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Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting

The demographics of the workers have changed since the New Deal years, of course. Whereas the residents of the initial camps were primarily white Americans displaced from their tenant farms, now the workers are predominantly Mexican Americans who live further south most of the year—in Brawley and Calexico—but come up here for the months of the harvest. I cannot imagine that the federal government of today, nor even of 80 years ago, would have built such ambitious communities for an immigrant population.

Yet it strikes me as an important legacy of the FSA program that these spaces now serve a population whose health and rights are of even less concern to the American public than had been those of their white predecessors. Today the parking lot is empty; the season has not yet begun. Albeza at the front desk is patient with my curiosity, and offers to unlock the chain-link fence that surrounds the collection of historic buildings, abandoned but stable, in the far northeast corner of the site. I am most excited to see two of the ubiquitous one-room, metal shelters still standing.

These structures were considered an upgrade from the rudimentary tent platforms in the earliest camps, yet because they are such modest structures, I had suspected most would be gone. I have long wondered how families lived in these small spaces, how any furniture or belongings might have fit in addition to bodies. The shelter is empty, its concrete floor swept clean. Having wondered what the heat must have been like in an all-metal shelter intended for a desert, I am surprised how cool the air is. A breeze passes through the screened windows. I extend my arms and cannot reach the peak of the roof.

From the shelter I walk into the only other unlocked building.


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The community center is vast where the shelter was small. Yet like the shelter, this building is open within—a virtually undivided interior space. I try to imagine the noise of the events this community center has hosted; not just the recent festivals, but also the Thanksgiving dinners and sewing classes and elementary school plays I have read about in the documents of the camp manager, Tom Collins. The weekly reports that he submitted to the regional office of the FSA are exhaustive catalogs of arrivals and departures, and births and deaths. They contain detailed accounts of baseball games, marriage proposals, bible studies, and carpools to the fields that betray his pride in the camp as well as in the residents who planned and promoted these community events.

As vivid as his stories were, and as inspired as I felt reading his tender accounts of life at Weedpatch—nothing shakes the sense of utter emptiness in this enormous hall. Today this room feels forgotten. After the successful visit at Arvin, I have virtually no expectations for the visit to Shafter. Counting on such rich discoveries would surely lead to disappointment. Like the Arvin camp, Shafter still has an active Migrant Center on site. Also like the Arvin camp, it is virtually empty; only one family has arrived so far this season.

When I ask the manager, Alfredo, if he recalls when the old buildings were torn down, he informs me several remain, and offers to drive me to them. Alfredo is generous with his time and his stories, and seems amused as I take pictures of the oldest, most neglected structures on site.

As we drive past the old bathhouses, I notice a metal shelter in the distance, surrounded by a chain-link fence. The profile of these shelters is becoming quite familiar. I ask if we can see that building too. Alfredo seems pleased. He tells me he had lived in a metal shelter at Arvin for a few years in the mids. I ask him what the heat was like. He groans.

To cool them down, he explains, they would lay a carpet over the roof and soak it in water.

Stuffing vine leaves in Palestine – the forgotten pantry.

With shared bathhouses and community center buildings, the vast majority of private and public life must have happened outside of the houses. So it seems all the more significant that individual family shelters were provided, despite all other facilities being communal. It dawns on me that the transformation of house into home was yet another activity enabled by the camp program. Alfredo lets me help to move the rubble, weeds, and debris from the front door of the shelter so that he can open it.

He explains that the last of the metal shelters were removed in the s, but points out the rows of concrete foundations that still remain. If needed, I spend the first day locating the site. The next day is the visit, the interviews, the photographs. Finally, the public library, the local historical society, the microfilm reels. Viking Press. Ricketts did not convert his friend to a religious point of view—Steinbeck remained an agnostic and, essentially, a materialist—but Ricketts's religious acceptance did tend to work on his friend, Of Mice and Men.

Penguin Books. The Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on October 30, Retrieved October 10, Retrieved January 28, Archived from the original on February 4, Retrieved August 10, CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown link. The New Criterion.

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Archived from the original on March 8, Archived from the original on December 20, Paul's, Salinas, Part One. Project MUSE, muse. Retrieved June 28, Helsingin Sanomat in Finnish. November 29, The correspondence is also available at "Archived copy".

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Archived from the original on March 1, Retrieved October 1, Steinbeck in the schools. San Jose State University. June 14, Steinbeck Review. Archived from the original on September 22, Davis, Robert C. T G French, Warren. John Steinbeck's Fiction Revisited. Hughes, R.

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Meyer, Michael J. The Hayashi Steinbeck Bibliography , — Benson, Jackson J. Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost. Ditsky, John. John Steinbeck and the Critics. Heavilin, Barbara A. Li, Luchen.

John Steinbeck: A Documentary Volume. Prometheus Books. Thunder's Mouth Press. Bensen, Jackson J. This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive or inappropriate external links, and converting useful links where appropriate into footnote references. March Learn how and when to remove this template message.

John Steinbeck.

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Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Eliot William Faulkner Bertrand Russell. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Guthrie Jr. John Steinbeck 's The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck 's Of Mice and Men Popular culture Hoppy Go Lucky. Related Images. YouTube Videos. Salinas is an urban area located just outside the southern portion of the Greater Bay Area and 10 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River.

The population was , as of New Amsterdam , centered in the eventual Lower Manhattan , in , the year England took control and renamed it "New York". Fort George and the city of New York c.