A Brief History
On April 8, 1935, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 went into effect, and as a byproduct created the Works Progress Administration (later renamed the Work Projects Administration). This ambitious Federal government effort to get unemployed Americans back to work and accomplish much needed improvements to the country’s infrastructure was responsible for an incredible array of public construction projects, including the building of many roads, public buildings, airports (Midway in Chicago), and even sports stadiums such as the Akron Rubber Bowl.
One project NOT built by the WPA was Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where the Indians and Browns played for many years, although I had been told by my parents (and others) many times that this “mistake on the lake” giant stadium had been built by the WPA. What else could my parents have been wrong about? This incorrect information was not passed on as a lie in bad faith, just as mistaken information, bum scoop if you will. (Donald Trump would call it “Fake News.”)
My father, of Polish descent, was always pointing out this famous person or that famous person as being a fellow “Polock.” Some of the people misidentified as Polish included actors Nick Adams (Ukrainian) and Kim Novak (Slovak). He also told me on numerous occasions that Lee Marvin and James Coburn were brothers, an error I found out when I repeated the bum scoop on this website! An otherwise intelligent and good hearted man, my Dad came up with some goofy ideas presented to us as fact while growing up. One repeat bit of bad advice freely handed out was “When everyone is betting one way, bet the other.” This is almost assuredly why he never won while betting on football games. He also claimed that peppermint was a cure all for stomach problems, a myth debunked by science. Nobody is right about everything, and neither was my Dad. He predicted Beatles music would never stand the test of time, but that 1940’s music would. The English language was another target for mistakes, as words were misused such as “malinger” presented as “linger” or “goofing off, wasting time, etc.” Irregardless was another non-word passed into our vocabularies.
Speaking of science, my Mother was good for perpetuating myths such as having to wait an hour, a half hour, or 15 minutes after eating before going into a pool, the time variable undoubtedly being scientifically related to whatever suited her at the time. Also, sitting on a cement front porch without some sort of pad under the butt (even a sheet of newspaper) would lead to “piles.” Another blunder of my parents, one repeated by me when I had kids, was to demand that we “clean our plates” and eat everything we were given whether we were full or not. This practice has been found by scientists to lead to obesity. (Well, duh!) One thing she was right about, was my face really did stay like the goofy face I was making…
Another eating related bit of misinformation was that “Truckers know where the good food is” and the follow-on myth that truck stops were good places to eat. During our frequent car rides and vacation travels my siblings and I were subjected to the toughest, chewiest, and worst roast beef with gravy over bread on the face of the Earth. My childhood was nearly ruined by eating at these lousy truck stops instead of at some decent eatery such as Howard Johnson or Big Boy. Many years later, my parents admitted the mistake, too late for my traumatized taste buds.
Misquotes, improper use of English, repeating urban myths, bad betting advice and a unique view of history were all part of my heritage passed down by my parents. I wonder how many things I have incorrectly passed down to my boys! Question for students (and subscribers): If you have some stories about bum scoop perpetuated by your parents, please share them with us in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Taylor, Nick. American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work. Bantam, 2009.