Not long after I moved to rural California in late 2002, I browsed through a book and gift store in Exeter. On a shelf there I found
Jerry Stanley's Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp.
The book was instantly of interest to me because of my earlier efforts on behalf of
the United Farm Workers Union, and
so naturally I bought it.
Children of the Dust Bowl is an account of the building of a school for the children of those dust bowl emigrés
who found themselves at the Weedpatch Camp, a
federal migrant labor camp in Weedpatch, California. (Kern County, southern San Joaquin Valley.)
is the same camp which was featured so graphically in John Steinbeck's investigative report
The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath,
about the exploitation of the tens of
thousands of "Okies" who responded to grower-promoted flyers promising a land of milk and honey to those who would come west to harvest California's
crops. Originally published as a seven-part series by the San Francisco News, October 5-12, 1936, Harvest Gypsies became
The Grapes of Wrath three years later.
Every year on the site of the original camp,
a Dustbowl Festival is held to honor the achievements
and the integrity of the camp's residents. I made sure to be at this year's celebration on October 20. But, I was on my way to Los
Angeles, and was not as diligent with my camera as I usually am at this kind of event. Thus this year's minimalist report, but I hope
that the last two images will provide a visceral sense of the mood of the times, and stimulate an interest in
purchasing both Children of the Dust Bowl and Harvest Gypsies, and perhaps a visit to the festival for those in