Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Government Shell Game

by Connie Cortright

As we learned last week, FDR's programs during the Depression made a difference in many areas of the country as it got people back into the work force. Besides parks, the WPA built band shells in 27 communities across the country.

During the 1930s, music was a way to escape the pain of daily life and band shells brought music to a community during the summer months. Big Band music was the rage back then with the beginning of such bands as the Tommy Dorsey Band, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. These bands toured the country from town to town before they hit the big time. The local band shells in the community parks were the perfect place for them to have a concert.

The WPA put up money for the communities to build their band shells in parks. Cities from Daytona Beach, Florida to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California took advantage of these funds and built band shells in their towns.

Men and women would gather on the grass on a warm summer evening and listen to the music to forget about their problems. They'd bring blankets to sit on or bring chairs from home.

The band shells were most often looked like a half dome to help broadcast the sound of the music without the aid of a speaker system. Made out of various materials such as wood, stone, or brick, the shells were designed by local architects and built by local companies using the federal funds for wages. Here are a few of the WPA band shells.

Bedford, IN

Johnstown, PA
Daytona Beach, FL

Pueblo, Co

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