) ( ( ) Good Morning Family! ( \ .-.,--^--. ( Come on in. . . \* ) \\|`----'| - The coffee pot's on. . . .=|=. \| |// ...and we even have decaf, |~'~| | |/ tea, and hot chocolate! | | \ / _|___|_ ------ (_______) Today's topics include: 1. Welcome to new cousins 2. The Dirty Thirties, Part II TO OUR NEWEST COUSINS ~~ On behalf of the entire family, I'd like to extend a most hearty welcome to those cousins who came into the family fold this past week. We are very glad to have you with us and hope you'll stay and remain a part of our online family. As soon as you're comfortable with us and the list, please send in your list-surname lines so we can all see how we're related to you. We do not have a fancy format for sending in records or queries to the list. Post as many as you wish! If the data has anything to do with our list-surname ancestors that might help someone, please feel free to post it. Every scrap of information is appreciated. You're welcome to share this Coffee with your genealogy friends and relatives. If they are not members of our online family and would like to begin receiving the Coffee, they are now able to. Simply have them send a blank email to <[email protected]>. THE DIRTY THIRTIES, PART II "And the dispossessed were drawn west - from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land." -- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939 ~~Dust Bowl Refugees~~ The terrifying winds finally died down; the storm had ended.... this one, anyway. People began shoveling the soil to locate their buried farms. Housewives swept land that had blown in from Nebraska and Oklahoma from their Kansas homes ~ if there was still a home left to sweep, that is. The extent of the damage inflicted upon the southern Great Plains by drought and dust storms was little noticed outside of the region. The nation was desperately trying to pry itself loose from the grip of the Great Depression and the plight of normally well-off farmers was beyond the immediate concern of most citizens. Sadly, much of the nation just never fully comprehended the magnitude of this disaster during "the bad time." Places like Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico were all so far away. It took the storm of Black Sunday (April 14, 1935, Part I) to get the government's notice. That same storm blew in to Washington, D.C., and when a dusty gloom settled over the nation's capital, blotting out the midday sun, members of Congress finally realized the extent of dire straits the midwest was in. The government acted quickly by passing the Soil Conservation Act of 1935, with President Franklin Roosevelt putting his full authority behind improving farming techniques. Unfortunately, too much damage had already been done and much more was still to come.... In the 1930's, the Soil Conservation Service compiled a frequency chart of all dust storms when visibility was cut to less than a mile: 1933- 38 storms 1934- 22 storms 1935- 40 storms 1936- 68 storms 1937- 72 storms 1938- 61 storms 1939- 30 storms 1940- 17 storms 1941- 17 storms At the beginning of it all, blowing dust was so familiar an event that no one was surprised to see it appear when the dry weather began in 1931. However, nobody was prepared for what came later ~ dust storms of such violence that the drought became just a secondary problem. An estimated 650,000,000 tons of topsoil had been blown away in a single dust storm, reducing visibility to near zero at midday. Terrible dust storms known black rollers or black blizzards roared across the Plains, darkening the sky for days and ravaging the devastated ground even more. In 1936, the number of dirt storms increased and the temperature broke the 1934 record high by soaring above 130 degrees. 1938 was the year of the "snuster" ~ a mixture of dirt and snow reaching blizzard proportions. "Sand blows," another type of storm, blew out of the southwest and left the sandier soils drifted into dunes alone fence rows and ditches. Black Blizzards came with a rolling turbulence, rising like a long wall of muddy water as high as 7000 or 8000 feet. Like the winter blizzards, these dusters were caused by the arrival of a polar continental air mass, and the atmospheric electricity it generated helped lift the dirt higher and higher in a cold boil, sometimes accompanied by thunder and lightning, other times by an eerie silence. Human and animal populations in the dust-blown states were left to the mercy of these weather events. In one instance, the weight of the accumulated dust in the attic of one farm house had caused it to weaken and collapse. An exodus from their drought-ravaged homelands began. The movement of people on the Plains was profound. The Dust Bowl storms and drought had brought poverty and misery to most of the midwest, and between 1935 and 1940 over one million people left their homes. Oklahoma topped the list with more than 300,000 residents taking to the roads in search of greener pastures, but other states were close behind. They hailed from Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, but wherever they came from they were known as "Okies." Word had gotten around there was plenty of work picking crops in California and they had hoped to find good jobs and a better life where no one ever went hungry. The refugees quickly found that conditions in California were not quite what they imagined. Jobs were scarce and having no money was the common standard. Many Californians greeted the newcomers with hostility. Almost as soon as they crossed over the California border, the transients were ridiculed, rejected and shamed. They learned the word "Okie" meant they suddenly were lower class people and scum. Owning no land of their own, many worked as agricultural migrants, traveling from farm to farm picking fruit and other crops at the starvation wage of ten cents an hour. Even with an entire family working, migrants could not support themselves. In an attempt to maintain a steady income, workers had to follow the harvest around the state. When potatoes were ready to be picked, the migrants needed to be where the potatoes were. The same principle applied to harvesting cotton, lemons, oranges, peas, and other crops. Many set up camps along irrigration ditches in the farmer's fields. These "ditchbank" camps fostered poor sanitary conditions and created a public health problem. Diptheria had become yet another issue to deal with. It wasn't just families on the move; individuals by the thousands were moving, too. Times were so hard and money was so scarce that men exhausted themselves looking for work. Many times men left their families and traveled by themselves, hoping to find employment and bring their loved ones out later. Freight trains were the usual mode of travel for these refugees and it might take several trains to make it to their final destinations ~ usually California. Railroad men called "Bulls" were to be avoided if one didn't want to be thrown off the train, sometimes beaten with billie clubs prior to. If one jumped from the train before being caught, it meant a walk along the tracks into small towns to get something to eat. Usually, there were people that would feed a transient just to help him out, or hire him on a temporary job ~ the pay being a meal and perhaps a place to sleep for the night. Men would do a good deal of work just for something to eat. 1935 She was hungry and she was desperate. She was just 32, but she looked twenty years older. The worry of feeding herself and her seven children, the eldest 11 years and the youngest just 2 months, had begun to severely drain her. She, her husband and children were on their way to California when they ran out of money. Here they were, sitting in the middle of a field under a lean-to tent ~ right where they were a week ago, and still no promise of getting back on the road. It was mid-October, too cold to be sleeping outside now, but it's all they had. Her husband had been gone for three days now, looking for anyone to hire him. In the meantime, she and the children were to wait... but for how much longer? It was getting colder each night, and harder to keep warm. The children were hungry, tired, poorly-clothed, and beginning to get sick. They had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. Their situation was looking more grim by the minute. They weren't alone. Homelessness and starvation was becoming a norm, anymore. Her husband had found work, albeit temporary. He would rejoin the family later today and bringing home some money!... $6.00. Even better though, he'd found out about a camp they could move into ~ a camp for people in their same siutation. They'd leave tomorrow, getting gas with part of the money. They should be in California in two days! There, they'd be able to put their lives back together. It wouldn't quite turn out like he'd planned. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Once the refugees arrived in California, they were ostracized by all they came in contact with. They were not greeted warmly, and to say they were disheartened would be an understatement. Yet, their courage and resilience didn't fail them. They did what was necessary to survive and learned to cope in their new life. They worked hard, despite being paid little for their efforts. Many of the refugee farmers made their new homes in migratory labor camps, created by the Farm Security Administration. The Arvin Migratory Labor Camp (commonly known as "Weedpatch Camp") near Bakersfield, opened in 1935 and became the first federally operated camp under the FSA in 1937. The camps were intended to resolve poor sanitation and public health problems, as well as to mitigate the burden placed on town and state support systems. The FSA camps also furnished the migrants with a safe space in which to retire from the discrimination that plagued them and in which to rekindle a sense of community. Although each camp had a small staff of administrators, much of the responsibility for daily operations and governance devolved to the campers themselves. Civil activities were carried out through camp councils and camp courts. There, despite great poverty and displacement, they created a vibrant community. At school, however, the children were tormented and taunted. Many parents desired that the "Okie children" be removed from their schools. The children were regarded by their teachers and fellow students alike as stupid and retarded, and were taunted by the clothing they wore which was ragged or ill-fitting. Many went to school bare-footed. In 1940, plans were set in motion to build a school specifically for the children of hard-working parents. The children helped to build this school themselves. They learned plumbing, masonry, and carpentry. They dug, by hand, the trenches for the school foundation. This done usually on a nearly-empty stomach. However, they also planted gardens and raised livestock. They learned how to can the produce, and learned butchering skills. The school had such an excellent curriculum, and it's students learned so well, that soon everyone wanted their children to attend "the Okie school." Parts of it still remain today. As a reward for doing well in their classes, they were allowed to dig the hole for their very own swimming pool - the children built the very first swimming pool in Kern County, California. In 1936, Weedpatch Camp housed about 300 people who paid $1.00 a week to live in one-room tin cabins and tents on platforms. It was no paradise, but for the families who settled there, it was a vast improvement over the "squatter" camps and their life on the road. Sanitary bath and laundry facilities were provided. The camp provided a nursery where working mothers could leave their babies and small children. This left the mothers free to work alongside their husbands in the fields and help boost their income, making for better living conditions. Children, when they were not in school, also bolstered the family income by working in the fields, orchards and packing sheds every day they could. It was from these camps that most families began to put their lives back together. Although this Coffee deals with Dust Bowl refugees, keep in mind that the Great Depression was still going on. Soup lines were as prominent in the rest of the country as the migration was in the midwest. However, the Great Depression is another story for another time. Next week: Recovery It's family ... and that's what we're all about. I so enjoyed spending this time with you today. Thank you for sharing it with me. I wish each of you a week filled with health, productivity, fun, and above all, filled with love and inner peace. ) ( ) _.-~~-. (@\'--'/. Colleen ('``.__.'`) `..____.'