APRIL 5, 1940
SAN FRANCISCO, Thursday—Here we continue yesterday's description of my day in the beautiful valley. We saw another type of migratory labor camp, where the individuals own whatever they put up on a small piece of land. Here each one has his own water pipe, but it is frequently immediately next to the outside toilet. The shelter put up by the individual is built of boxes, scraps of tin, even bags; in fact, anything which can be picked up for nothing is used. When one individual moves out, he has the right to sell this strange conglomeration to another. One young man, who was sweeping in his yard, told me that he had moved in the day before and had paid twenty-seven dollars for what I saw. He, his wife and three children were planning to live there and he had a job! The potato harvest is about to begin. Men have been out of work a long time but now digging potatoes offers work again.
We visited the Kern County camp where the county authorities take some responsibility. The land is free, they put in water and electricity and people are given sites on which to pitch their tents. In this camp there is a recreation hall with a WPA worker in charge. An attempt is made to have a planned recreation program and to give some instruction in weaving and rug making. There are also some tubs and a washing machine installed by the county. There are more toilets and even a few showers, but the tents are pitched on the ground and in wet weather it is deep in mud.
Several people yesterday had to change their sites because they were flooded out. Their pitiful belongings were stacked up waiting to be moved. In hot weather, all these camps must be well nigh unbearable. This county camp, of course, is better, but even here living conditions are hardly what we call decent.
Outside of almost every little village and town, many of which look as though they had sprung up themselves in the last few years, you will find on the outskirts the type of private and squatters' camps which I described in yesterday's column.
We visited the Mineral King Ranch, which is a cooperative farm leased by thirteen families near Visalia. These families live in inexpensive houses. They do real farming and have a chance for a really worthwhile life, if they have the wisdom to stick together and believe in the goodwill of their advisers. Finally, I saw two government camps, one at Shafter and one at Visalia. For migratory workers, these camps indicate possible standards for decent existence. There is a nursery school for the youngsters, there are playing grounds for the elders, there are clinincs and, in Shafter, a cooperative store. Above all, they are run by the people themselves so that democracy may be seen in action.