The Dust Bowl Experience

Be ready to discuss this Wednesday-Thursday- make sure you have gone to the link and listened to the interview.

Read this, and then go here (http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_06.html) to see and hear Florence Thompson, the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph.

“I left Oklahoma in 1925 and went to Oroville [California]. That’s where them three girls’ dad [Cleo] died, in Oroville, 1931. And I was 28 years old [in 1931], and I had five kids and that one [the baby in this photo, Norma] was on the road. She never even saw her daddy. She was born after he died. It was very hard. And cheap. I picked cotton in Fireball, when that girl there was about two years old, I picked cotton in Fireball for 50-cents a hundred.”
Question: “A ‘hundred’ [meaning] weight?”
“A hundred pounds.”

Question: “How much could you pick in a day, then?”
“I generally picked around 450, 500. I didn’t even weigh a hundred pounds. I lived down there in Shafter, and I’d leave home before daylight and come in after dark. We just existed! Anyway, we lived. We survived, let’s put it that way. I walked from what they called a Hoover camp ground right there at the bridge [in Bakersfield], I walked from there to way down on First Street, and worked at a penny a dish down there for 50-cents a day and the leftovers. Yeah, they give me what was leftover to take home with me. Sometimes, I’d carry home two water buckets full.
“Well, [in 1936] we started from L.A. to Watsonville. And the timing chain broke on my car. And I had a guy to pull into this pea camp in Nipomo. I started to cook dinner for my kids, and all the little kids around the camp came in. ‘Can I have a bite? Can I have a bite?’ And they was hungry, them people was. And I got my car fixed, and I was just getting ready to pull out when she [Dorothea Lange] come back and snapped my picture.
“I come to this town [Modesto] in 1945. I transferred from Whittier State to Modesto. And when this hospital opened up out here, I went to work there. And the first eight years I lived in this town, I worked 16 hours out of 24. Eight-and-a-half years, seven days a week.”
Question: “Are you comfortable now?”
“Yeah.”
–Florence Thompson, the famous “Migrant Mother” from the Dorothea Lange photo

Biography:
Florence Thompson was born on an Indian reservation – “in a tepee,” she said – in Oklahoma in 1903. Her father died when she was 13 months old, but her mother lived to be 108. Even before the Depression, Florence, her husband Cleo and their growing family left Oklahoma for California. For a time, they found work around Shafter, California. But as the Depression settled in, they were forced to become migrant farm workers. They followed the harvests until the war created jobs. Florence settled in Modesto, California in 1945. Her family put down roots, although Florence was most comfortable living in a mobile home. She died of cancer in 1983.

Now read what Dorothea Lange remembers about this experience: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/migrantmother.htm

Here is where you can see the famous photo and more from the series that Dorothea Lange took: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/128_migm.html

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