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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:

 

 

Senator Joe Manchin at his press conference said it best on Saturday “The Boy Scouts of America and the state of West Virginia are like peas and carrots. We’re a perfect fit -- an organization that builds character, inspires reverence and promotes old-fashioned family values and a state that lives them.”

And what an amazing fit it is.  The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve is a staggering 10,600 acre tract of forested mountains, flowing streams and green meadows adjacent to the 70,000 acre New River Gorge National River area.  This is truly the largest gem in the crown of West Virginia.

During his speech at the Stillwater Sustainability Treehouse Sen. Manchin said “We were a state of breathtaking beauty, world-class adventure and unbridled discovery, a state that believed in the same ideals and principles as the Boy Scouts, a state that would take great pride in being an important part of the Scouts’ second century.

All I had to do was to convince the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America. All I had to do was let them know what I already knew -- the ideal place for them was West Virginia.

Some doubted we could do it. They believed that West Virginia would always be the bridesmaid, never the bride. But I came to the Governor’s Office with the attitude that West Virginia would not take a back seat to any state.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it would take a team effort. So I assembled government officials, business leaders and private volunteers into what I called the West Virginia Project Arrow Task Force.

It was uphill from the start, but, of course, Mountaineers are used to that.

The Boy Scouts search committee had listed its requirements, one of which seemed to rule out West Virginia: Committee members wanted the Jamboree site to be within 150 or 200 miles of a major airport.

But if you draw circles on a map from the airports in Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., you end up with a big hole just outside all three circles.

And in that hole was the beautiful New River Gorge and land that would make a perfect home for the Jamboree. The coal that came off of this (property) helped build the Panama Canal. The timber that came off of this property helped built the PT boats that helped win WWII for us. It has so much historical value, and now you think it’s going to be building the tallest timber, and that’s the youth of the future. I just don’t think it gets any better than this.  It can now foster American ideals for the next decade, for the next 100 years.

It was pure destiny.”

And what a destiny this will be for our state.  No matter how far you live from The Summit, we can all take pride in knowing our state was the one selected for this once in a lifetime project.  And this is not just for Boy Scouts.  Plans are being put into effect that will open The Summit up to other groups and families looking for high adventure.

2014 will bring with it a new look to Scouting and The Summit Reserve.  And this is not the only High Adventure Camp in North America.  The BSA also has Florida Sea Base in Islamorada, Florida; Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico; and the Northern Tier in Ely, Minnesota.

The Summit will serve as the home of the 2019 World Jamboree, an unprecedented event where Scouts and Leaders will converge on West Virginia from all over the globe.

What’s in a Name?

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. ran the largest engineering company in the United States for 30 years. The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Stephen Bechtel Fund, both family foundations, provide support to, among other groups, select non-profit organizations that address challenges to the economic welfare of the United States.

One of those organizations is the BSA. Stephen credits the BSA, more than anything else, with building the strength of character that would allow him to lead others throughout his life.

The Bechtel Foundation donated $50 million to the BSA to help purchase and develop the land that is now The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. It was the largest charitable donation ever made to the Boy Scouts of America.

Other major donors include Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. who became an Eagle Scout in 1946 and is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. On October 22, 2010, his foundation donated $25 million to The Summit. Mike and Gillian Goodrich are no strangers to charitable giving and the BSA. The Summit’s primary lake is named Goodrich Lake.  CONSOL Energy has donated $15 million toward the creation of the CONSOL Energy Bridge, a unique pedestrian bridge that will be an integral part of a Scout’s experience at The Summit. With three separate walkways, two of which bend above and below the main span, the bridge’s eagle-wing inspiration is clearly visible. The generous donation of America’s largest energy company will be forever recognized in this beautiful and inspiring structure.

Some fascinating statistics

The Summit includes thirty six miles of mountain biking courses, thirteen acres of sport shooting, five miles of zip lines and ten miles of canopy zip lines, 100,000 square feet of skate park, 273,000 square feet of BMX track, four olympic size swimming pools, one hundred and twenty five rock climbing stations, a ropes course suspended twenty five feet above the ground and the high-tech area known as “The Cloud”.  Scouts can test their skills in science, math, engineering and computer sciences at The Cloud.

And talk about high-tech, the entire facility is connected with AT&T wi-fi that it seems you cannot escape.  The tie in with wi-fi and scouting became a reality with this Jamboree.  Every scout that brought their own smartphone or pad device was linked into the Summit’s Network.  This is about the most cutting edge use of technology and outdoor activity ever seen.  The App continually showed the scout where they were on the camp map and would track any friends the scout wanted to see while in camp.  You could messages to other scouts in your troop, receive alerts on weather, changes in activity schedules and get directions to other areas in the vast arena.  It also worked to help scouts stay on schedule by sending timed reminders as requested.

So Scouting isn’t just a tent in the woods anymore, although there were roughly 4,000 tents in neatly grouped color coded areas throughout the Summit.  Scouting is growing and changing into a perfect blend of high-tech and low-tech outdoor activity, strong character, solid values.  Most importantly, said Manchin, is that the Summit is a place where character and leadership for future generations will be built.

 

“It’s really, truly, a dream come true.”