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As It Was: California Physician Advocates the Townsend Plan

California physician Dr. Francis Townsend developed a plan in 1932 to get the country out of the Great Depression. He proposed that everyone over 60 years old be given $200 a month that had to be spent that same month.  Townsend said it would stabilize the lives of the elderly and provide jobs for the young, and could be funded with a 2 percent sales tax.

By 1934, Townsend Clubs began to spring up all over the country in support of his idea. In the nation’s capital, the Roosevelt Administration promoted Social Security legislation that passed in 1935.  But the much lower benefits were slow to take effect.

Oregon had more Townsend Clubs than any other state.  In 1939, A. E. Powell, popular publisher of the Central Point American newspaper and town mayor, founded the Central Point Townsend Club.  Powell said that “after long study” he believed “the Townsend Plan was the only practical solution of the problems that confront the country.”

With declining support, the Central Point Townsend Club lasted until about 1950, while Powell’s influence in the region widened after his election as County Supervisor in 1945.
 

Source: Watson, Mark. Pine Street: A Cultural History of the Business District of Central Point, Oregon and its Historic Buildings. A paper prepared for the Southern Oregon State College Robert Ruhl Learning Fellowship August 31, 1993. pp49-50. From the Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

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Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.