This is a photo of my grandparents. My cousin sent it to me recently. It was taken shortly after they moved to California. I love Grandmother’s smile!
Like most of your ancestors, mine started out in this country on the east coast and slowly migrated toward the west. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go! Oh, they might have drifted northwest, or southwest, but for the most part settlers got tired of the “crowded conditions” or the weather or the city or their families or something and moved on down the road a bit until there were people from coast to coast. Of course the biggest migration to California from Oklahoma and other states in the region was during the dust bowl and depression years.
People flocked to California because it was supposed to be the land of milk and honey, an Eden of lush vegetation and soaring mountains and pristine beaches. There were jobs to be had and land to be worked and Okies knew all about working the land. Ironic that when they were in other parts of the country they rushed to Oklahoma because newspapers and real estate flyers and letters from friends said that Oklahoma was the “land of milk and honey”. But the dark years made people forget.
My grandparents didn’t leave during the great depression. My grandmother often spoke of the lengths they went to in order to eat and keep clothes on everyone. They scrimped and made to and did without. They did odd jobs. Grandmother cooked and cleaned for people with more money. Granddad did carpentry work. Somehow they survived.
But in the forties something changed. Grandmother never said exactly what. By then they had relatives in California. Perhaps it was his brother’s success out there, or my grandfather’s lack of it here, but something prompted them to pack up everything and move to California. Grandmother always just said, “there was work in California”, but the way she said it always made me think there was more to the story. Granddad went in 1947 and drifted back and forth. Grandmother joined him in 1949 after my father graduated from high school.
They lived in a tent when they first arrived. I can’t imagine the living conditions in a big camp with lots of other people, but I know my grandmother. She adjusted, worked hard, made friends, cooked for anyone who was hungry, and kept a positive attitude. I know that because she approached everything in life the same way! It must have worked because in a few years they were living and working on a big ranch. In a few more years they bought a house. Everyone worked and thrived and although their life wasn’t perfect, I think grandmother was happy. They never talked about returning to Oklahoma, but she visited often. She never forgot her "roots".
It is always my hope and prayer that I will be like both of my grandmothers.