Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Government Works (Or Not): My Grandfather and the WPA

Yesterday I was reading a bunch of WPA (Works Progress Administration) interviews here:
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.

I was looking for first-person quotes for my sanitation history book, and I came across a 1938 interview with an Italian-American cobbler in Connecticut named Vito Cacciola.

My grandfather, Vincenzo (James) Di Piazza, was a cobbler too.  Here he is, with my grandmother, Rosaria (Sarah). They lived in Milwaukee, by way of Sicily.
Vincenzo was a brutal man, and my father hated him but always said he was a good shoemaker who took pride in using the best materials. Until he lost his shop during the Great Depression.

One of his jobs after that was playing tuba in a WPA band!
This sort of thing:

 So this quote, below, from cobbler Vito Cacciola reminded me of my grandfather.

Vito is talking, here, about repairing the shoes of a man who dug sewers for the WPA:
"These shoes belong to the workman. He dig the sewer. He most work all day in the rain and the snow. It is too bad.
The shoes they are cheap. He can afford no better. The innersoles they are of paper. I tell him I must put inside some leather. I cannot nail the new soles to paper.
I will fix them best. They will be strong and protect him from the sickness."
You can read the whole interview here:

Except, huh---no, you can't. Today when I returned to the site, I got this message:

Gotta say I'm with Jon Stewart on this one:
"If President Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent mullahs in the world [RE Obama talking to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani] but not with House Republicans, maybe he is not the problem." 
--Jon Stewart on the government shutdown over Obamacare


Darwi said...

Yep, this shutdown is a pain in the ass. I read the article in Washington Post about the one and only Australian shutdown (
Pity this kind of problem solving cannot be used in US. Those buggers deserve to be fired!

Fresca said...

Ha! Thanks Darwi---
From the article:
"You might find yourself wishing that the United States could follow Australia's example:
Fire everyone in Congress, hold snap elections next month and restart from scratch.
But we can't, because we haven't recognized the British monarchy or had a London-appointed governor -general in more than two centuries. Maybe, if we ask nicely, Britain will take us back?"