It was with a sense of optimism that Orville Goldner first took on the task of photographing children, their schools, and the living conditions the 350,000 impoverished migrant workers who came to California during the mid to late 1930’s. He and an associate Grace Kerns, were sent out by Walter Dexter, the Superintendent of Public Instruction in California, to photographically record California’s newest school children. They had been hired to look at the influences of home life, school facilities, and communities had upon the learning process of the migrant children newly brought to California by their economically depressed parents. Goldner visited housing tracts, employee camps, Farm Security Administration facilities, and other places where these displaced persons had squatted.
What is remarkable about Goldner’s reports of his trek are the attitudes he encountered and the willingness of the people to "share their afflictions", not to raise, as he called it "pity", but to give vent to feelings of displacement and the missed opportunities of their past. His writing records thoughts of anger, sadness, joy, and, then, happiness, in his continuing trek around the Central Valley.
Goldner’s photographs portray not so much suffering and unhappiness but create for us a brief look into a different vision as opposed to the one so heavily used as a political weapon by opponents of large California
growers (as portrayed by John Steinbeck
in his books The Grapes of Wrath and the newspaper articles he
wrote entitled Their Blood is Strong). To the people Goldner met,
the current negative circumstances in which they found themselves was
all temporary. Those completely without hope, he reports, would not or
could not speak to him.
©2002, Special Collections, Meriam Library, CSU, Chico Credits