Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fullerton During the Great Depression

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In: A History of Fullerton.

Omie Jensch was born in 1915, and moved to Fullerton in 1928, after her father (a citrus foreman in La Habra) died. She was an only child, raised by her mother. In an interview for the Fullerton Union High School Historical Society, she recalls growing up in Fullerton during the Great Depression.


"All the ranchers were losing their ranches at that time because they couldn't even pay the taxes on them...there was just not any money for anything. A lot of kids couldn't even buy uniforms for school."


"The school (Fullerton Union High Shool) had to stay almost the same, because there wasn't any money. You know, the government wasn't coming up with anything but the absolute necessities. In fact, they really pushed kids going to school, because of the dollars they were losing on a kid being put a real hardship on the school. You really got punished if you were ditching."

"Maple school...was predominantly Mexican, becuase the Mexicans lived around there. We called it the Maple-Truslow area...It was south of the tracks and east of Harbor."

"One incident, the Kraemer family, they had a Hawaiian boy living with them, and he went to school with us. I can't remember the girl he was going with, but her family was kind of perturbed and everybody thought it was terrible."

The Great Flood of '38

"There was one of the biggest floods that has ever been through here...The Santa Ana River just completely overflowed its banks. There were hundreds of people killed...and everyone just came together to help everyone else. We didn't have, at that time, Natural Disaster, where they brought in help and money for them. Everyone that was able to help did. In fact, we had four or five families sleeping with us; people slept on our floor. They slept in shifts until they could find a place to live.

Citrus Labor

"I can't remember when they started having Mexican pickers and didn't have the Filipinos anymore. They had bunkhouses, these Filipino workers. And at that time, I had never seen a Filipino person before! And there could only be men. There couldn't be any Filipino women here. I guess that's one of the reasons they had those big bunkhouses. So the men could all come and live together...for a while Chinese women weren't allowed to come in either. That's the way the Filipino deal was. I can't think of the ranch where these big housese were. But the workers worked for everybody. Any ranch that needed them."

When asked, "So they worked accordingly, just like everybody else, for pay?" Jensch replpied, "They didn't get as much pay."

When asked, "So they were probably more welcomed workers?" Jensch replied, "Oh, they stayed together, they didn't bother anybody, just there in their'd never see them downtown, only maybe for groceries or on a Saturday night."

When asked, "What was the minimum wage for the orange pickers and the walnut pickers?" Jensch replied, "I don't remember exactly."

The Great Flood of '38

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