. Either the WPA or the CCC built the sidewalks in St. John Parish. When the sidewalk project is completed and you walk on them, stop and think about the people that built them and how hard times were.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.