Uncle Jeff and the WPA

In the early thirties, at the depth of the depression, Aunt Reba asked Uncle Jeff about working on the WPA project. She told him that some of the neighbors’ husbands were earning twenty-five cents an hour! He went down to the Works Project Administration (WPA) office and inquired. The people at the office engaged him to work beginning the following Monday morning. They told him to be at a certain street intersection in Ruleville at 7:30 AM and a truck would pick him up there to go out on the job to begin work at eight.

Times were hard and Uncle Jeff did not have the money to replace their broken alarm clock. Aunt Reba told Uncle Jeff that they needed to get to bed early Sunday night so as to be able to get up early Monday morning and assure his being on time to meet that truck. So they retired early. Uncle Jeff said the next thing of which he was aware was Reba awaking him to eat breakfast. He said it seemed like a short night’s sleep, but that he arose and ate breakfast. Aunt Reba rushed around to get his clothes and send him off to Ruleville. She was being sure he didn’t miss that truck. Uncle Jeff said it was a very cold January morning as he started the five mile walk to Ruleville.

Uncle Jeff came to a very quiet town. At first there was not another person to be seen. He also noticed that there was no sign of daybreak. After about an hour one black man showed up and asked him if he knew what time it was. Uncle Jeff told him he did not have a watch, but he also told him, “There is a clock in front of a store around the corner.” He and the black man went to learn the time. It was 3:00 AM! Uncle Jeff’s career with the WPA was very short.

This was written by Roy C. Watson on September 25, 1988 at Jackson, Mississippi.