American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California

By James N. Gregory | Go to book overview

4

The Dilemma
of Outsiders

LIKE MOST WHO CAME WEST IN THE 1930s, ERNEST ATCHLEY HAD NOT BEEN PREpared for the hostility he encountered. He had assumed that as a white, Anglo-Saxon American he would be welcome in California. Now the "old Texican" was writing a goodbye letter to his friends at the Yuba City FSA camp:

This is a great day, although it is raining, because what we have been waiting for patiently here three months for, has come to pass. We're leaving today for home, sweet home, and if we ever come back, we'll have a round trip ticket tucked securely away.

California is all right for Californians, but we're going back to "Big D" where the long-horn cattle roam, where the "gen'ral sto'keeper treats yo'all lak humans", and where hospitality reigns. A fellow don't appreciate home until he comes to California. 1

Atchley's was one of several responses that suggest the pain and alienation that many migrants experienced. Confusion was often the first reaction; few had ever before felt the sting of prejudice. Several newcomers registered their bewilderment in letters to the editor of the valley's major newspapers. "The Californians rave, they slur, criticize, gossip, swear and demean the Eastern people. What kind of world is this?" an angry Althes Robbins demanded. 2 "Why is California so bitter toward migrants?" an

-114-

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American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - Migration and Resettlement 1
  • 1 - Out of the Heartland 3
  • 2 - The Limits of Opportunity 36
  • 3 - The Okie Problem 78
  • 4 - The Dilemma of Outsiders 114
  • Part II - The Okie Subculture 137
  • 5 - Plain-Folk Americanism 139
  • 6 - Up from the Dust 172
  • 7 - Special to God 191
  • 8 - The Language of a Subculture 222
  • Appendix A - Public Use Microdata Samples 249
  • Appendix B - Southwesterners in California Subregions 1935, 1940, 1950, 1970 250
  • Appendix C - Occupation and Income 1940-1970 252
  • Appendix D - Marriage Survey: Sources and Methodology 254
  • Abbreviations 255
  • Notes 257
  • Index 327
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