Remembering the Project Houses
I enjoyed the
about the Depression-era Project Houses on campus. My father was one of the beneficiaries of the program and was always appreciative of the people who sponsored it. article by Greg Bailey in the fall 2018 edition of Spirit magazine
He grew up in Houston County on a farm that was managed by his father and expected to work there after graduating high school. However, the local 4-H club leader told him about the Project House program in 1934 and further encouraged Dad to raise $75, pack a suitcase and join a group of Houston County boys he was taking to Texas A&M.
Dad went home and shared the story with anyone who would listen. Upon hearing it, one of the farm’s sharecroppers told Dad he would give him a bale of his cotton as a grubstake. This is amazing because it occurred during the depths of the Great Depression, and the donor was unrelated to Dad and living at a subsistence level. Anyway, Dad accepted the offer and sold the cotton for $75. My grandmother tossed in a cardboard suitcase, and Dad was on his way.
Charles Wedemeyer's father was one of the young men responsible for planting the oak trees along the avenue leading up to the Jack K. Williams Administration Building. He lived in the Houston Country Project House while he attended Texas A&M in the 1930s.
The boys lived in the Houston County Project House, which was managed by a middle-aged married couple who prepared meals and led the students to help with cleaning, laundry and other domestic chores. The students brought food from home to minimize costs. Dr. Dan Russell also arranged for them to earn money doing jobs on campus. One of their accomplishments was to plant the oak trees that line the boulevard connecting Highway 6 to the Jack K. Williams Administration Building. Dad was a big fan of Dr. Russell and other professors in the Agriculture School. He credited them with creating a program that lifted poor farm boys out of poverty and produced some very effective future leaders.
Dad graduated in 1938 and resigned his military officer’s commission to serve as the county agriculture agent for Madison County. When World War II started, he re-enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant and served in the European Theatre for more than three years, earning a Bronze Star for developing strategies that improved the kill ratio on German V-1 “buzz bombs.”
He passed away in 2002 at the age of 87. He left a legacy of leadership in agriculture and Christianity. But, his success was facilitated by the 4-H leader, the sharecropper and the school’s agriculture department, led by Dr. Russell.
Charles Wedemeyer ’63 Fort Worth, Texas