Monday, August 23, 2010

Red Hook, Reflections on History: Article #1 (b)

John J. Burkard Red Hook historian, Brooklyn, New York.
"Hooverville in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York (2)"

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Many stories are told about the effect various nationalities have had on today’s society. Aided by local churches and merchants who donated food and clothing they have been able to survive the worst peace-time disaster America has ever encountered. My friend and fellow historian Lars Nilsen has devoted much time to studying the history of the Norwegian migration from Norway to America. Lars tells me that when Red Hook's Hoover City had finally closed, there were at least 800 poor souls in residence, half of which were unemployed. Inclusive, Norwegian seamen who lost their jobs, had to remain in this country, were also part of that group.

On a lighter note, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted that Hoover's name became a prefix charged with extreme dislike. For example, the newspapers that the homeless used to cover themselves were called "Hoover blankets"; Jackrabbits were called by farmers "Hoover hogs"; empty pockets pulled inside out were labeled with the term "Hoover flags"; Freight cars used for shelter became "Hoover Pullmans"; Cardboard used to line a shoe with a worn sole was called "Hoover leather"; and an automobile pulled by horses because the owner couldn't afford gasoline was labeled a "Hoover wagon."

However there did appear to be a glimmer of hope at the end of that terrible oft-mentioned tunnel., when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in November of 1932 as the 32nd President of the United States, earning the reputation as the man who saved America. Immediately upon taking office he began implementing his "New Deal" policies such as "Works Projects Administration, affordable housing construction, tax reductions across the board as an incentive for businessmen to hire the unemployed and so on and so forth.

Strange as it may seem, many of his programs which he proposed were already being implemented in New York State where he had served as Governor a year earlier. Stranger still, these policies were the brainchild of Al Smith, the Governor ,FDR had succeeded.

Few people in today's modern times, realize that the Empire State Building was built in record time during the depression and that the former Governor Al Smith was chairman of the Empire State Association, an agency that was responsible for the construction of the tallest building in the world at that time.

In his famous inaugural address which impressed the American people, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated to millions of listeners "let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself___nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." With these words, there was absolutely no doubt that he instilled the much needed hope, that our nation needed. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt will always be remembered as the President who saved the United States.


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