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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:



Now see if you know where 

the previous light was installed?   

The West Virginia Department of Highways (WV DOH) announced that they will be installing a fully functional traffic light replacing the caution light currently in use on Route 50 and WV Route 18.


The WV DOH stated that a group of citizens in Doddridge County had express concern that the traffic at the intersection had become too heavy for safe crossing and merging.  The increase in gas and oil traffic with larger than normal vehicles as well as increased accidents and fatalities at the intersection begged for a closer look by the WV DOH.

Taken under advisement, they began the task of analyzing the intersection and measuring traffic.  In late 2012 the Traffic Engineering Division conducted a traffic signal evaluation study of the intersection.  All traffic evaluation studies must be conducted under strict federal guidelines according to the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).  The Federal Highway Commission published this manual for all municipalities to conduct properly regulated traffic flow nation-wide. 

According to the letter: “The primary criteria for the installation of a traffic signal as outlined in the MUTCD is intersection traffic volume. Abiding by the MUTCD ensures that traffic signals are installed where they are truly needed and allows state departments of transportation to prioritize projects so that transportation funds can be expended where they are most needed. Additionally, the traffic study also included a review of crash history and a physical review of the intersection geometry.”

The letter goes on to explain: “Based upon a review of the collected data, it was determined that the traffic volume at the intersection of US 50 with WV 18 currently meets the warranting  criteria for the installation of a traffic signal. It appears from our recent study that the traffic volume on US 50 has increased significantly from previous surveys in 2006 and 2008. Additionally, a review of recent crash history indicates that the intersection crash rate is comparable with similar intersections statewide. While the intersection crash rate is not elevated, the study shows a pattern of angle crashes. Angle crashes are the type that tend to produce injuries

and are potentially mitigated by traffic signals. Traffic signals tend to increase the occurrence of rear end crashes, increase delay for mainline traffic, and increase fuel usage and vehicle emissions; therefore, the DOH typically employs traffic signals at locations where the volume is significant or where there is a pattern of angle crashes correctable by signalization.”

With that data it was concluded that “based upon an engineering evaluation of the collected data, the DOH will allocate funds and begin preparation of contract plans to implement a traffic signal at the intersection of US 50 with WV 18. Based upon our current schedule, it is anticipated that the traffic signal project construction will begin in late 2013.”


The WV DOH would like to ask you to watch for the crews beginning work at the intersection and extend every courtesy to them as they complete the task.