Imatges de pÓgina


"People Laughed"

EOPLE LAUGHED that evening for the first

This remark was repeated many times as the Public Recreation Commission of Cincinnati, Ohio, swung into action at forty-two refugee centers during the recent flood disaster.

Emergency Recreation in Cincinnati

The Recreation Commission was designated by Disaster Administrator Dykstra as the official agency in charge of recreation activities for flood refugees after its services had been requested by Mrs. Ella Brown, Executive Director of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Robert E. Coady, the Commission's Supervisor of Playgrounds, was put in charge of the emergency program and with the assistance of other members of the supervisory staff of the Commission he accomplished an outstanding piece of work. As the Commission had no funds with which to employ leaders, nearly all of the workers were selected from the WPA and NYA workers normally working with the Commission. These leaders had already been given a limited amount of training through the federal agencies and the Recreation Commission and had gained experience in working under the supervision of the regular staff for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. In addition to these workers there were many volunteers and a number of school teachers who offered their services through the Cincinnati Teachers' Association.

The Program. A recre

ation program was provided at each center for all ages, creeds and races, and activities were conducted from 8:00 A. M. to 8:00 P. M. or later. Here at the centers were thousands of people held in the grip of despair. Their need for food and clothing had been met. Behind them were days and days of anxiety; ahead of them were many days of confinement at the refugee stations

days of inactivity-days and nights of worry over lost possessions, of bewilderment and uncertainty about the future. Obviously a recreation program which would divert the attention of adults to games, dancing or music would give them emotional release. Equally important was a program of play for children.

Through the WPA Federal Art Project, which had been working closely with the Public Recreation Commission, the services of orchestral, dramatic and vaudeville units were secured to give programs at the refugee centers. In the larger centers entertainments were given three times a day, at medium sized ones, twice a day, and at the smaller ones, once a day. At Stowe and Washburn, for example, where at the beginning of the disaster more than 2,000 people were quartered, a a symphony concert was arranged in the morning, a vaudeville entertainment in the afternoon, and a dance or movie at night.

There was an excellent response from volunteers for the entertainment program. The movie operator at a local theater, having read in the papers of the entertainment program, offered his personal talking machine equipment and for more than a week gave two or three shows daily. Learning of his offer, other movie operators volunteered until there were five outfits visiting the stations. These entertaining units in some instances worked continuously from one o'clock in the afternoon until nine at night. Every unit volunteered to work as often as their services were needed.

Recreation has come to be recognized as a necessity in normal times one of the essential municipal services along with Education, Public Health and other governmental functions.

What of recreation in times of such disaster as we have just suffered? Does it measure up? During the recent floods recreation departments performed outstanding service in helping to maintain morale, to bring laughter to many who thought they had forgotten how to smile. It is impossible to present in this brief article any adequate picture of the part played by recreation departments and similar groups, but we are happy to give our readers a few of the highlights from reports which have come to us. Recreation workers everywhere may be very proud of the valiant service performed by members of their profession in the flood areas.

Between Friday, January 15th and Monday February 15th, engagements involving 68 vaudeville entertainments, 23 concerts by the symphony orchestra, 15 concerts by the band, and 87 by the dance orchestra, had been filled. Approximately 63 moving picture performances were given and there were 18 performances of a miscellaneous nature by magicians, instrumental trios and other groups.


At most of the centers the recreation leaders gave a great deal of attention to helping the flood refugees provide their own entertainment. There were spelling bees, tap dancing contests, checker tournaments, and choruses recruited from refugees. At the Stowe School refugee center several choral and entertainment troupes were organized to go to other refugee centers to put on programs. On pleasant days athletic games were arranged out of doors on the school grounds or playgrounds adjoining the centers. When the weather permitted children were taken for hikes.

At some schools the workers necessarily faced the problem of lack of adequate yard space and indoor recreation facilities. In one center where there was no gymnasium and no suitable space available, the recreation program had to be carried on in a portion of one of the halls and in a play room no larger than an ordinary classroom. Even there, however, the resourcefulness of the recreation leader in charge was equal to the situation. Athletic games were worked out on the basis of modified rules, and the small school yard was used for the type of games that can be played in a small space.

As a sample of the recreation program in operation at the refugee centers, the following outline of activities at Washburn School is offered:

[blocks in formation]



Four Sunday School services
Two worship services

One song service


Property Damage. Tam Deering, Superintendent of Recreation, in his report on the emergency service has stated that twenty-three of the commission's properties were under water during the flood, the total area approximating 400 acres. While considerable damage was done to the commission's buildings and grounds, the losses were slight in comparison to those sustained by private citizens having business properties or homes in the flood area. The only recreation building which was very seriously damaged was the West End building which had not been constructed as a recreation building but was a temporary wooden structure which had been made over for use as a shelter with beaver board used for partitions.

The vigilance of the commission's workers by day and night was responsible for the limited. damage done. At one building, which was the concentration point for supplies, in spite of the fact that there was a yard full of material, so diligent and alert were the employees that even piles of sand and gravel were not lost, and practically nothing was permitted to float away. All perishable articles were moved to the upper stories of the building.

Similar care protected the furnishings and properties at the C and O grounds where it was necessary to move all of the supplies, equipment and furnishings from the first floors of the main buildings and temporary buildings. While the flood waters moved swiftly into the colony buildings holding the varicus exhibits and the branch of the natural museum at the C and O grounds, nothing was injured. Truck loads of valuable specimens and show cases were moved. The commission would have sustained very heavy losses at this location had it not been for the extraordinary activity of the employees.

Louisville Rallies Its Recreational Forces

Louisville, Kentucky, hard hit as was Cincinnati by the flood, immediately rallied its recreational forces, and workers of the Recreation Division of the Park Department under the leadership of Walter R. H. Sherman, Superintendent of Recreation, worked unceasingly day and night. When it became evident that the regular recreation program could not continue all the workers

[blocks in formation]

were asked to report at the welfare office to aid in flood relief activities. Their knowledge of the city, their experience in handling large groups massed in centers, their ability to organize, made them invaluable workers at tasks ranging from typing to rowing boats, from cooking to organizing relief centers. All members of the Negro staff and a majority of the white staff were themselves refugees, separated from their families and. in many instances unable to communicate with them. Without proper clothing for the work they were called on to do and under great mental strain, these workers carried on in a spirit of cheer and good will. "All of the men on my staff working with me," writes Mr. Sherman, "did not change. their clothing for eight days, working without sleep until they were exhausted."

During the flood period, while helping with the relief program, the Division of Recreation workers conducted recreation programs which did much to improve the morale of the refugees. Typical of them all is the program conducted at one of the schools used as a relief station.

[blocks in formation]

At no fewer than twelve centers programs were conducted consisting of singing, quiet games, stunts. impromptu entertainment and social recreation. At seven of the centers members of the staff not only conducted recreation but directed and supervised all phases of relief work.

In Other Cities

At Evansville, Indiana, the City Recreation Department and the WPA Recreation Project joined forces to supply recreation equipment, leadership and entertainment. At the refugee station organized by the Red Cross entertainment programs consisted of concerts by WPA bands and orchestras, minstrel shows, community sings, skating exhibition, movies provided by the Y. M. C. A., puppet and marionette shows, clown acts, music and dance numbers furnished by the refugees themselves. A typical daily program follows:

9:00-10:30 A. M.-Active games 10:00-11:30 A. M.-Outdoor games 11:30-12:30 P. M.-) --Noon meal

12:30-1:00 P. M.-Free play

1:00- 1:30 P. M.-Outdoor walks

1:30-2:30 P. M.-Quiet games and handcraft

2:30-4:00 P. M.-Active games

4:00-4:30 P. M.-Story-telling

4:30-5:00 г. M.-Free play

5:00-6:00 P. M.-Evening meal

6:00-7:00 P. M.-Games for small children

7:00-9:30 P. M.-Night program consisting of the


7:00-7:30 P. M.-Old time dance music

7:30-8:30 P. M.-Magicians, tap dancers, clowns, etc. 8:30-8:50 P. M.-Moving pictures

8:50-10:00 P. M.-Dancing-music furnished by dance


Most ingenious use was made of the material available. As yarn was easily obtainable in Evansville, honeycomb mats were made in quantities, and new classes were formed to continue instruction. The Recreation Department was quick to salvage damaged material for the use of the handcraft program. Pianos, radios and discarded furniture were collected, and screws, wires and all parts for which any possible use could be imagined were saved and new projects devised for their use.

Recreation departments in cities outside the flood areas did their part. When 2,000 refugees were sent to Lexington, Kentucky, to be housed in churches of the city, the local recreation department immediately set up programs. In Centralia, Illinois, the director of recreation had supplies on hand and an organization set up before the call came, and 200 refugees housed at the community center were provided with a recreation program. The Chicago Park District collected a (Continued on page 52)

Theodore Wirth—

Pioneer in Park Planning

"The story of Theodore Wirth is the story of American progress. He is a pioneer who has lived to see the fruits of his work."


ORTUNATE INDEED is the individual who finds

his calling, and no less fortunate is the field to which he makes the contribution of a life's work.

For Theodore Wirth, who retired on November 30, 1935, after serving for thirty years as general superintendent of parks of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the choosing of a career presented no difficulties. From the time he was old enough to appreciate the exhibits in a florist's shop opposite the home of his parents in Winterthur, Switzerland, he knew that horticulture was his vocation.

It was no accident, then, that Theodore Wirth became an international figure in the field of park planning and development. He is a planner who has planned his own life as he has planned his park projects. His career constitutes one of the most important contributions made by any individual to the cause of public recreation.

When Mr. Wirth reached the age of seventytwo, his retirement from public service became mandatory. But the City of Minneapolis refused to bid farewell to the man to whom it owes its splendid park system. Mr. Wirth, by action of the Board of Park Commissioners, continues to act as superintendent emeritus without fixed salary, duties or responsibilities, but with certain privileges in return for his consultation and guidance. When he gave up his office he left with the Commissioners a comprehensive report on a metropolitan park system for Minneapolis which he had conceived and planned. In this report he placed emphasis on the need for recreational areas and facilities near large centers of population.

His Early Life

Theodore Wirth was born on November 30, 1863, in Winterthur, Switzerland, the son of Conrad Wirth, a school teacher. As a school boy he

By JAMES F. KIELEY Washington, D. C.

showed marked leaning towards horticulture, and spent most of his leisure in the greenhouses and gardens of his florist neighbor. As soon as he had finished his high school course he became an apprentice in the establishment of Stahel Brothers, nurserymen, florists, and landscape gardeners, at Flawil, St. Gall, one of the leading horticultural firms in Switzerland. After his apprenticeship of three years, he took a special course in engineering at The Technicum in Winterthur. This made him a professional gardener.

One of Mr. Wirth's first jobs was in 1883, in the landscape department of the National Exhibition in Zurich where he assisted in the laying out and maintenance of the exhibition grounds. Next, he went to London, England, where he was employed for two years by a grower and florist. His work for this firm in arranging windowbox decorations for private residences in all parts of the city took him daily to the Covent Garden flower market. After working for a few months in the orchid houses of Sanders & Company, St. Albans, he went to Paris in 1886 and was employed in the Jardins des Plantes and later with a commercial establishment. He returned to Switzerland to take a position on a large private estate near Constance, and in the winter of 1887-1888 entered the service of the City Gardener of Zurich in order to be able to attend night school in that city. Mr. Wirth had decided to go to America, and his night school studies were courses in English.

In April, 1888, Mr. Wirth landed in New York. In order to establish himself in the New World he worked for a short time for a private gardener in Morristown, New Jersey. He had been promised a position in Central Park, New York City, and while waiting for this job to become available he worked for a rose grower in South Orange, New Jersey. By summer his New York



municipal position became a reality, and he worked in the New York Park Department greenhouses, and with the planting and forestry crews for a year. His leisure, as before, was devoted to study, for by this time he had decided to specialize in the branch of landscape gardening. Aided by his knowledge of engineering, and assisted by Sam Parsons, superintendent of parks; and J. F. Huss, general foreman of construction, he advanced rapidly in the department. During the construction of Morningside Park he was promoted to the position of foreman.

Politics upset Mr. Wirth's career in the New York Park Department when, with a change of administration, he was retired from the service with hundreds of other employees. With Mr. Parsons' recommendation he obtained commissions for the improvement of several private estates on Long Island, in Connecticut, and along the Hudson River, and later found employment with the State of New York at Niagara State Reservation. It was during his stay on Long Island that Mr. Wirth became acquainted with F. H. Mense, former superintendent of Danas Island and the Perkins Estate at Glen Cove. In June, 1895, he married his friend's daughter, Miss Leonie A. Mense.

den which has won national recognition as one of the finest gardens of its kind. The idea of establishing turf walks in the garden was also conceived by Mr. Wirth.

The Hartford chapter of Mr. Wirth's career established his reputation. In 1905 he received an invitation from the Park Commission of Minneapolis to look over the park system of that city and to consider acceptance of the superintendency.

On to Minneapolis!

As with many a man at a crossroads in his career, it was not easy for Mr. Wirth to make a decision on that offer. He explained to his Board shortly before his retirement: "When, in 1905, Mr. C. M. Loring invited me to pay him a visit to

"For his farsightedness as revealed in the
conception of his plan and the expression
of his ideas; for his ability as a designer
and an efficient administrator; for his
consideration of the most effective use of
park properties for all of the people, Mr.
Wirth has always been held in the great-
est admiration by this Board. He has
been an ideal public servant-but be-
yond this, individual members of the
Board take the greatest pleasure in ac-
claiming the characteristics of the man.
Enduring friendships and sincere love and
esteem are bound to result from frequent
association with him, as evidenced by
our co-partnership in building the park
system." The Park Board of Minne-
apolis in its testimonial to Mr. Wirth.

His Work in Hartford

[ocr errors]

Mr. Wirth's first big opportunity came with his appointment, in the spring of 1896, as superintendent of parks of Hartford, Connecticut. A new park commission had just been organized and the constructive period of the city's park system had just begun. Here was the chance, then, that Theodore Wirth had planned and studied forthe chance to build a park system. Taking pians provided by Olmsted and Elliot, the architects for the Commission, he completed the job in ten years. Elizabeth Park, one of Hartford's favorite recreation areas, came into the system subsequent to the drafting of the original plans, and Mr. Wirth himself designed and established that park. One of its outstanding features is the Rose Gar

consider the acceptance of

my present position, I was at first disinclined to accept. It rained every day during my stay and everything looked uninviting except the people whom I met, who were very kind to me. When I left here, I had in mind to reject the position offered, but on my long journey home, however, I constantly saw before me those lakes, the river gorge, Minnehaha Creek, the falls and glen, and the many other natural attractions and the possibilities for their betterment in the public service, new acquisitions, new creations, work among friendly people for a well-organized, non-political Board of Park Commissioners. By the time I reached home I had gained a strong desire to accept not that I did not have a host of friends in dear and beautiful Hartford; not because I hadn't a splendid Board of Park Commissioners to work with. Not these for Hartford, the birthplace of my children, is still very dear to me. It was the opportunity for new work that attracted me chiefly, the Hartford Park System having been practically completed during my ten years of service."

And so Theodore Wirth became superintendent of parks in Minneapolis early in 1906. For twenty-three years previous to that time the Park Board had been laying the foundations of the park system and had acquired approximately 1,800


« AnteriorContinua »