Monday, June 17, 2013

The Texas New Deal Conference

Victoria Cummins and I both gave papers this Saturday at the first Texas New Deal Conference, a gathering that seeks to become an annual event. This conference was sponsored by the East Texas Historical Association, the American Cotton Museum, Texas Wesleyan University, and Collin College. The conference took place at the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Musem in Greenville. It brought together a group of active scholars and historians who represent most of the research that is currently being done today on the New Deal in Texas. George Cooper of Lone Star College served as the organizer of the conference, with assistance from various other historians. Those presenting papers included: Keith Volanto, Carroll Scoggins-Brincefield, Geir Bentzen, Carol Taylor, Brenda Taylor-Mathews, Victoria Cummins, and me. The title of my paper was "With Stone, Canvas, and Mortar: When Art and Archecture Went to Work for the New Deal." Plans are already underway for a second annual conference to take place next year on the campus of Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading I: "Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps"

I have just finished reading a fine book published earlier this year dealing with the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in building state parks across Texas. It is entitled "Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps" by Dr. Cynthia Brandimarte, with Angela S. Reed. Historian Cynthia Brandimarte has curry-combed the records of the government agencies that worked with CCC in creating the foundations of the modern park system as we know it. Although some 50,000 men worked for the CCC in the Lone Star State during the 1930s and early 1940s, not all of them were Texans and they accomplished many other tasks in addition to working to create and augment state parks. Nonetheless, today Texas has a number of state parks that flow directly from the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. As the promotional material for this book notes of these men and their work: "Between 1933 and 1942, they constructed trails, cabins, concession buildings, bathhouses, dance pavilions, a hotel, and a motor court. Before they arrived, the state’s park lands consisted of fourteen parks on about 800 acres, but by the end of World War II, CCC workers had helped create a system of forty-eight parks on almost 60,000 acres throughout Texas.Accompanied by many never-published images that reveal all aspects of the CCC in Texas, from architectural plans to camp life, Texas State Parks and the CCC covers the formation and development of the CCC and its design philosophy; the building of the parks and the daily experiences of the workers; the completion and management of the parks in the first decades after the war; and the ongoing process of maintaining and preserving the iconic structures that define the rustic, handcrafted look of the CCC." This book is distinguished by containing dozens and dozens of photographs, some from the CCC era and others from the modern era documenting their work. It also contains an alphabetical listing, park by park, of those facilities that today contain structures, cabins, and other constructions dating from the CCC era. This book provides a modern-day look at the creation of the Texas State Park system while it highlights the unique contribution that the Civilian Conservation Corps played in that process from 1933 until 1944. Dr. Brandimarte, who is on the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, served as project directro for a survey of parks that contain constructions and improvements built by the CCC. This project resulted both in this book and in a very informative website that anyone who reads this volume should consult. Click here for the website entitled: The Look of Nature: Designing State Parks During the Depression."