A Blast From The Past
WPSU has debuted a new segment that examines Centre County (along with Penn State) during the Great Depression. You can take a tour of a 1930’s era downtown and campus, hear about farm life during the depression and experience the impact of the downturn on teachers, among others. The focus of these programs is the effect of the New Deal on the area and how it changed State College. WPSU ran a week’s worth of these shows, and has posted them online. The shows include the following:
- “The Lucky Ones“
- “Challenges for Teachers“
- “Surviving in the City“
- “Farm Life During the Depression“
- “The Depression Leaves a Mark on Centre County“
It is clear from listening to the recording that Centre County was pretty lucky during the Great Depression. Penn State as a University flourished as a result of a huge influx of New Deal money. It is easy to see the effect of this money by the large number of buildings on campus that are dated between 1935 and 1938.
After Prohibition was repealed, bars sprung up all over Downtown State College (most notably the Rat Skeller). The program reports that bars like the Rat Skeller opened “as soon as it was humanly possible after Prohibition was over.” The bars helped revitalize the local economy and the people. It sounds to me that we need to give some credit to those bar owners in the 1930’s for laying the groundwork for the fantastic parties we have come to expect from Penn State and State College.
Another interesting fact is regarding the term “Happy Valley”. The rumor is that “Happy Valley” refers to the fact that businesses were able to stay open in Centre County during the Depression. As it turns out, this is incorrect.
The original Happy Valley is a place in a book by the English writer Samuel Johnson.
The term Happy Valley has a double meaning. On the one hand it’s a nice, pleasant place. But on the other hand, it’s a place in the Samuel Johnson book where nothing interesting ever happens.
Even though I initially thought these recordings were going to be radio shows from the 1930’s and was a bit let down when I realized what they were, the shows are still very interesting. I’ve found the most interesting one to be “The Depression Leaves a Mark on Centre County“. If you are only going to listen to one, check that one out.