Building the Dam Story

At the end, if there is success, one wonders how. Through this wonder one discovers the story. This blog is dedicated to that discovery.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Boulder City

Receiving a haircut, outside the barber shop in Boulder city 1935...By now, the nearby dam is nearly built. And Boulder City, also known as a reservation (since this is government land) is a pretty little town, with schools and churches, parks and shops along a main street. A town as much a part of the dam as the workers themselves, a celebrated city for its so-called cleanliness (no booze, no gambling, no prostitution...supposedly). And the city would try and remain this way even with the permissive Las Vegas so near.

How and why? The residents either obeyed the reservation rules, set and enforced mainly by a city controller named Sims Ely, or they had to get out. A gate at the entrance of the city meant everyone was checked for booze in each car. If caught, they were kicked out, never to be welcomed in the city again.

Sims Ely, an older character, noble in his efforts, demanded the town start clean and remain clean, without any "outside" influence.

However, as nice as things looked from the outside, the town was built fast and furious. Much of the building materials weren't of good quality. Some folks were hit by heat prostration right inside their own houses, as if they'd spent all day without water in the desert. Still, no one wanted to complain for fear of being kicked out. Families did not want to go back to the Hoovervilles outside the city, where cardboard was used for walls.

During the time the town was new, its reputation for civility was a national sensation. And it held this reputation shadowing the entire dam project.

Perhaps it's true that what one builds is often exaggerated in the mind of its creator. Yet this label of safe living made the place that much more friendly, and some would say more valuable, for keeping the town "clean".

We may argue that the rules were too tight, that prohibition had ended so being in the possession of liquor was no big deal, but isn't it true that bending or breaking rules do have ramifications, consequences that affect everyone? There seems a fine line between "following" and "living" the rules...

Hot times in Hoovervilles

They still exist, Hoovervilles. HWe just call them a different name such as Tent City, in Sacramento, CA, where recently the "residents" were kicked out...And do we hear about where these people go afterwards? Well, it'd be worth knowing, considering these times.

If you've ever been desperate, in a place that was a simple roof over your head (even a tent, or for that matter a blanket) and there are other people around you are in the same predicament, you can half way stop being angry about your situation. Though you don't lose sight of the fact that things aren't as good as they could be, you can still feel gratitude, camaraderie, you can feel as though you are in the midst of recovery.

The Hoover Dam workers found Ragtown, a so-called Hooverville by the side of the Colorado River. Many lived there for months, calling it home. Here a man could talk to other men about jobs and the means by which to get by. A woman could share childcare duties with other mothers to get chores done by the river without worrying their kids would get swept into the fierce current.

In Ragtown, nobody cared much about wardrobe, except if it was clean enough, or where they'd get their next meal. Sharing became the norm.

What we share today is similar to what we shared in the 30's at the time the dam was getting built. Ideas and tools and laughter and food...

Doesn't it seem like we share what we've got even with strangers when we can rally with hope for tomorrow?

Hoovervilles of Today

From NPR

Sacramento Tent City Reflects Economy's Troubles
by Richard Gonzales

Date: March 16, 2009

Job losses, home foreclosures and a deepening recession are sending scores of newly homeless people into a makeshift camp along the banks of the American River in Sacramento, Calif.

The tent city, spread over an area the size of several football fields, has local officials scrambling over how to handle the area's homeless crisis.

More than a year ago, a handful of homeless people staked out the site on the northern edge of downtown Sacramento. Now there are more than 100 tents and anywhere between 300 to 400 people living without running water or sanitation. Their only protection from the elements is nylon tents and plastic tarps.

A single mid-day meal is available at a nearby faith-based charity called Loaves and Fishes. That's where social worker Jim Peth says he's seeing a lot of the newly homeless.

"That's been very recent," Peth says. "And you can tell because they're much better dressed. They're disoriented; they don't know where to go. So they're easy to spot."

Take, for example, 53-year-old Dave Cutch. His clothes suggest a suburban hiker, except that he stands in a muddy patch outside a tent that he's called home for the past two months. A year ago, he was a welder in Colorado.

"So the company I'm working for, I get laid off," Cutch says. "I qualified for unemployment — 24 weeks. My car's paid off, my truck's paid off, my bike's paid off, everything except for my house payment, right? But I feel like I'm still going to pull out of it."

Months went by without work. Cutch lost his house, his car was stolen, his savings ran out. This past August, he took up a friend's invitation to come to California, but that didn't work out, either.

"Trying to get back on my feet, you know," Cutch says. "Daily, I still go out looking for a job. But the thing I'm running into is when I put the application in they ask me, 'Where do you live at?' And I go, 'Actually, I don't have a place to live. I'm homeless.' That's it. They don't hire me."

Tent cities have sprung up in other locations, including Portland and Phoenix. But the one in Sacramento is drawing national attention, much to the chagrin of city leaders. Mayor Kevin Johnson says he can foresee making the tent city permanent, but not on its current site.

"We need tough love, meaning we have to be compassionate to this population," Johnson says. "I am very committed to it; I feel we have a moral obligation."

At the same time, though, Johnson says the city must eventually adopt a "zero tolerance" approach to the river-side campsite. "It can't happen tomorrow, though," he says.

Elizabeth Hodge (Bobblehead) wrote:

Remember when the military bases were closed? Most of the housing on the bases still exists and are unoccupied. So government housing is available, it should be extended to those who need it. Within driving distance of the tent city is a former military base with plenty of housing, empty, and decaying. Tuesday, March 17, 2009 1:29:24 PM

Sandra Hucher (helpfulBrit) wrote:

Could we make this discussion a little more helpful by brainstorming ways to help these not-wanting-to-be-homeless people? Seems to me they can choose a spot that the Mayor approves and put these people to work building themselves a community of housing and vegetable gardens. Make it eco-friendly. The city would pay them a wage and local businesses could donate lumber, plumbing, electrical stuff, etc. Just like Habitat. There must be many of those homeless who have many skills they can share. They could form a committee and work together. The city should pay them out of their part of the stimulus bill - or just from their coffers. It will be a positive and long lasting effort that will benefit Sacramento in the end. In these times we really have to be a bit more creative to help each other. I should think plenty of retired people would be willing to help also. Getting into action of building something rather than dreary job searching would lift morale and achieve a lot more, I would think.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 2:04:02 AM

Text by permission Copyright 2010 NPR

Learning the ropes

There were young men on the job who delighted in an opportunity to perform feats of extreme danger. They could hang all day by ropes against the canyon walls, as if performing a highwire act.

Yet there were also men such as the elderly gentleman who had to close his store for lack of customers, due to a downturn in a once thriving economy, leaving only a sign on the door that said: Stay well.

As the lone pharmacist in his small town, now without a drugstore, he knew people would have to travel thirty miles away for their medicines, or more likely, go without. It was difficult to leave them. Yet this day in May, 1931, under the hot sun of a brilliant Oklahoma sky, this man started out all over again, heading west. Heard there was work on a dam being built in the middle of the desert. Hitched a ride and said good bye to his past--determined himself to stay well.

There were many men like this that came to the Hoover Dam to work during this hot, dry month of May. Yet having to learn the ropes by working a job they'd never done before didn't give them reason to complain. A job was a job and they knew it had to be done the best they could do it. Otherwise there was somebody else waiting in line for the chance.

With more hope and guts than even they expected to have, these older men didn't arrive asking to be cared for, or asking who was going to help them. They had to set their pride down and be set apart by their willingness to learn and to keep well, despite the harshest conditions.

Thus their hard work without complaint truly involved a greatness of spirit. A formula ensuring care for the deepest of needs.