In the years immediately following World War II, there was a statewide program to bring improvements to the lives of the small-town and rural Tennessean. The program was run through the University of Tennessee and used the talents of each county’s Extension Service.
Tucked in among the many papers and documents of our Historical Society is “Special Circular #296” from the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Tennessee, dated July 1947. The circular gives details on the community improvement program, such as how to make a survey of each community’s needs.
It also lists suggestions of what kind of improvements small towns and communities might need. The list is interesting, as it includes such things as: Secured cod-liver oil for each child in school, letters and cards sent each month to boys in service, cooperative purchase of farm supplies in carload lots, and monthly square dances held with proceeds to go to community projects.
This was right after the end of the war and global concerns were included in the list. One suggestion was: clothes collected for Russian and Phillipine relief.
The rural nature of most Tennessee communities was reflected in the suggestions, such as: fence rows cleaned off, beef ring organized, cannery built and operated, and survey for electric power line.
Some Tennessee counties were still without electricity.
Many residents here will recall that a “cannery” was built behind the old high school and people from across the county could go there to can their produce for the coming winter. The cannery had large tables, huge sinks, running water and a large stove. Usually several people would go to the cannery together with the old adage in mind, “Many hands make light work.”
We mentioned in last week’s article that the Historical Society has a scrapbook kept by the Willard Community Club. There were other communities that took part and other scrapbooks. If any reader has some of the scrapbooks in their attics or closets, we encourage you to donate them to the Society for their preservation.
A few years ago, the Providence Community scrapbooks were given to the Society and they, like the Willard scrapbook, are a wealth of information and a look at the not-too-distant past.
The 1957-58 scrapbook starts off with a listing of the club’s officers: President, Roy Dies; Vice-President, Lawrence Tomlinson; Secretary, Mrs. Mann Reed; Treasurer, Mrs. Paul Cassetty; Reporter, Polly Tomlinson; Song Leaders, Mrs. Mary Stone and Dot Reed; and the voting delegates for the county council were Vander Wright, Charles Haley, Lena Wright and Lawrence Tomlinson.
There is an impressive list of goals for 1957.
We won’t list them all, but will include a few that show how times have changed: Clean off community cemeteries; continue community mail box improvement; send floral design at each death in the community; to sell food at the elections; install new rope on the flag pole at the school grounds; have an Easter egg hunt; and encourage more people to attend church and Sunday school.
The minutes of each monthly meeting are included in the scrapbook. At the March 1958 meeting it was noted that, “Dorothy Reed put before the group a plan to get a nice coffee urn for the Club by selling subscriptions to Reader’s Digest.” The idea was warmly received, discussed, voted on and passed!
The May meeting was held at the community’s new picnic area. That was one of their projects and the minutes state that a “delicious supper was served.” There was a program following the meal, held in the Providence School. A film was shown and there were door prizes, compliment of Texaco. The top door prize was a Kitchen Step Ladder won by Lena Wright, while “Motor Oil and Grease” were won by Mrs. Roy Dies, Mrs. Lois Sanford, and James Russel.
Photos of community members participating in the various club activities fill the pages of the scrapbook, as do clippings from The Vidette from every time a resident of Providence was in the news. There are pictures of children in costume for the community Halloween party and wiener roast, 4-H members with their livestock, men cleaning up a cemetery, and a local woman in bed recovering from an illness and reading a “get well card” sent by the club.
Providence was a farming community and the closing page of the scrapbook boasts that 89 percent of their farm families raised chickens and produced their own eggs!