We purchased 4 very interesting pictures off of Ebay showing a transient camp located at the Chagrin Falls Airport.
Don Barriball has researched the origins and work of this camp and you can download and read his article below.
During October of 1929 the US stock market collapsed. Financial panic and depression
became worldwide. In May 1931 the Austrian Credit--Anst failed. The credit crunch
caused international bankruptcies and unemployment around the planet.
The 1930 population of the USA was 123,202,624 (U.S. Census Bureau). There were
over 12,000,000 Americans in the jobless ranks in 1932.
The election of 1932 brought Franklin D. Roosevelt into the White House. With his
inauguration in March 1933, came the “New Deal” which included social reforms and
economic stimulation, public works projects, wage and hour laws, social security and
assistance to farmers all began to be enacted.
President Roosevelt unveiled the Civil Works Administration (CWA) on November 8,
1933. The jobs provided were only temporary and were to last through the Winter. The
program ended on March 31, 1934. It had spent $200,000,000 a month and provided
employment for 4 million Americans.
One of the first objectives was to get unemployed men back to work as rapidly as
possible. The creation of the CWA, and funding of it, established shovel ready jobs
throughout the country. Each State government was next in the bureaucratic line,
followed by county governments, municipal and township governments. The FCWA
began operation locally during the week of November 20, 1933.
The local Government prioritized projects it had on a “to do” list. These were submitted
to the County. If they were approved, they were forwarded to the State. The State
determined the amount of money and number of men to be allocated for each project at
the local level.
The four projects approved for Chagrin Falls were: 1. Ditching and grading North Main
St. from Summit to Falls River Road. Total labor costs appropriated by the Feds $7,384.
Sixty-seven men allowed on the project.
2. Excavation beneath the Town Hall, 28 men allowed and Feds authorized $3,134.
The Township had to pay for the materials.
3. Swimming Pool proposal on Village Park property. Feds allotted $6524 for 63 men.
The Village had to supply all materials.
4. School property maintenance, 8 men and $540 allotted. The materials were
furnished by the Feds.
The local government went back to the Federal pocketbook and requested a second
appropriation for school repairs and painting.
By the First of December 1933, 69 local men were working on the projects. At the end
of the first week of December, another 76 men had registered for work. Labor wages
were 50 cents per hour for a 30 hour week. Experienced labor, time keepers and
foreman earned from 60 cents to $1.20 per hour.
The Chagrin Falls Exponent on December 15th reported 220 men on the local CWA
payroll. All men who were on local township relief work were approved immediately by
the CWA and added to the Federal payroll. Any other applicant had to be approved by
the Columbus office before they could be put to work.
The CWA granted Chagrin Falls three additional projects the week of December 4th,
1933, which totaled $80,833.75, bring the total projects approved to $98,721.75.
Wednesday December 28, 1933 an announcement came out of Columbus stating the
Ohio Aeronautics Division had approved a $17,000 project to improve the Chagrin
Falls Airport on Bell Road. Work was to begin as soon as the work order arrived and 100 men would be put to work. Runways were to be improved and the field would be leveled, drained and seeded.
On March 30, 1934, Chagrin Falls Mayor, H. W. March received word from Columbus
the $17,000 airport improvement project had been withdrawn from CWA and the State
of Ohio would be handling the project. Captain Fred Smith, Ohio Aeronautics Chief was
put in charge.
When this project was initially approved the previous December, the project was
assigned to Geauga County to manage. The County had no men to put to work without
transportation. There was no way the County could transport laborers to and from the
site. Consequently the work was never begun.
Captain Smith said the supplies had been ordered through General Hendersonʼs office
in Columbus and should be at the site within a week to ten days so work could begin.
Chagrin Falls Village Engineer C. W. Courtney was to supervise the work with labor
coming from Chagrin Falls and Geauga County.
On Tuesday April 4th, 1934 men from Columbus met with Geauga County
Commissioners arranging the final details for transferring the airport project to County
control. The result of this new effort unfortunately was the same--no labor or
transportation were available.
May 23, 1934, State Officials visited Chagrin Falls to revive the airport project, which
had not moved off center for 6 months. The State requested the Village to grant it
permission to develop a “transient camp” under the direction and supervision of the
Ohio Transient Service. The camp would be set up on the airport property for carrying
out the improvement plans made under the CWA (Federal Civil Works Administration)
program. In a special session that evening council passed a resolution authorizing the
construction of the camp.
This was camp #5 among a total of ten camps established throughout Ohio under the
direction of the Ohio National Guard. On Monday May 29, 1934 the camp was officially
established at the airport. Lieutenant E. R. Kittinger was in charge of the camp and had
a cadre of 5 guardsman. Two hundred men would be housed on site and twenty were
already there. The men received three meals a day and a place to sleep in return for
their labor on the airport. They dug ditches, laid tile and leveled the field. A well was
drilled to supply drinking water. Latrines and showers were set up. The State expected
the camp to be open until November of 1934.
Most of the supplies were purchased from Chagrin merchants and were paid for every
two weeks by the State. Lieutenant Kittinger certified the bills twice each month and the
checks were sent directly to the purveyors.
The transients working at the airport came from all parts of the US and were thankful for
room and board for their daily labor. There were incidents of minor personal
disagreements, usually amicably resolved. However, a report in the Exponent relates
four men who were involved in an altercation with knives. Two had stab wounds to their
chests and the others had less serious serious cuts. The military turned the four over to
the Sheriff. One man had to be kept at the camp emergency hospital. The
consumption of liquor was responsible for the trouble.
The photos presented in this edition were taken in October 1934. No additional
information regarding the airport project was located at the Society.
In January 1935, William Plunkett, National Director of Transient Relief, stated the the Ohio Transient Camps still housing approximately 1200 men would be abandoned. The men are to be returned to their homes. If they are unable to support themselves they will be placed directly on relief rolls where they reside. The men will be absorbed into the newly proposed gigantic Federal Works program. This became the Works Projects Administration (WPA) which accomplished so much throughout the Chagrin Valley and the Country.