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Lloyd Omdahl, Published January 24 2011

Omdahl: Updating ’38 guide to history

Most folks who can remember the Works Progress Administration think of it as a program for blue-collar workers who became unemployed in the Great Depression. Actually, it provided employment for a wide range of skills.

For one project, writers were employed to write and edit books about the various states. The books were called “The American Guide Series” and consisted of historical facts and designated state tours. My copy of the North Dakota edition was a gift from the late Lt. Gov. Frank Wenstrom of Williston.

With large numbers of folks drawing unemployment benefits, it seems that they should be doing something worthwhile for their checks while they wait for the labor market to open up. Especially hard hit have been writers due to the consolidation of media and decline of newspapers. Maybe they could update “The American Guide Series,” North Dakota’s edition being 72 years old at the present time.

In this era of entertainment, however, it would be wise to pair unemployed writers with unemployed humorists to produce something that would be enjoyable to read. To give you a better idea of this suggestion, here are some possible revisions for the 1938 edition:

Now, some may think it sacrilege to modify facts with a little humor, but revisionists all over the country are coming up with their own versions of history. With revisionism now the norm, no one will notice a few embellishments of North Dakota’s colorful past. It may not make the New York Times best-seller list, but it would be something to get us through the long, boring winters.


Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. E-mail ndmatters@q.com