The Oakies

Essay by iwin2000Junior High, 8th gradeA+, May 2006

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The Oakies were former residents of the Western South that had been battered with the largest drought in history and a huge dust storm called the 'Dust Bowl'. They crossed the Midwest with all they had to the California state line in search of employment in agricultural fields during the Great Depression times (1930's). However, jobs are nothing near what they got. The Oakies were discriminated against in California. Many people were prejudice at them, thinking they were unfit to be accepted into Californian society. They ended up being plain-out denied any business in California, and most of the Oakies that had traveled to California ended up leaving the state and going back to their homes in the South.

The Oakies were migrants that traveled to the west to raise money and hope to raise new farms in the fertile lands of California. Hence the name 'Oakies', the Oakies mainly came from the state of Oklahoma, which was the hardest hit area of drought and dust storms.

Most families in Oklahoma were poor due to failed crops.

The Oakies took whatever they could with them to California. Bedding, cooking utensils, food, and clothes were some examples of what most people took with them. To get to California, some jumped on the trains and hoped not to get caught and thrown off for not having a ticket. Others who had managed to buy a car had it a bit easier since they did not have to carry much and they had a safer place to sleep.

When the Oakies got the California, some headed to western urban areas, where they hoped to raise new farms in the great fertile lands. They at least hoped to receive a job so they could stay and make a living in the state.

Since most Oakies had no money, they built camps to stay and live in. There were two types of camps built. One type of camp was called a 'Squatter Camp'. These were Shantytowns constructed of improvised shelters. They were usually built on private properties. The second type of camp is called a 'Private Auto Camp'. These camps were where gas, electricity, showers, toilets, and wooden platforms to keep tents off the ground were available. People who came to California with no money at all built and lived in Squatter Camps, and people that were wealthy or at least had a little money to afford an adequate house lived in Private Auto Camps.

When the Oakies got to California, they were treated very badly. Some were hired in company farms and paid cents an hour, while the other 3.5 million that came left California once they found out the sad truth that there was no place for them there. Those who went back probably were very depressed and angry. They had nothing, no money, no job, and no food. How would they survive?

After the Great Depression, everyone was still depressed. One man said, "I made my mistake, and now we can't go back. I've got nothing to farm with." They could not return to anything. They must have had to sell everything to get food and stay alive. Many people died from starvation or disease, and many people likely committed suicide considering their state of life.