Miner objects to over-supervision
By Fred W. Perkins, Pittsburgh Press staff writer
Arthurdale, West Virginia –
Memo for a week from today: Watch the election returns from Arthurdale, model community of subsistence homesteads built by the New Deal.
One of the homesteaders said today that it is going heavily Republican, although it was nearly unanimous for Mr. Roosevelt four years ago.
The complainant was a coal miner, one of those transported from dingy mining towns and deposited here in an attractive dwelling, surrounded by grass, fresh air and the beautiful rolling country of Preston County. The trouble with this miner was that he is one of the buyers of the houses which the New Deal built here, and which the administration is now trying to sell off, with the idea of getting out of the subsistence homestead business. He showed his contract of sale, under which he is required to pay $22 a month until 1982, if he lives that long – he is now about 45.
One of his objections
This homesteader cannot be named. In fact, he said, “they” had told him not to talk to newspaper reporters. That was one of the things to which he objected. The others all had to do with government supervision of his affairs.
“They used to try to make us kind of share up around here,” said the miner, “but there were too many loafers trying to live off the rest of us, and we stopped that. But still, every time you turn around, there’s some government regulation staring you in the face.”
That seems to be the reaction you get, after a few years, toward the New Deal’s ventures in collectivism, when they encounter the individualist in these mountains.
To check up on it the reporter went to see M. B. Mott, the project manager for the Federal Public Housing Authority.
Bomber parts factory
We stood on Mr. Mott’s porch and looked at Arthurdale. It was beautiful in the autumn sunshine. Neat little houses and homesteads stretched away until the hills provided a backdrop. Over there was a community center and the community store. Farther away were three factory buildings, now leased by the Ballard Aircraft Company and making parts for bombers.
There were 165 housing units in view. Mr. Mott said 72 are in process of being sold. The community represents about 800 men and women and children, in addition to the 125 young men who have gone away to the armed services.
Civic spirit waning
Mr. Mott admitted that some in the community are not full of the community spirit on which Arthurdale was founded, but he pointed out that 114 of the original 155 homesteaders are still here.
The New Deal put millions into Arthurdale, and more millions into similar projects, many of which are in process of liquidation. No authority has claimed that there will be anything like a full return to the public treasury.
“You can’t measure these things in dollars,” said Mr. Mott. “Out of it we’re getting a better class of citizenry – look at the healthy children around here.”
Arthurdale has been much identified with Mrs. Roosevelt, who has visited here frequently.
So, if Arthurdale goes Republican next week, it will be a surprise to the New Deal. But the miners said it will.