Were you one of the thousands who came out of the dust from the Midwest and settled in the Central Valley? Do you have relatives who made the trek from the dust-worn region? We'd love for you to share your story with others. E-mail us your story, in 200 words or less, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave your name, hometown and a number where you can be reached for verification. Then, check back here to read what others have to say. The stories are starting to come in:
I am 44 yrs old and both of my parents were part of the migration from Oklahoma to California.
My mom passed away in 2003 and my father in 2004; however, my brothers and I can recall stories of their trip to California and the jobs they had here in California.
My oldest brother (who is 65) recalls having his own cotton sack alongside my mom in the cotton fields near Wasco. I can recall my parent’s story of their “honeymoon” which consisted of three people traveling to California from Oklahoma (my dad's brother was along with them to find work) in an old Ford. Their accomodation was the ground and stars: They slept outside on the side of the road (desert and all!). They had one mattress and the car - that was all they owned.
The picked cotton, sorted tomatoes and potatoes, picked peas, peaches, walnuts. Anything to make a living.
Turlock (born in Gustine)
My mother and father came to California along with two of my mother’s sisters and two of my father’s brothers in 1936. One brother and sister were married. They had pooled all of their money to make the trip.
Their trip started with them driving a fairly new car. They left from Konawah, Okla., and before reaching Oklahoma City, they had nine flat tires. As rubber was being rationed,they exchanged cars to get one with fairly new tires, though it was an older car.
When they arrived in Bakersfield, they only had a few dollars left but luckily got a job digging potatoes. They followed the fruit and vegetables from there to San Jose, having four children during this time. The married brother and sister settled in the Bay Area.
My mother and father moved to the Bay Area and both went to work in the ship yards. They saved enough money to buy a small dairy farm on Victory Road in Stanislaus County.
VIRGINIA COLLINS SMITH
Mom and dad met while both families lived at the farm labor camp in Westley and they married in Modesto in 1944. Soon after the wedding, Dad left for Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. They still live in Modesto today and enjoy relatively good health. Dad still plays golf. He will be 85 at the end of next month. Mom was 84 in July.
Mom is from Texas and Dad from Oklahoma. She was considered highly educated because she managed to win her high school diploma while the family was working in the Imperial Valley. Dad dropped out after 8th grade to help support his family, but is one of the smartest and most compassionate men I know. He has always encouraged his kids, grandkids and anyone else's kids to go to college. He earned his GED when I was attending Ceres High School.
Together they raised four children. All attended college, but only one graduated. Of their eight grandchildren, four have graduated from college. They also have seven great grandchildren, the oldest is a senior at Oakdale Junior High.
All four of my grandparents are buried in the Ceres Cemetery. Dad wants to go to the National Cemetery because he's still frugal from his days of the Great Depression. Mom and Dad taught us not to use excessive credit and have always paid cash for their vehicles. They live well as they invested in real estate from an early time, but they still pinch their pennies to the annoyance of we Boomers.
MARILYN L. WOOD
I worked for C B Howard in the 1950s swamping peaches, etc. I asked him why when they came from Texas they chose the Turlock/Hughson area to settle. He replied that between Merced and Turlock, they had seven flat tires and figured it was time to stop.
He told me of the hard times he had endured and I told him I would have got a gun and robbed a bank. He said I would have if I had known where to get a gun. He had a great sense of humor.
I now live in Enterprise Ore., and last year I spotted a shiny new Dodge pickup that had a sign reading “Don Maddox Angus Cattle.” On the other side, there was a sign that mentioned the Maddox Bros. and Rose.
I went into the Grain Growers and spotted an older gentleman with a cowboy hat and string tie. I inquired as to whether he was the owner of the shiny rig out front. He said he was. I mentioned that it was a pretty high class rig for a peach-picking Okie from South Modesto.
He got a shocked look on his face and asked how I knew he was from South Modesto. I told him that just because you move a thousand miles a way doesn’t mean you can shake that look.
We had a great time visiting and he was pleased that I remembered the band. He is the only one left of the bunch and lives in Ashland, Ore., and raises Angus cattle now.
He was in Enterprise for an old-time fiddling contest.