Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hard Times in San Jose

As much as my layout might show a busy, productive valley in 1932, the truth wasn't always as nice. As I've mentioned before, the market for fruit was so bad in 1931 and 1932 that the Hunts Cannery in Los Gatos didn't even bother to open both years (after canning six million pounds of pears the previous year), and the Drew Canning Company co-operative in Campbell (represented on the layout) paid the Olson Family $15.21 in December 1932 for their 1931 harvest of eight tons of apricots. Getting paid a year late and $2.00/ton must have hurt; Mr. Olson held onto the letter and showed it to anyone for years afterwards who suggested he should join another co-op.

These two photos from the Library of Congress show pea pickers in the San Jose area in 1939. Both were taken by Dorothea Lange. The caption on the second is 'Idle migrants. Foothills north of San Jose, California. "If the sun shines tomorrow and nothin' happens, we'll pick.".' I suspect car encampments of migrant workers were a frequent sight in the Valley in the 1930's. Some day I'll comb through the contemporary newspapers looking for stories.

[Professional research trick: if you ever see interesting photo reproductions available on Ebay, and they don't look like family photos, go poking around the Library of Congress and other museum sites for the same photo. For an even easier search, just type in the photo/auction caption into Google. I found these photos when tracking down some photos of the "Mine Hill School, Englishtown" at New Almaden; the photos at Ebay looked suspiciously like Historic American Building Survey materials, and a bit of poking found the original photos available for free.]

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