You must be asking yourself, just what was happening around North Central Washington on Oct. 25, 1933? I am happy to supply the answers, thanks to a copy of The Wenatchee Daily World (Published in the Apple Capital of the World and in the Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest), which by complete coincidence happens to have been printed on the very date.
The newspaper was given to me years ago by a reader who found it in his personal archives and thought I might like it. It has been sitting on a bookshelf in my humble office for many years. We had occasion to glance at it again this week as we were packing up to move to new digs in the lower reaches of our headquarters. It is still a fascinating read after 70 years. Published in the depths of the Great Depression, it contains more than a few stories that might sound sadly familiar today.
But the lead story was big, big news. “$15,000,000 ….” was the banner, “Already Available For Dam Work During Coming Year.” That was above an illustration the full width of the front page, showing an artist’s conception of the “Columbia-Grand Coulee High Dam” with the relatively tiny United States Capitol superimposed in the foreground, to show how massive the new structure will be. The story is datelined Spokane. “Money Is Ready To Begin Construction — Federal Government Now Considering Adopting State’s Biggest Project — Foresees High Dam: The Chronicle was advised yesterday that the federal public works board has allotted $15,000,000 to care for 1934 construction on the $63,000,0000 Grand Coulee power dam in the Columbia.”
These people were ready to move. The story quotes James O’Sullivan, executive secretary of the Columbia Basin Commission, who says they will have a “definite program of procedure” finished by Jan. 1, 1934, and will award a general construction contract by May 1.
This was incredibly bold, and expensive. To put it in perspective, $15 million in 1933 is the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $258 million today. It sounds like big money, until you look at a 2013 edition of The Wenatchee World and see that Congress just appropriated $12 billion a year to subsidize windmills, for reasons unclear. Our ancestors were much bigger thinkers.
More news on Page 3. The federal government is buying gold. Some 500,000 homeowners have accepted President Roosevelt’s offer of aid to prevent foreclosure. Federal farm administrators propose free chicken dinners for 2 million people, to alleviate a poultry surplus. There is a photograph of local pioneer Lou Titchenal, in a wide-brimmed hat, dark suit and a tie that stops a foot above his belt buckle. “Here for 50 years,” says the headline. Football tragedy on the Palouse — “Cougars Robbed Of Money, Jewelry: While the squad was mixing its poison for its game with Oregon State college at Corvallis next Saturday, a prowler helped himself to articles in the players’ clothes.”
There was heavy frost at Manson, snow at Nespelem, a mine strike at Roslyn, and a “moth storm at Hood River, Ore.” On Page 11, under a small headline, the new chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, says in a campaign speech that “the only nations that will continue to live, in the long run, are those which are willing to sacrifice lives for honor.”
Meanwhile, on the back page is a beautiful advertisement for “The Startling New Studebakers of 1934 — From the Skyway Comes Their Style, From the Speedway Comes Their Stamina.” The least expensive model, named The Dictator, goes for $645, available at Wenatchee Produce Co. Automotive Dept., phone 2155.
Advertising still works. I want one.
Tracy Warner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.