Works Progress Administration Tour

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What started as a whim, the idea of a tour to historic WPA projects in Utah County generated a gratifying response. The weather was perfect after a chilly spring filled with rain. For the first time, we had a total of 20 old cars attend the event. Among the Model A’s assembled, two drove down from Salt Lake County and three cars came up from Sanpete County. Of the Sanpete crowd, two of the vehicles were Model T’s.

We started by meeting at the Springville Museum of Art which thankfully had a parking lot large enough for us to assemble in one long line. Imagine our excitement as Model A after Model A came chugging down the road and turned into the lot. It sort of reminded me of clowns coming out of a Volkswagen at the circus.

The idea of the tour was to visit eight WPA projects still in use in the area and photograph our cars with them. If possible, we tried to create “period pictures” with the buildings in the background. When printed out in sepia tone, the effect is convincing. These shots are even more believable since many of our club members wore period clothing to create candid street scenes.

One of the places we visited was the Utah State Hospital. This was built as a mental hospital for the criminally insane and still serves that purpose today. One of the WPA projects on the campus is an amphitheater with a large lawn below. Somehow we were able to get all our cars on the fire road that encircles the area.

From the Utah State Hospital we drove in a single lane in a long line down Center Street in downtown Provo to get to our next stop. We had so many cars that we occupied an entire city block as we drove 5 miles an hour through the heart of town. We were greeted by the disbelieving stares of diners in sidewalk cafes, pedestrians with their dogs and shoppers laden with bags, all of whom were frozen with astonishment to see a better mobile display of Model A’s than they would have seen in the July 4th Parade on the same street. Some were able to fumble for their cell phones to get a shot or two of our impromptu and unannounced appearance as part of the crawling traffic. Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos of our drive through downtown.

Our next stop was only a few blocks away at the Federal Building which today houses the Social Security offices. Originally it served as the Provo Post Office. Being closed on Saturday, we were able to get some great pictures with the cars. The downside was that we were not able to enter the building to see the mural that was painted during the New Deal era which is still on the wall of the lobby.

When we were done here, we drove over to the Pioneer Museum where many of our original participants met us. It may be noted that trying to keep 20 cars together through town with traffic, stoplights and general confusion as to what we are doing next and when we will leave, was a revelation for a small club. This is something we will have to improve upon. At any rate, we gathered at North Park where the museum stands to get our pictures. It so happened that the doors were open and we were able to go inside to see the artifacts that predate our cars that have been handed down and kept safe by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. It was that group which with much persistence over a few years was able to finally secure sufficient funding from the WPA to build the structure.

Although our cars were fine for continued touring, their drivers all wanted to eat. After all, it was mid afternoon and some stomachs were growling louder than a first to second up-shift. This was unfortunate in that the Model T guys had driven ahead to American Fork due to their slower speed to await our arrival at the sites we had scheduled to see up there. When they perceived that we weren’t likely to make it all the way north on our tour, they determined that they had better head south to load up in their trailers for the long drive back to Sanpete County.

With this bit of information the immediate consensus of the group at the museum was to drive to a nearby restaurant in Provo where we could sit down to eat. Afterwards we went our separate ways to roost our cars for the next big trip.

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