New Deal in Mississippi: Lauderdale Vocational Building

Lauderdale, north of Meridian, saw the construction of a vocational building, and possibly, a community center under the New Deal Administration.  MDAH Historic Resources Inventory identifies the Community Center as c. 1935, located on Community House Road.  I located one news item referencing the community center.  The Hattiesburg American, Nov. 6, 1935, p. 8 reported on a number of WPA projects that were approved for Mississippi, including $1,667 to construct the Lauderdale Community Center, pictured to the far left in the photograph below.

The Lauderdale Consolidated School’s vocational building next door was constructed in 1937-1938 by the National Youth Administration as WP 4268 and contained a shop and a classroom.


Courtesy MDAH Digital Archives, Series 1513 School Photograph Scrapbooks Item 2016

Both the Lauderdale Community Center and Vocational Building are still extant as seen in this 2018 google map view.

The land was cleared (top left photo) using a horse-drawn implement known by various names depending on the model.  The implement on the right (horse facing away) appears to be a drag scraper, which could also be called a buck scraper or slip scraper.  The one on the left (horse facing camera, resembles the Fresno scraper, although it was designed to be pulled by two horses.  Both required manual assistance from the human.


Fresno scraper, illustration uploaded from Fresno Historical Society, Wikipedia, public domain.

The concrete was mixed on site as evidenced in the top photo to the right above.  It looks as if they were mixing for concrete block foundation (see along the right side of the foundation edge) but the lack of clarity in the photo makes it difficult to determine with certainty.

In 1937, James Butler McIvis was director of the vocational agriculture program at Lauderdale High School.

The first Lauderdale Consolidated School listed in the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory was constructed c. 1900, a two-story building at unnamed location.  The subsequent listing of Lauderdale School Complex was on Lauderdale Road, in the same location as the 1951 gymnasium, pictured to the right above.  The google map view shows remnants of concrete slabs, and an unidentified metal building is in the location of the former gymnasium.  Lauderdale School II (pictured on the left above) was designed in 1947 by architect Christopher C. Risher, Sr., and constructed by Vining and Kling, a Meridian based company who also built the Union school 1947 classroom, gymnasium, and alterations to the existing building (Union Appeal, Sep. 18, 1947, p. 1).  Chris Risher was also architect for the Union school (Clarion-Ledger, Sep. 21, 1947, p. 25).  Both Vining & Kling and Risher were active in building projects throughout Mississippi.  Risher’s 1947 Lauderdale school had completed the foundation and begun the outside walls in late February for a replacement for the former building destroyed by fire.

Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Schools


4 replies

  1. My father witnessed German POWs at Camp Shelby using “slips” pulled by mules in order to construct the dam that impounded the waters of Lake Shelby aka Geiger Lake.
    Colonel T. C. Birdsong was Commander of the German POW camp. He later became Mississippi Public Service Commissioner and headed up the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. There is a diary kept by one of the prisoners that is available. Up until the commencing of the carpet bombing of German cities by the RAF and the Army Air Corps that began in 1944, letters were freely exchanged with family in Germany conducted through the American Red Cross( not to be confused with the ICRC.) The bombings ended the letters exchange.The diary was discovered and impounded. I have a copy.


    • I have photographs of my grandfather using mules and drag scraper.


    • My uncle, Jim Jones, graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1943. Knowing he was soon to be drafted, he actually got a job working on Lake Shelby. He worked along side of the POW’s and fondly remembered them as being just like him. In July of 1944, he was sent to France as a replacement in the 90th Infantry Division, Third Army. He fought through France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia until the end of the war. He said that he never felt any hatred for the Germans due to his work at Lake Shelby. He died in 2006 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I never observed any hatred of WWII Germans by returning American servicemen in my formative years. My grandfather employed returning veterans at his sheet metal shop in Hattiesburg. One particular veteran employee of the Bulge was Robert (Bob) Oliver of Hattiesburg. He told a story of seeing German families digging through the rubble for the remains of family members in the bombed out cities. He did call them Krauts but it was not in a pejorative way.
    You might be interested in the copy of the diary of the CS POW? All the POWs at Shelby were AfriKorps, having been taken prisoner at Tunisia.


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