I explored a number of first and last names on my family tree looking for a Z to write about today. I’d written about baby Zora already in the story Vining Family Deaths. Zorobabel was already profiled back in April 2019 in Z is for Zorobable. Other Z names didn’t pan out. Some were merely shirttail relatives while others died young with few details of their short lives.
I was afraid that I’d have zilch to write about today. Sigh.
The NYA at Zarah, Kansas
Then I remembered that my great-aunt, Bertha McGhee, spent some time at the town of Zarah in Kansas when she worked for the NYA. She had saved a full-page newspaper spread about the camp. It was one of FDR’s New Deal programs to help get people back to work during the Great Depression.
Bertha wrote some short memory pieces about her time there:
My next Depression years job was teaching at an NYA (National Youth Administration) camp on the grounds of a former country club near Zarah, Kansas.
We opened in the winter with around 20 girls housed in the clubhouse. The staff were housed there also. These were girls who had dropped out of school in their teens
because their parents couldn’t afford for them to attend. The camp featured a work project and an educational program. The girls worked half a day and attended class half a day. Divided into 2 groups, one worked in the morning and went to class in the afternoon while the other group reversed the schedule.
Their work project was making tennis nets, which were then sent to recreation projects. Classes were tailored to the level the girls had attained. At least one girl finished her 8th-grade level and received a diploma so she was eligible for high school. Others finished high school credits and became eligible for college.
In the summer the number of girls attending was expanded by adding movable buildings on the grounds since heat was no longer needed. Even a permanent building some distance from the lodge was put to use.
It was a sizable building with screened-in porch on two sides, large enough to accommodate ten beds. This proved to be a place the girls vied to be assigned to. I was assigned as counselor there. It gave us some interesting experiences.
There was a small stream we hopped across between us and the lodge. Also the largest bur oak tree I’ve ever seen. Its base had a hole large enough for the girls to crawl into it. Its great limbs arched up and out and down creating an outdoor ‘room’ very near our cabin.
Janet Duncan provide this information about her parents who were instructors at the camp. “My father, Alden Krider, is on the right end of the back row and my mother, Peggy Bacon Krider, is in front of him, the right end of the first row. He was the arts & crafts director and she taught arts & crafts which I know included making tennis nets, book binding, pottery and marionettes.
They also worked at Camp Bide-a-Wee near Wichita, and I haven’t found anything about it yet. I know they taught marionette-making there and that the girls made puppets and wrote a play to perform about Joe Lewis, the new heavyweight boxing champ. My father also did an oil painting for Miss Laughlin (the KS NYA Director) about the work of the NYA which is now in the National Archives.”
More About the Big Tree
One very special 4th of July came while we were there. Some time after we moved into it we began to see granddaddy longlegs on the window ledges and even on our beds. We tried to think how to be rid of them. Fly spray didn’t seem to bother them. Then one of the girls found where they were coming from: the hollow of the big oak tree. They tried taking water from the stream and dashing it on them. It didn’t seem to phase them. It was the 4th of July so we had no work or classes that day. Then one girl said “We could burn them out. Put paper into the hollow and set it on fire.”
One girl ran to ask permission, while the others began gathering papers. The girl came back with the report that “They guessed it would be all right,” so the papers were stuffed in and lighted. It was an effective end to the daddy longlegs but it wasn’t the end of our problems, for soon we saw smoke coming out of the limbs high up in the oak tree. We were dismayed! Then I thought of the club grounds caretaker who lived next to us to the south. We went to him, told him what we had done and asked his advice. How happy we were when he said that if we followed his instructions we would have done the tree a service rather than destruction.
He said we would simply prepare mud and spread it both inside the hollow and up the tree wherever we saw smoke coming out. The mud patches on the outside would stop the circulation of air so the fire and the mud plaster within would help heal the rotting hole. We worked all day. The girls climbed into the tree until every smoking spot was closed with mud and at least for the remaining years we spent at the site the tree showed no ill effects of our project to keep granddaddy longlegs out of our cabin.
So remember, if you need to mend a wound on a tree, you don’t have to have some expensive paste. Common mud-dirt and water mixed to a paste consistency placed over wound worked really well!!
This is the last of the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2020. If you missed any of the earlier posts, there’s a list at that link.