Here’s a snapshot of San Diego County in the depths of the Great Depression.
“Build Highways for Board While Jobs Are Scarce” was the headline from a San Diego Union article on March, 5, 1933.
“Eight hundred men, ranging in age from 16 to 84 years, occupy five state labor camps in San Diego County,” the article began. The camps, run by the state division of forestry, were part of a network of 46 camps statewide and 22 in southern California, according to the article.
“In return for six hours work daily, except Sunday, the men are given lodging, subsistence and such clothing and tobacco as the camp management thinks necessary,” the article stated, adding that since the setup of the camps the workers “have constructed 15 miles of new highway and 25 miles of firebreaks. In addition they have maintained a nine-mile stretch of arterial highway.”
The national unemployment rate was at 25 percent at that time, and the widespread joblessness was reflected in the local camps.
“Artists rub elbows with laborers, teachers discuss the depression with expert accountants; cooks, bakers, stewards, railroad men, including several engineers, mechanics, undertaker and a dentist, are some of the many trades and professions represented in the camps.”
One thing the camp residents didn’t have access to, the Union noted, was writing materials and stamps. A few days earlier, on March 3, the paper announced a drive for writing materials and stamps for camp residents.
“Many young men at the camps cannot communicate with their relatives and friends unless this help is given. Mail or bring your donations to the business office of The Union with packages plainly marked, ‘State Labor Camps.’ “
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