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"To farm its rich vineyards and orchards, the San Joaquin Valley has long depended on the hordes of migratory workers who swarm the state in search of employment. All such work is seasonal, and in the slack periods these transients have to make shift as best they can. Of late years, depression, droughts and floods have driven increasingly greater numbers of families from such nearby states as Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas into the fertile valley in search of livelihood. A serious problem grew... investigations had brought to light a shocking picture. In a addition to the 200,000 vagrants already roaming California's valleys, estimates showed an influx of about 50,000 more transients since January 1."

Two years after this article went to press, the most famous novel on this same topic would appear: The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck - the work was an instant bestseller. Pasted below is one of the most moving passages describing the the arrival of his protagonists when they first laid eyes on the San Joaquin Valley - a land that would lead to their undoing:

"They drove through Tehachapi in the morning glow, and the sun came up behind them, and then suddenly they saw the great valley below them. Al jammed on the brake and stopped in the middle of the road, and, 'Jesus Christ! Look!' he said. The vineyards, the orchards, the great flat valley, green and beautiful, the trees set in rows, and the farm houses.

And Pa said, 'God Almighty!' The distant cities, the little towns in the orchard land, and the morning sun, golden on the valley. A car honked behind them. Al pulled to the side of the road and parked.

'I want ta look at her.' The grain fields golden in the morning, and the willow lines, the eucalyptus trees in rows.

Pa sighed, 'I never knowed they was anything like her.' The peach trees and the walnut groves, and the dark green patches of oranges. And red roofs among the trees, and barns rich barns. Al got out and stretched his legs.

He called, 'Ma come look. We're there!'

Ruthie and Winfield scrambled down from the car, and then they stood, silent and awestruck, embarrassed before the great valley. The distance was thinned with haze, and the land grew softer and softer in the distance. A windmill flashed in the sun, and its turning blades were like a little heliograph, far away. Ruthie and Winfield looked at it, and Ruthie whispered, 'It's California.'

Winfield moved his lips silently over the syllables. 'There's fruit,' he said aloud."

To read about the beautifully crafted motion picture adaptation of the book, click here...

     


(Amazon)


Starvation in the San Joaquin Valley (Pathfinder Magazine, 1937)

Starvation in the San Joaquin Valley (Pathfinder Magazine, 1937)

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