We're Pounding Clay and Taking Naps
October 23, 2002
We’re pounding clay and taking naps this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, I’m Steven Knoche Kite.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the accompanying depression mark one of the most extreme economic
downturns in our country's history. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves out of work, homeless
and starving. Those with families to care for endured even greater suffering as they watched their children
go hungry day after day.
In an effort to end such misery Franklin Roosevelt’s, "New Deal" provided initiated a large
number of government supported programs intended to bring aid and relief to the general population. One
such New Deal program was the Emergency Education Program. Under the direction of the Federal Emergency
Relief Administration, the Emergency Education Program included among its components government sponsored
and supported Day Care for needy kids between the ages of two and five. The main goals of the program
were to provide work for unemployed teachers and improve the physical, mental and social equipment of
pre-school children from under-privileged homes; assist parents in care and training of children and to
develop a program for demonstrating suitable environments for such children to schools, homes and welfare
Once each state organized their individual programs, federal funds made their way through the state
and eventually local offices. It was in this week of 1933 that the Emergency Nursery School Program officially
became a part of the Oklahoma New Deal. Before long government sponsored day care facilities sprang up
in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Stillwater, Enid, Shawnee, Lawton, Durant, Ardmore, Idabel, Holdenville,
and Vinita as well as Panama in LeFlore County.
The individual towns were responsible for providing the buildings, heat, water and other utilities.
Nursery Centers were housed in churches, and public school buildings as well as rented houses. A voluntary
parents group aided in sewing clothes and building playground and other equipment for each local facility.
The program, despite a continued shortage of funds, proved extremely successful and continued even into
the war years of the 1940s. The nursery program then, however, provided badly needed day care for all
of the "Rosie the Riveters" working at the various airplane and munitions plants around the
state. With the end of the war and the return of economic prosperity, the federal government stopped funding
the program and the program thereby ending it in 1946.
The New Deal giving a new chance to Oklahoma kids this week on the Almanac.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University
Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.