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

By James N. Gregory | Go to book overview

8

The Language of
a Subculture

THE NAME OUT FRONT SAID " PIONEER CLUB." A DARK AND DINGY BAR NEAR the end of Arvin's commercial strip, it was a place respectable residents made a point of avoiding. The clientele was mostly male, mostly farm- workers. Its unsavory reputation was probably deserved. Drinking was not the only activity the premises condoned. Men went there to play pool, gamble at cards, flirt with the handful of women present, and, with some frequency, to fight.

Every San Joaquin Valley town had its Pioneer Club by the end of the 1930s, though sometimes one had to scout the lonely outskirts to find it. There the flip side of the Okie population congregated: daring women, single men, married men with a taste for liquor and independence. Saturday nights might be a bit different. If the place was big enough a band would be playing and couples dancing. Women and married couples then felt more comfortable. The very serious Christians saw no distinction, but others might sin a little on dancing nights.

Like the evangelical churches, these drinking establishments advertised their association with the Okie population through sometimes subtle cultural clues. No sign at the door said Southwesterners only (though "whites only" would have been typical); the place signaled its socio-cultural allegiance in the rude decor, often a Western name (or one like the "Texhoma Club"), and a jukebox filled with hillbilly hits. Not that the clientele was

-222-

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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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