Off the 99: The New Deal in California

You may know about the WPA from the mini remnants the Depression-era public works projects left behind. A plaque here and there, or the WPA stamps in the concrete sidewalks around the county.

But the massive project left an indelible mark on the infrastructure of the United States. The New Deal projects paved or improved 651,000 miles of road; built or fixed 125,110 buildings; installed 16,100 miles of water mains and distribution lines, 24,300 miles of sewage facilities; improved air ports, landing fields, runways and terminal buildings. Workers on WPA served hot school lunches and kept child care facilities open.

In Merced County they created sidewalks, fixed roads, put in sewer lines. Workers improved the airport, Applegate Park and John Muir School. They built Hilmar's Merquin School, Elim Elementary and the Lander High School gym. Workers hauled sand from the bottom of Merced River to create Lake Yosemite's main beach.

It was an incredible undertaking. One that UC Berkley historian Gray Brechins been striving to learn more about. This week, Off the 99 spoke to Brechin over the phone from his office by the Bay to learn more about this significant cultural program.