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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021



Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.


Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.


It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.


The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.


Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.


It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.


This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.


Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.


Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 


“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 


This weeks front page:



CLARKSBURG W. Va. - On Tuesday of last week, two members of the West Union American Legion

Post 25 made the trip to the West Virginia Nursing Facility in Clarksburg. They braved the weather to

pay a special visit to a very special veteran, William McQuaid. What was the reason for their visit?

They came to honor McQuaid for his 72 years as a member of their American Legion Post.

Adjutant Terry Grim and Commander Richard Cross brought with them two beautifully framed

certificates commemorating this occasion. “We’re pretty proud of this man here,” Commander Cross

said. Speaking to McQuaid, Cross said that “We’re proud to have you as one of our members. We

appreciate you and all of the time you’ve been a member of the American Legion.” Cross and Grim presented McQuaid with a signed

card from Legion Members, A commemorative coin minted by the United States Army as well as the

two certificates. Th ese certificates commemorated his 70th and 71st year as a member of the Legion. Adjutant Grim noted that the group had missed a

year, so that was the reason for the two certificates at one time.

“It’s a special recognition as far as I’m concerned,” Cross stated. “I don’t think anybody has been

around that long in the American Legion.” McQuaid joined the service in 1943 when he entered the 20th Armor Division basic training. After two

month, he joined up with the Air Cadets in the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, McQuaid

became disabled and was discharged. Upon his discharge, McQuaid joined the American Legion and has been a member since.

McQuaid noted that it’s the veterans that help him and his friends that deserve the credit. “I’m just sitting back taking what you do for me.” Cross said that McQuaid deserves the honors as “he is the one who has served so long in this

organization. We’re proud to have you as one of our members.” Rex Zickefoose came with Cross and Grim

to note the occasion to honor McQuaid. “I hope we bring some awareness of people who may be behind the scenes.” After leaving the military, McQuaid ran

a bowling alley in Salem, WV for three years and went on to open an insurance company there as well.

McQuaid said that “If it wasn’t for organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, some folks

may not even know how to spell ‘veteran.”

Zickefoose commented that although it’s

important to recognize those young folks

serving now, it’s equally important to

remember those who have already served

their country.

Th e take away from this event was that we

should remember all who serve this great


Cross noted that “It’s important to

recognize these veterans, which is what

we did here today. We need to thank them