Vocational education was a mainstay in the New Deal Administration’s school development, and there were many vocational buildings added to the Mississippi landscape through the National Youth Administration, Works Progress Administration, and Public Works Administration programs. In 1937, an
..increase in Mississippi’s allocation of federal funds for vocational education will permit the establishment of more than 40 new vocational units in the state. (Vocational Education Expanded, Hattiesburg American, August 19, 1937, p.2)
East Tupelo Consolidated School gained two programs from that expansion. Slated to be constructed was a Vocational Agriculture building and a Vocational Domestic Science department. The building pictured in the photographs is identified by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as a canning plant, circa 1940. The building bears resemblance to the vocational units constructed near the end of the programs, such as the recent post about Vardaman’s vocational building. It appears than an addition was added to the end of the building to expand it, and original doors and windows were altered.
There is no record I can find that indicates if PWA or WPA funds were expended in the construction of this facility. A brief notation in chapter 17 from We Remember Elvis (Moore, Harris, Presley, & Clark, 2010) refers to making toys from “metal cans like those from the WPA canning plant.” The Daily Journal ran a “Retrospective of the 1940s and ’50s” column in 1999 that reported
March 24, 1945: East Tupelo canning plant will open May 1 to preserve surpluses from Victory Gardens. (Elkins, A. 1999. djournal.com)
Vocational canning plants differed from commercial because they were operated for canning products for home use, and as a method of training. The farmer or gardener brought in the produce and canned under the supervision of the teacher of agriculture (Agricultural Education, 1936). Canning was also a focus on Home Economics education.
‘Bring canning foods’ is the constant reminder announced daily to the girls taking ninth Home Ec. To date they have canned corn, okra, string beans, and lima beans. The class is delighted that not a can has spoiled. They have even mastered the art of canning with a steam pressure cooker, and have as their slogan, ‘all out for the canning front!’ (Bailey Bugle, September 30, 1942, p. 11)
The Inventory of Federal Archives in the States cumulative report through June 30, 1940 gives a glimpse into a few of the New Deal Administration programs that benefitted Mississippi:
- 184 new construction or additions to schools
- 200 reconstruction or improvement of schools
- 489 new public buildings
- 118 reconstruction of existing public buildings
- 7, 950 bridges and viaducts constructed or improved
- 25 new parks
- 104 new playgrounds and athletic fields.
Many of these schools and other buildings remain in use.
It was the Band Hall at Lawhon School for a LONG TIME! The street you see there is the dog leg south end of Wayside St. going toward Canal St. to the right. Going left, the street makes a 90-degree left turn and goes all the way north to E. Main St. and intersects with E. Main St. there at Johnnie’s Drive-In where Elvis used to eat!
East Tupelo Consolidated School later was named Lawhon School and included elementary and junior high grades.
What was the large square building that is going further down the street toward Main, if you turn there at the 90-degree? It is brick about half way, and then some type of stucco and timber, and has a large ramp at the back. There is some type of metal cover that looks like it was a drain of some sort. I wondered if it was a cafeteria at some point? The map at MDAH does not identify it.
Yes, that is (and was) the cafeteria. It’s the first building on the right after you turn the corner from your picture.
I think it is concrete block covered by stucco or cement mortar or something like that.
The first building at the turn left from the canning plant (but on the right side of the road) is identified as the cafeteria. Could it be that the map is off?
That is right. The cafeteria is the building around the corner. OH, by the way, the little short street that the photo is taken from is College St. I was thinking it was Wayside “around the corner” HA!
Do you have a picture of the large square building that you’re talking about?
Oh, I see the building you are talking about. I do not know what that is for. It’s probably the newest building on campus and sure does not match the other buildings. It might be for food services, or even HVAC systems, or maybe for custodial purposes. Don’t know.
Yes, that was a canning plant. I remember going there with my Mother, Helen Richey, to can vegetables. Many women from the neighborhood did their canning there.
When my children were at Lawson School, it was the band hall. All three of my children were in band. Good memories!
Thank you for the additional information, Ms Shetler. Was it part of the school’s vocational program, or a separate WPA project? Do you know what years it was in operation, or at least, the years that your mother used it? I would appreciate any additional information you might recall.
Thank you for commenting!
From a post in the Lawhon Alumni group page on Facebook where I shared the article. Jim Palmer said, “The new construction on the left end of this photo was actually a covered porch that was bricked up to about a 4 foot level with an entrance at the end. The roof structure over this porch was already there before the new bricks were added.”
This is a very interesting post. Until I read it, I never realized that some schools had canning plants years ago. I recently did a post on school gardens a hundred years ago. I’m now wondering it they might have canned some of the vegetables that they produced.
The canning plants were utilized during the depression-era as part of the vocational education programs that expanded during the New Deal Administration. Later, as war approached, they were part of the efforts to conserve use of retail produce from large farm production by having community or home “Victory Gardens” to grow produce for the community in order to ensure farm production served the armed forces.
I’m fascinated by the vocational education programs that were an integral part of “modern” high schools in the first half of the 20th century. The focus on practical skills that would interest students has a lot to be said for it–but at the same time it pigeon-holed students into tracks that limited opportunities which is extremely problematic.
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The canning plant building was used for Boy Scout meetings in the early to mid ’50’s, also used as a Youth Center for local teens in the mid ’50’s, had a juke box, and had Elvis first recordings. That is where I first heard his records.
Charles, I think you’re thinking of the white wood frame scout building that was behind the canning plant/band hall building. It was originally a classroom building located where the “new” elementary building was built back in 1952.
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