Total immersion: Writing at Standing Stone State Park

The last two weeks have been a little busy around here, and while I haven’t updated the blog much, I’m still out here doing my thing, and writing about it. Today I wanted to share about my trip to Standing Stone State Park in Hilham, TN at the beginning of the month. I’ve mentioned that we took the trip in my other March posts, but one of my favorite parts of the adventure was the cabin we stayed in. Here are the thoughts I wrote down while we were there:

Cabin 16

This week has been Spring Break from college for my youngest daughter, and we decided to go to Standing Stone State Park in Hilham, TN to stay in a cabin and do some hiking and relaxing. While it has been a fantastic place to spend some time together and do just that, I also had the unexpected chance to really immerse myself in the time period I’m interested in. Standing Stone is a park that was created in 1939 as part of a collective WPA, CCC, and Forestry service plan to relocate local farmers off poor soil areas and to reforest overused slopes and add recreational facilities to the area.

The cabins have been recently renovated, but retain a vintage feel while being totally comfortable.

It is purely good luck that I found myself staying in a WPA cabin this week. Shortly after our arrival there was a power outage, and it felt like we had slipped through time back into the 1930s for sure. There we were at sunset watching the gorgeous view from the top of the ridge overlooking the CCC dam below us, on a stone terrace, at a rustic picnic table playing Scrabble by lantern and the sun slipped below the horizon. Back at the cabin, the power returned in time for dinner, and we had the (gas) fireplace going to keep the cabin cozy as we enjoyed a simple supper of pork chops, rice and green beans I had canned over the summer and brought from home.

Sunset from the Tea Room Deck

That evening I was fortunate enough to have the time to sit down to my research at a rustic writing desk tucked into the corner, reading about the very programs that had built the room in which I was sitting, sipping the last of my hot cider. The cabin has no TV or WIFI, but it was something we actually really liked, this sense of being unplugged for few days. What the cabin does have is a simple radio, and after a little fiddling with the dial, we were delighted to pick up an AM station out of Ontario, Canada that happened to be playing a Big Band Sunday Night program. So there I was, in a WPA cabin, cut off from the outside world, a single lamp, and the music from the same era fading in and out across the airwaves. It was like I had slipped back in time, and it also made me reflect on the simple things, and how we really don’t need as much in this world as we have all become accustomed to.

my new happy place

If you get a chance to go stay in a Tennessee State Park cabin, I highly recommend it. Pack some board games and a deck of cards, make use of the rockers on the front porch, and don’t forget to take time to watch the sunset. You won’t be sorry that you did. Maybe I’ll see you out there.

There was never a bad time of day to enjoy this porch.

Federal Work Camps and the New Deal

Feb 9,2021

Federal Work Camps and the New Deal

What were the federal work programs of The New Deal? Let me start at the beginning, to provide some background. The Great Depression unofficially began with the stock market crash in October of 1929. Herbert Hoover was president, millions of Americans were unemployed, and a large percentage of the nations’ banks had failed. In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was inaugurated as president, and pledged to implement sweeping social reforms across the nation during his first 100 days of office to offer relief to the American people. Over the next 8 years, FDR’s reform policies became known as The New Deal, and covered everything from bank reform, public works programs, and farm relief, to industry and labor reform policies.

Central to The New Deal were the work programs for unemployed young men, such as: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Nation Youth Administration (NYA), and the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), These were programs that put young men across America to work: building dams; improving roads and bridges; building government courthouses, post offices, and other civic buildings; improving parks; planting trees, and making other improvements to the nation’s infrastructure.

Monument to the men of the CCC at Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, TN

The Tennessee River Valley was one of the areas hardest hit by the Depression, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created to build dams for power generation, flood control, and to create recreational areas and lakes for the people of the region. Because of Tennessee’s central location within these programs, many of the state parks within its borders were either created by or are designated to commemorate the workers of the CCC, the WPA, and the TVA programs. A trip to almost any one of Tennessee’s state parks provides information and insight into the lives of the men who lived in the camps and worked on these projects. As I travel across the state and visit some of Tennessee’s fantastic state parks, I’ll share them with you here.

As I do that I also want to draw your attention to a question that has plagued me for some time now. With all of this focus on Federal Relief Programs, why is there very little mention of the women of the era? Surely they were as equally affected by the depression as the men, and yet there are very few public records of who they were. You will see that there are definite ties between these CCC camps and the women who also struggled to survive the most difficult era of American History. Come along with me as I dig deep to find the answers to the question, “Where are the women?”