By 1931, the Depression had put millions out of work. In Follansbee, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, struggled to keep its union members employed. As the Presidential election approached in 1932, Amalgamated workers were encourage to vote for the candidate most likely to assist union labor and government relief for the unemployed.
Two major events were planned including a big city union meeting, and the annual August picnic at Rock Springs Park. The purpose of both events was to foster the goodwill of organized labor between trades people and the citizens of Follansbee and vicinity.
On March 28, 1931, prior to the Amalgamated August picnic, a monster meeting was held in Follansbee at the Rexy Theatre. The principle speaker was Rev. Father James R. Cox, of Old St. Patrick’s Church in Pittsburgh. Father Cox needed no introduction. He was known as the “Pastor of the Poor” from his broadcasts of the Holy Mass over WJAS radio (Pittsburgh). Rev. Cox was a social activist for the unemployed & homeless. He argued for government public works programs and the rights of labor unions. He was campaigning for the Presidency of the U.S. with the backing of the newly formed “Jobless Party.” Father Cox’s appearance in Follansbee was perhaps the first by a Presidential contender.
The Amalgamated annual picnic occurred at Rock Springs Park on August 15th. The event was sponsored by five lodges in Follansbee, Toronto and Canonsburg, Pa. Of the five thousand who attended from local cities, at least seven hundred were Follansbee residents. They packed into ten chartered train cars for the trip to the park at Chester. The men were served cigars complements of the Marsh Company of Wheeling. Fairs for 250 passengers were paid through the generosity of influential Follansbee citizens. James Lindell of Follansbee was honored as the oldest union member attending the picnic. A baseball game was featured between Follansbee and Canonsburg, won by the latter 6-1. The most exciting event of the day was a tug-of-war, the prize being a box of cigars, which was divided between Follansbee and Toronto.
- Follansbee Review, “Annual Picnic at Rock Springs Park,” June 11, 1931, front page.
- Follansbee Review, “Organized Labor will hold Monster Meeting,” March 28, 1931, front page
- Follansbee Review, “Thousands Attend Picnic Saturday,” August 20, 1930, front page.