APRIL 4, 1940
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Wednesday—How can I paint for you the picture of yesterday? I told you then that Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Douglas called for me at 7:15 a.m. at my son's apartment, we drove to the airport and, with Mr. Paul Mantz as pilot, climbed into a little four seater plane and were off over the California mountains on our way to the San Joaquin Valley.
We could see the snow on the tops of the mountains merged in the green hills, which are very green just now because of the abundance of rain. Then the rich land of the valley lay beneath us, and our half hour in the air landed us in Bakersfield with its hundreds of oil wells. What a rich country! The most marvelous land where alfalfa can be cut six or seven times a year and almost anything will grow when you have water. In addition to all this, there is oil from which many people have made fortunes.
We were met at Bakersfield by M.L.E. Hewes Jr., the regional director of the Farm Security Administration, and several of his staff. I was anxious to get as complete a picture as possible of the conditions under which migratory workers are living and so visited first some squatter camps and some privately owned camps. Squatters pay no rent and may be moved at any time. Private camps are large pieces of land leased by an individual, who then re-leases it into lots about big enough to hold a tent and a car.
Some members of three families with whom I talked in the first private camp, had been driven out of a squatters' camp. They all came from Oklahoma and before that might have come from a New England village. There were young women with their children and women who looked old before their time. But it seemed to me that there was a universal effort to make life as decent as possible under appallingly difficult circumstances.
I think the best example I can give you is that in a narrow strip beside one of the tents, I spied a small flower garden which was evidently tended with loving care. Even the children playing about it had committed no vandalism on this one little effort to bring beauty into drab surroundings.
You pay five dollars a month for your lot in this camp because you get an electric light in your tent, without it you pay only three dollars. There are two outside toilets for the use of the fifty or more families. There are some hydrants from which you may draw water.
Space will not permit me to tell you more today, so I shall leave the rest until tomorrow.