Before They’re Lost…

Before They’re lost, New Deal Neighbors Collects the Stories of Greenhills, Ohio’s Earliest Residents

Located just past Winton Woods, this suburban enclave was created by the government during the Great Depression era

DEC 7, 2018 1 PM
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8a03504vA Greenhills family. 1938.PHOTO: JOHN VACHON; RETRIEVED FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESSGreenhills, Ohio was founded to pioneer a dream. Just north of Cincinnati and past Winton Woods, the suburb is marked by classic American iconography: a community center, swimming pool, shopping strip, small apartment buildings and single-family homes.

But the village’s history runs deeper than its sleepy present-day appearance. During the 1930s, it was one of three Greenbelt Communities built by the federal government; Greenbelt, Maryland and Greendale, Wisconsin round out the trio.

“The interesting thing about Greenhills is that it’s really under-appreciated locally,” says Anne Delano Steinert, a public history doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati. “People don’t really realize what an important national exemplar it was.”

As Greenhills celebrated its 80th anniversary in spring (and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2017), the “New Deal Neighbors” online project came to fruition through a public history practicum course at University of Cincinnati, which Delano Steinert helped lead alongside Dr. Tracy Teslow.

Each of the seven students that made up the spring practicum course interviewed three of Greenhills’ earliest residents to collect their memories about the village. Now, those interviews are available on a website in the form of videos (except one interview conducted via phone) and transcripts.

Conceived during the Great Depression, the three experimental suburbs were meant to create jobs and provide affordable housing for working-class families, with urban planner Rexford Tugwell — who helped develop policies for President Roosevelt’s New Deal — at the helm.WalkingfamilyGreenhills residents taking a stroll. 1938.PHOTO: JOHN VACHON; RETRIEVED FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Delano Steinert has both a personal and academic love of Greenhills, as her grandparents were original owners in the village, having moved there in ‘38. Her aunts and dad all grew up there.

“The story of Greenhills is really important and foundational in the way that American suburbs begin to get created,” she says. “Which then really has a drastic influence on American cities and metropolitan areas rippling forward even today.”

She also knew that as the original neighbors aged, their stories were at risk of being lost. Through the site, she hopes to preserve those memories for future historians. Working with the Greenhills Historical Society, the students were able to gain access to willing interviewees.

One of those was Stanley Wernz; raised about three miles outside the village on a farm, he attended Greenhills’ public schools.

“It was a wonderful community; everyone cared about someone else,” he recalls in his interview. “If I got involved in some difficulty, often, my mother knew about it before I got home. There would be somebody who called and say, ‘You know, you need to talk to him about this.’”

He shares idyllic memories of playing kick-the-can in the cornfields with his siblings and participating in the high school’s band, where he played the trumpet, baritone horn and sousaphone.

Many of the other interviewees recalled similar, fond memories: playing in the scout cabin local dads built from old telephone poles, spending entire summer days splashing and lounging at the pool, taking the bus to downtown Cincinnati and shopping at department stores like Shillito’s. Visitors of the website can explore these spaces via a map that pinpoints various Greenhills landmarks.8b29443v(1)The shopping center in Greenhills, Ohio. 1938.PHOTO: JOHN VACHON; RETRIEVED FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Re-listening to the interviews, Delano Steinert says, “The real feeling is that in the early years of Greenhills it was this incredible feeling of closeness and mutual support and that everyone was sort of pitching in to help one another.”

But Delano Steinert also notes that there was “some lament over the way Greenhills has changed over time.” That sense of tight-knit community has now seemingly petered out, for an array of reasons.

“One of the key reasons is that when the government selected residents of Greenhills, they engineered it,” she says. “They engineered it in two ways: They physically built it into the environment — the form of the town encourages community — but they also hand-picked the residents.”

The result was a homogeneous group of people, which meant that the community excluded others, including people of color.

“The beauty and amazing gift that was Greenhills to the families that got to experience it came at the expense of those who didn’t get to experience it,” Delano Steinert says.8b14049vA prospective family being interviewed in the family selection office. 1938.PHOTO: JOHN VACHON; RETRIEVED FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Wernz points to this in his interview, saying that the prejudice disturbed him. As a fourth grader, he remembers going to the pool with one of his classmates, who was black, that lived south of the village.

“They sold me my ticket, and I went in and I stopped to wait for him and they would not sell him a ticket,” Wernz says. “I didn’t have the gumption to say, ‘Well, then I can’t go either.’ And that bothers me to this day. I didn’t stand up for that kid, and he was my friend.”

The ages of the subjects mostly hits in the 80s-range, with Thomas Haverland (who moved to Greenhills as a teenager) — who is in his 90s — being the oldest, and Glory Southland Green, in her late-50s, being the youngest.

In the village’s 80th year, Delano Steinert has a new appreciation for the importance of collecting the residents’ stories. When she first started the project she hoped to interview her aunt, who lived in California. But she passed away in June of this year.

“I didn’t get to include her story, which was a bummer,” she says. “But it just brings home the point of doing oral histories, which is that these great stories —  these rich lived experiences, memories that no one else has — can just be extinguished in a moment.”

Now that the project is over and the site is live (newdealneighbors.com), Delano Steinert says it’s being handed over to the Greenhills Historical Society so they can add additional interviews if they’d like.


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Help Save the New Deal Turtle Fountain


The New Mexico Chapter of the New Deal Preservation Association (NNDPA) is acquiring funds to restore a New Deal fountain created in the 1930’s by Santa Fe sculptor, Eugenie Shonnard, for the courtyard of what was the Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children in Truth or Consequences, NM. Now called the New Mexico Veterans Home, this facility is dedicated to older and physically challenged veterans, as the state’s only veterans nursing home. For more information, contact Kathy Flynn at NNDPA.

Name: ______________________________

Address:_____________________________
__________________________________

Phone: ______________________________

Thank you for your donation of $ ______________

Please mail to us at NNDPA, NM Chapter

Henry Alsberg: The Driving Force of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project

by Susan Rubenstein DeMasi, Publisher: McFarland & Co., 2016
Reviewed by: Harvey Smith

The world of the New Deal seems like an alternative universe compared to today’s public policies of climate change denial, privatizing of education, rolling back health care benefits, increasing homelessness, threats to publicly funded media and arts, and the increasing gap between rich and poor. The people-centered policies of the New Deal remind us that there is another way. There was a time when policy-makers did not succumb to greed, callousness and denial of basic human needs. Quite the contrary, they moved deliberately and vigorously in the opposite direction.
Much has been written about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the two key figures of the New Deal. The relatively recent biography of Frances Perkins, Kirstin Downey’s “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” finally gives an in depth look at the key architect of FDR’s social policy. Susan Quinn’s “Furious Improvisation” brings to light the dynamic role of Hallie Flanagan in bringing the performing arts to all Americans. Now Susan Rubenstein DeMasi’s new book “Henry Alsberg: The Driving Force of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project” tells the story of the director of New Deal’s massive literary project.
Jerre Mangione’s earlier work, “The Dream and Deal,” described in detail the workings of the “Federal Writers’ Project” and to some extent the role of Henry Alsberg. However, DeMasi’s book tells the complete life story of another amazing figure from the pantheon of New Deal innovators and reveals the depth of Alsberg’s lifelong commitment to human rights and journalistic truth. As it turns out his New Deal work was in a sense the coda to a life of a very dedicated activist, one who was not afraid to confront death defying challenges.
Alsberg was an early champion of the rights of refugees and political prisoners. He worked in Europe during and after World War I. This was long before someone doing such work could rely on the support of an organization like Amnesty International. He sometimes traveled under great risk, working both as a humanitarian and a journalist.  Alsberg hoped to push the world to take action. It’s a sad commentary that so many years later others, like contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, must do the same.
As director of the Federal Writers’Project, Alsberg organized the massive
program of recruiting writers to do the unique guidebooks for every state and some cities and to chronicle and preserve critical American histories like the slave narratives. Like Hallie Flanagan he faced down the right-wing backlash of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Similar to Bayard Ruston in a later period, he had to hide the fact that he was gay and live under threat of exposure, perhaps stifling efforts to move on to even greater achievements and limiting him to working more behind the scenes.
Thanks to Susan DeMasi for bringing to light the moving story of journalist and human rights advocate Henry Alsberg. His artistic and radical life was an adventure, and her recounting moves along like one.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

by Robert Dallek–This book is Robert Dallek’s newest on one of his favorite subjects, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was released on November 7, 2017. 

• Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and NPR
• A one-volume biography of Roosevelt by the #1 New York Times bestselling biographer of JFK, focusing on his career as an incomparable politician, uniter, and deal maker.
• “We come to see in FDR the magisterial, central figure in the greatest and richest political tapestry of our nation’s entire history” —Nigel Hamilton, Boston Globe
• “Meticulously researched and authoritative.” — Douglas Brinkley, The Washington Post
• “A workmanlike addition to the literature on Roosevelt.” — David Nasaw, The New York Times   
• “Dallek offers an FDR relevant to our sharply divided nation.” — Michael Kazin
• “Will rank among the standard biographies of its subject”— Publishers Weekly

In an era of such great national divisiveness, there could be no more timely biography of one of our greatest presidents than one that focuses on his unparalleled political ability as a uniter and consensus maker. Robert Dallek’s Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life takes a fresh look at the many compelling questions that have attracted all his biographers: how did a man who came from so privileged a background become the greatest presidential champion of the country’s needy? How did someone who never won recognition for his intellect foster revolutionary changes in the country’s economic and social institutions? How did Roosevelt work such a profound change in the country’s foreign relations?

     For FDR, politics was a far more interesting and fulfilling pursuit than the management of family fortunes or the indulgence of personal pleasure, and by the time he became president, he had commanded the love and affection of millions of people. While all Roosevelt’s biographers agree that the onset of polio at the.age of thirty-nine endowed him with a much greater sense of humanity, Dallek sees the affliction as an insufficient explanation for his transformation into a masterful politician who would win an unprecedented four presidential terms, initiate landmark reforms that changed the American industrial system, and transform an isolationist country into an international superpower.

     Dallek attributes FDR’s success to two remarkable political insights. First, unlike any other president, he understood that effectiveness in the American political system depended on building a national consensus and commanding stable long-term popular support. Second, he made the presidency the central, most influential institution in modern America’s political system. In addressing the country’s international and domestic problems, Roosevelt recognized the vital importance of remaining closely attentive to the full range of public sentiment around policy-making decisions—perhaps FDR’s most enduring lesson in effective leadership.
– Amazon Review

 

The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace

BOOK REVIEWSby Dr. David B Woolner
Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian
The Roosevelt Institute 
Senior Fellow Center for Civic Engagement
Bard College
Professor of History
Marist College. Reviewed by Christopher Breiseth

On December 14th, I attended a book signing/lecture by David B. Woolner at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY. His book, THE LAST 100 DAYS: FDR AT WAR AND AT PEACE appeared in book stores that day.
An audience of 150 people attended Woolner’s talk which was filmed by C-SPAN. My closest colleague during my years as president-CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, David had sent me a desk copy which I had the opportunity to read before this premier event. It is terrific.
The work establishes a symmetry between the first 100 days of the Roosevelt Administration, when the domestic New Deal legislation began a redefinition of the relationship between the American people and their government, and FDR’s last 100 days when he led the Allies against Nazi Germany to the edge of victory and secured commitments from Stalin to establish the United Nations and to enter the war against Japan.            Acknowledging the President’s deteriorating health as a factor, which has increasingly drawn the attention of historians, Woolner charts on a virtual daily basis the efforts of FDR to pursue with laser like focus his war and peace objectives. Even as his body gave way in early April of 1945 at Warm Springs, he was still managing the relations with Churchill and Stalin and preparing for the opening of the United Nations in San Francisco.
Woolner’s coverage of the Yalta Conference and its importance in shaping the post war world I believe will become the dominant interpretation of that crucial moment. I have read many books about Franklin Roosevelt but I have never felt closer to the man – and the leader – than when reading Woolner’s book.
The very favorable book jacket blurbs are written by Ken Burns, David Reynolds, Jonathan Alter and E.J. Dionne. The one dimension of Woolner’s success I feel they missed is his masterful control of the world diplomatic scene – David is a diplomatic historian – against which to appreciate Roosevelt’s own mastery of the war and his preparations for the peace.
The book is published by Basic Books and costs $32.00 in hardback.

New Deal Grandchildren Speak

THE NEW DEAL SHAPED AMERICA IN THE 20TH CENTURY–WILL IT ADAPT TO THE 21ST?  

NEW DEAL GRANDCHILDREN SPEAK 

A Panel of direct descendants of major New Dealers will discuss the importance of their grandparents’ legacy to the 21st century at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, at 4 p.m., Saturday, August 19th, 2017. Participants will include James Roosevelt, Jr., David Wallace Douglas, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall and June Hopkins.

This special gathering will be jointly hosted by the FDR Presidential Library  and the National New Deal Preservation Association.  The Panel, to be held in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, will be moderated by Christopher N. Breiseth, board member of the NNDPA and former president and CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

At the reception following the Panel, other members of the families of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry A. Wallace, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins and Frank Walker will be recognized.

At 3 p.m., before the Panel, the NNDPA will present the Kathy Flynn Preservation Awards.  Randall Wallace, grandson of Vice President Wallace, will give a concert at 7 p.m.

The FDR Library staff is excited to collaborate with the NNDPA for this program and expects a large audience, with possible national broadcast of the Panel.

All events are free and open to the public.

Whitney Plantation

Louisiana News – Whitney Plantation

The Whiteny Plantation museum facility has a collection of the Federal Writer’s Project’s “Slave Narratives”  copies obtained via National Archives .  Located at  5099 Louisiana Hwy 18. Edgard, LA 70049. Originally a plantation as of 1752 but John Cummings spent 16 years planning and implementing this museum.  Film about museum on www.whitneyplantation.com  Contact person: Ashley Rogers 225-265-3300. “Telling the Story of Slavery.” New Yorker Magazine. Feb 17, 2016.  Author: Kalim Armstrong

Aimee Goram Wood Mural

Aimee Goram Mural Restored!

Public unveiling of the newly restored 1938 wood marquetry mural at Chapman Elementary School “Send Us Forth to be Builders of a Better World” by Aimee Gorham
The entrance foyer of Chapman Elementary has been graced with the work of Aimee Spencer Gorham since 1938 when the large format wood marquetry mural titled Send Us Forth to be Builders of a Better World was installed there, but almost 80 years of accumulated soiling, wear, and vandalism had obscured the exquisite and glowing figural effects of the wood grains in the mural. On Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 6-8 pm, The Chapman PTA, Neighbors West-Northwest and Heritage Conservation Group will invite the public to view the mural in its newly restored condition. Conservation of the murals was made possible by funding through the State of Oregon’s Oregon Heritage Grant, the Juan Young Trust, the Autzen Foundation and community donations. The unveiling event is sponsored by Neighbors West-Northwest and organized by the Chapman PTA.

During the unveiling event, talks will be given by art historian Bonnie Laing Malcolmson on Aimee Gorham, Heritage Conservation Group president Nina Olsson on the conservation treatment, and Dr. Suzana Radivojevic, wood scientist with the U of O Historic Preservation Program, on Gorham’s the use of wood veneer and plywood in the historic context of the wood products industry of the Pacific Northwest. There will also be a dedication of a new Auditorium sign by Butch Miller, of the American Marquetry Association.

Aimee Gorham is best known for her work at the Timberline Lodge, the largest and most ambitious New Deal project of the area, where two of her pieces grace the walls of that temple to rustic regionalism. Under WPA programs, Gorham produced murals for Oregon State University’s School of Forestry, numerous Portland Public schools, regional art centers in Oregon, and for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. She established a workshop of furniture makers from Timberline Lodge that executed her designs into the 1950s.

Gorham only recently has come to be is considered a significant regional artist, despite never having received adequate recognition. This may have been due to now outdated concepts in art criticism during the mid and late 20th century, that considered her technical medium, wood marquetry, a decorative or “minor art”. Not to be overlooked is her identity as a female artist, which also may have contributed to her lack of critical fortune due to gender bias.

Learn more about this significant piece of work Come at the educational community event on Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 6-8 pm at the Chapman Elementary School Auditorium, 1445 NW 26th Ave, Portland, OR 97210. Appetizers and child friendly activities will be provided.

NM CCC Statue Dedication

Exciting news – Bandelier, NM CCC Statue Dedication 2016

Click on the link below to learn more about the Bandelier, NM CCC Statue Dedication 2016 ceremony

Bandelier, NM CCC Statue Dedication 2016

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Poster for the stage adaptation of It Can’t Happen Here, October 27, 1936 at the Lafayette Theater as part of the Detroit Federal Theater
An invitation from Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Berkeley Repertory Theatre invites you to take part in a nationwide reading of It Can’t Happen Here.
To see the full letter please click here –ichh-community-letter-brt-pdf

We hope you will join us in hosting a staged reading in your own community on the evening of Monday October 24th. We have made arrangements with the Lewis estate to allow one-night readings of the play to be mounted without payment of any licensing fee during that week.

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a novel that imagines the rise of fascism in America. Concerned about race riots, a huge income gap between the rich and the poor, the stigmatizing of immigrants, global terror, and a right-wing extremist running for president, Lewis’ novel reads like it was ripped out of today’s headlines. Whether he’s describing Buzz Windrip, the demagogue who wins the presidency based on the promise of making our country great again, or Doremus Jessup, a liberal newspaper editor who simply waits too long to take Windrip seriously, Lewis’ understanding of our political system was precise and far-reaching. Reading the book now is somewhat shocking, if only because it’s impossible to dismiss our current situation as an aberration. As one of the characters in the book says, the problem’s not Windrip [read: Trump]; “it’s the sickness that made us throw him up that we’ve got to attend to.”

Shortly after publication of the novel, Lewis wrote a play by the same name for the Federal Theatre Project. On October 27, 1936, the play opened in 21 cities across the United States. It created a sensation, not because of its dramatic value (which is unfortunately lacking), but because of its message.

We hope to reclaim the excitement of the original production and rectify the shortcomings of the script. Berkeley Rep is opening our season with an entirely new adaptation of the novel, created by Tony Taccone and Bennett Cohen. Lisa Peterson will direct. It will run September 23, 2016 through the election. We have uploaded the rehearsal script to a drop box for your perusal. Please go to the Dropbox at… http://bit.ly/2cxhjns

If you decide to participate we ask that you notify us. We will provide a sample press release, editable artwork for a poster, horizontal and vertical ads, cast breakdown and an updated script. If you would prefer to use the original Lewis play, that is in the public domain and you are welcome to use that as well. What is most important to us is that It Can’t Happen Here should happen in as many communities as possible!

No admission may be charged per the arrangement with the Lewis estate. We hope to generate local and national press.

Please consider being part of this project. Let us know if we can add your date, time and location to our calendar.

You may respond to Sarah McArthur at smcarthur@berkeleyrep.org  / cell 415-307-3374 to signify interest, ask questions, and receive access to the Dropbox that will contain material to assist you in producing and promoting your reading.