In, perhaps, 2015, I attended a lecture by Grey Brechin which inspired me to put together a string of my experiences which illustrated the profound effect the New Deal has had on my life and how it had been largely and starkly invisible to me and unconnected for some 60 years.
In 1959 our family migrated to California by car along route 66. As a young teen, I visited the Taos Pueblo, stayed in a log cabin motel in the Grand Canyon National Park, and stopped at Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite. Later I studied the Arts and Crafts Architects, worked in Yosemite Park, moved to Berkeley, took photography from FSA/WPA photographer John Collier Jr. I worked on a adobe walled hippie dome outside Taos, where I met John Collier, the photographer’s anthropologist father who, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs under FDR, was instrumental in reducing the government’s destruction of Native cultures. My wedding was in the Brazil Room in Tilden Park.
With the Merritt College Environmental Program and the David R. Brower, Ronald V. Dellums Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies and colleague, David Ralston, we developed the WPA inspired Green Works Development project which has led to the current San Leandro (Lisjan) Creek Greenway Trail in East Oakland funded by the California Natural Resources Agency. With some characteristic administrative difficulty, we have secured the opportunity for local artists and artisans to create culturally relevant furnishings and signs along the trail, again inspired by the largely unrecognized legacy of the WPA.
My colleague, Steve Rauh, who interviewed Paul Taylor in Berkeley, reminded me that we interviewed Pare Lorenz, the father of documentary film. Lorenz produced the WPA films “The Plow That Broke The Plains” and “The River”. The interviews were for the Sierra Club “Yodeler” of which Steve Rauh was the editor. I am hoping Steve will write about his interview of Paul Taylor about the United Exchange Association (UXA) predecessor to the WPA. Taylor was also WPA photographer Dorthea Lang’s husband.