Okie Essay

Submitted By johnnydee94
Words: 1074
Pages: 5

Okie Essay
As the Interview “The 1930s Migration to Southern San Joaquin Valley” with Earl Butler shows, living in the Southwest of America in the 20th century wasn’t always easy for many people. Especially for people from states like Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri. These people had their difficulties dealing with the Great Depression and ecological disasters. Therefore, many of them tried to search for a better life in different states, especially in the west. Southwesterners had been moving west in large numbers since 1910. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl era, that the migration from east to west became noticed nationwide. California and Arizona at that time where especially attractive for many people from the Southwest and were impacted the most from the so called “Okie Migration.” It is called “Okie Migration”, because during the Great Depression way over 500,000 citizens of Oklahoma headed west. California alone received from 1935-1940 approximately 250,000 migrants from the Southwest. Now the question is what pushed so many people out of their homes and pulled them to the West and California? What expectations did those people have from California?

Due to the “Dust Bowl” and a long-standing agricultural depression, a lot of farmers in the Southwest were forced to leave their land. Many small farmers lost their land to foreclosure, and even the big ones who owned more than 60% of the farm land at that time in the Southwest, were not willing to hold on to poor crops and low prices every single year. Therefore, most of them couldn’t pay their mortgages anymore and decided one after another to pack there bags and search for more opportunities in the west. Most of them took the U.S. Highway 66, better known as “Route 66”, and decided whether or not to follow the Highway to Los Angeles, or turn towards California’s central valleys.
"66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert's slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there.” (Steinbeck)

There were many reasons why most of the migrants or refugees were pining their hopes for a better life in California. One of the reasons was the mild climate in that area which allowed, a long growing season, and on the other hand a huge diversity of crops. Another reason were the many stories and pop songs which where told and sung throughout centuries and which praised California as a veritable promised land. In addition to that, many people from the Southwest where told by flyers or other sources that there is a urgent need for farm workers in California.

Probably the most classic story of Okie migration, which also refers to Earl Butler in an interview, involves those people who decided to settle in San Joaquin Valley. Over the years from 1935-1940 more than seventy thousand people from the Southwest migrated to San Joaquin Valley in order to find a better life and land of their own, hoping to live the “California Dream.” (Gregory) This wish would unfortunately for most people never come to reality. As soon as they arrived in California and in the San Joaquin Valley they noticed that not everything that they had heard about California was true. In fact, the Great Depression had also hit California hard, and the incoming migrants depressed wages even more. This was only of the benefit of the farm owners. Many migrants began harvesting cotton and fruit in order to make a living and often had to follow the harvest around the state. Therefore, most of their lives were characterized by transience. Because most of the migrants came to California without any money or property and because the wages were low too, many of them had to live in very poor conditions like small filthy tents or shanty towns. Consequently, after a