PHOTO GLIMPSE AT WEST VIRGINIANS DURING GREAT DEPRESSION - 'Hardship, Endurance, Hope," Rivard's Book Brings Struggle To Life



By Bob Weaver

The Great Depression impacted the lives of most Americans, from the wealthiest, the working class to the poorest.

Contrary to current recessions, most of the wealthiest lost their money during that troubling time and there were few jobs in the Mountain State and across the USA.

During America's current "Great Recession," interestingly most of America's corporations are making record profits.

My parents, survivors of the Great Depression, relived their pain, suffering and valiant efforts to survive the period during my childhood, my dad walking 10-miles one-way to Grantsville to his WPA job, leaving at the crack of dawn.

Work-brittle West Virginians rose to the task of sacrificing and surviving.

This outstanding photo book will touch the heart of people whose families survived.

Upon entering the White House in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced an ailing economy in the throes of the depression, rushed to transform the country through recovery programs and legislative reform.

By 1934, he began to send professional photographers to the state of West Virginia to document living conditions and the effects of his New Deal programs.

Braxton County photographer and writer Betty Rivard has spent several years editing the photographs from the Farm Security Administration Project, a project that captured powerful images of life in rural and small town America. She now resides in Charleston.

Rivard's collection has now been published in "New Deal Photographs of West Virginia, 1934-1943," images of the state's northern and southern coalfields, the subsistence homestead projects of Arthurdale, Eleanor, and Tygart Valley, and various communities from Charleston to Clarksburg and Parkersburg to Elkins.

The book has over one hundred and fifty images by ten FSA photographers, a remarkable record of hardship, hope, endurance and community.

The photographs provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of West Virginians during the Great Depression and beyond.

Rivard has been taking photographs since she was a young child growing up in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s, and has her own photo business, West Virginia Homeplace.

Moving to West Virginia from San Fransisco in the early 1970s, she is currently living at Gip near the Calhoun County line. she continues to embark on new projects.

"New Deal Photographs of West Virginia, 1934-1943" is a touching look at mountaineers and their survival skills.

The book can be purchased from West Virginia University Press: for $29.95 + $6 shipping and handling. Phone orders 800-621-2736.