Framework

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1937: Leroy Norman, 15, crippled in both legs since childhood, makes the best of it in a so-called "jungle" camp in the San Joaquin Valley, home for scores of out-of-work immigrants from Oklahoma and elsewhere. This photo was published in the July 22, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 21, 1937: Eugene Baker, 12, of Edmond, Okla., at his family's tent in a transient camp near Visalia.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: A father with his children at a transient camp known as Weed Patch near Bakersfield. This photo was published in the July 21, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Estep at a transient camp near Bakersfield. Their boy is Gene Estep, but the girl is unidentified. The Esteps were driven out of their Springield, Colo., home by the dust storms of 1937. This photo was published in the July 21, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 20, 1937: A family from Seminole County, Okla., at a squatters camp near Bakersfield fixing a punctured tire. From left: Billy Norman, Mrs. J. W. Norman, J. W. Norman and Clyde Norman. This photo was published in the July 24, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: Camp at Farmerville, near Visalia, where indigents from drought-ridden and Dust Bowl states have taken refuge and made the best of circumstances. This photo was published in the July 23, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: Campsite in the vicinity of Wasco with Ima Fay Woods, 12, with Tom, the Woods' cat. This photo was published in the July 23, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: Jaunita Moles, 19, of Skiatook, Okla., left, and Mrs. Opal Stroud, 26, of Collinsville, Okla., hang out washed clothes at their transient camp in the Central Valley. They were driven from their homes by dust storms. This photo was published in the July 23, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: A woman makes a hooked rug at a transient camp known as Weed Patch, near Bakersfield. This photo was published in the July 21, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: An unidentified man, left, says the dust storms forced him to leave Post City, Texas. Before that he says he worked in Detroit automobile factories and the cotton belt. This photo was published in the July 22, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: A group of children sit in front of a home in a transient camp near Bakersfield. This photo was published in the July 21, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July, 1937: Two youngsters at an indigent camp near Visalia share a bottle of soda. This photo was published in the July 22, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: Mrs. Mae Patrick, 48, in front of her shack made of canvas, wood and pasteboard at a camp near Bakersfield. Her husband, formally a cotton and corn foreman in Oklahoma, purchased the shack for $3 and moved in with their five children. This photo was published in the July 23, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: At a transient camp near Wasco, R. C. Woods, 15, puts out the light while sisters Mary Jo, 3, center, and Velma, 9, lie in bed. This photo was published in the July 23, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: A woman in a family that migrated from Oklahoma washes dishes outdoors at a camp near Visalia. This photo was published in the July 22, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

July 1937: James A. Hawkins from Spokane, Wash., with his "home" at an indigent camp in Tulare County. Hawkins says he once owned a garage in Spokane. This photo was published in the July 22, 1937, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jack Herod / Los Angeles Times

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1937 tour of San Joaquin Valley indigent camps

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1937 tour of San Joaquin Valley indigent camps

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s forced the migration of thousands from the Plains states. Thousands of job seekers relocated to the farms and ranches of the San Joaquin Valley.

In July 1937, Los Angeles Times correspondent Ray Zeman and staff photographer Jack Herod toured the indigent camps in the San Joaquin Valley.

This brief message in the July 21, 1937, Los Angeles Times explained:

Conflicting reports have come from the San Joaquin Valley picturing the plight of thousands of persons who have moved there since the devastating ravages of the dust storms, and to give readers of The Times an unbiased view of the situation a reporter and photographer were sent into the area.

The Los Angeles Times published a five-part series on the San Joaquin Valley camps in the July 21-25, 1937, editions.

On July 21, 1937, Ray Zeman reported:

BAKERSFIELD, July 20. (Exclusive) – Human squalor–a picture of approximately 50,000 persons driven to California by dust storms, drought, ill health and debts–awaits the visitor looking beyond the roadside today in the San Joaquin Valley.

A new chapter in American history is being written here. A battle for life, for food, health, homes and security is being waged by these hordes of transient indigents.

Within an hour the skeptic must admit he has seen disease, privation, filth and threats of epidemics. But he also must admit that he is seeing a fight for a job and a fight for a home similar to that of the pioneers in the South and Middle West in the last century.

It is a story Willa Cather would love. Sordid though it is, it has the elements of fatherly devotion, mother love, romance, childbirth, and the braving of the elements of heat and rain in tents and shacks.

These people are not hobos. They are not tramps. They are not foreigners. They are men destroyed financially in the Middle West and Southwest…

Whether one visits the Federal Resettlement Administration’s camps at Shafter and Arvin or the huddles of migrant indigents beside the roads throughout Kern county, one almost is struck dumb with sympathy.

Ranchers have provided eighty-six camps, ranging in size from a few dirty tents and tin shacks to the seventy-one bunk-houses, tents, trailer houses, railroad box and refrigerator cars on the Digiorgio farms near Alvin…

Ten thousand such people live in these ranch, Federal and squatters’ camps. How many squatter settlements there are none can estimate. There may be ten tents beside a ditch today. Tomorrow there may be one. There may be 100 squatter encampments or 1000.

Kern county has at least 10,000 transients from other States, relief and health officials estimate.

They are the forgotten men of 1937. They have been brave enough, or perhaps disgusted enough, to leave their home States to fight for life in California….

The men pick fruit and chop cotton. They earn an average of $2.75 to $3 a day. But they work, at the most, only half the days of the year. They must follow the crops during seasonal harvests throughout the San Joaquin Valley, and meantime their wives and children are falling prey to disease…

According to this 1990 story by Charles Hillinger: Dust Bowl Reunion Brings Survivors a Flood of Memories, a half-million people relocated to California during the 1930s middle America drought.

These photos by former staff photographer Jack Herod accompanied Zaman’s stories in the July 21-25, 1937, editions of the Los Angeles Times.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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1 Comment

  1. August 2, 2014, 9:44 am

    Great photo gallery as it illuminates just how far we HAVEN'T come since then. Now we are the 4th richest nation on Earth yet millions of Americans are homeless and/or still live in poverty. We are definitely a nation if 300 million selfish money and material-oriented agendas and its every many, woman, and child for themselves – in that order.

    By: vicvargaz@gmail.com

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