The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Great Depression, 1929-1939

    "Most prosperous town in Oregon" is the modest claim made for Medford by Floyd J. Cook, who arrived in Portland yesterday, "and we've got the money in the bank to prove it," he asserted. "The banks are just bulging with money. There was a big pear crop, and the price was good, so everyone is happy." Work has started on the pear crop of 1929 already; that is, the weather conditions are just right to put the pep into the future fruit. There is snow in the mountains which rim the Rogue River Valley, but none down in the orchards. There is something about this climatic arrangement which makes the valley particularly suitable for growing an extra fine quality of pears, and this climatic influence on the next crop is very important. At least that is the untechnical explanation given by Mr. Cook, while boasting about playing golf in shirtsleeves on the Medford links.--The Oregonian.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, January 10, 1929, page 2

"Bindle Stiff" Finds Aid in Group of Job Seekers
By Eva Nealon
    His pack appeared worn and dirty, but heavy as he moved slowly down the street this morning with worn soles dragging on the pavement. The face which showed beneath his cap, set low on his forehead, was expressionless except for lines of fatigue beneath his eyes. He approached a group of job seekers, gathered near the fountain by the Chamber of Commerce building.
    He stopped, mumbling to one, then another. No one heeded his plea. He started on down the street, readjusting his pack with a slight shrug of the shoulders.
    Then from the back of the small crowd a voice called "Hey!" The weary one turned as a man with weather-worn face and grimy clothes approached him and thrust a hand into a ragged pocket. He drew out a small coin and handed it to the "weary," who took it , mumbled, and started on down the street. The donor edged back into the group of unemployed.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 26, 1930, page 5

Additional Apple Sellers Take Stand on Sidewalks
As Unemployment Presses
    Two additional members of Medford's unemployed joined in the apple vending business this morning and are stationed at the Jarmin and Woods drug store corner and in front of the J. C. Penney store, Larry Schade of the Central Civic Council announced at noon. The two men are C. H. Sutherland and Percy Beers. L. G. Calkins, the first to be placed on duty in this special phase of the campaign to care for the unemployed, is still selling the big red apples in front of the Chamber of Commerce building.
    The three men are fathers of families ranging from two to six children and have been without work for many weeks.
    The first two boxes of apples to start the new men out in business this morning were donated by Raymond Reter of the Pinnacle Fruit Company, and C. C. Darby of the Kimball Fruit Company.
    The men will probably exchange places with others as additional names are received at Red Cross headquarters from people who are in need and without employment.
    A call was received this morning from a man with a family of six, who has been without work for several months. He is able to do heavy work and is experienced in shingling and other carpenter work. Anyone planning to repair his home for the winter is asked to call the Red Cross office and give this man an opportunity to earn some money at his own trade.

Medford Mail Tribune, November 24, 1930, page 1

Local Jail Is Haven to Bedless Men
    The rush of hungry, homeless men to the police station in quest of a place to sleep continues night after night. As many as twenty indigents, and always at least eight, are allowed to sleep in the city jail, police say. In the jail the unfortunates at least find warmth, blankets and a place out of the rain.
    Police believe that it is wiser to permit the down-and-outers to slumber in the jail, rather than have them wandering about the streets of the city all night.
    Most of the men are not criminals in any sense of the word, just hungry, dirty, unfortunate men in search of a place to earn a living. As it is, they get little out of life, and suffer the utmost in misery, in so-called prosperous America.
    It is said that Medford sees little of the vast number of unemployed throughout the nation, as most of the unfortunates travel by the other railway line through Klamath Falls, and into California.
    Last night an aged married couple entered the police station in search of something to eat and a place to sleep. They had walked the streets for hours, and had found no aid. Finally, as a last resort, they went to the police station. They were traveling from California to the home of a relative at Burns, where they expected to be allowed to pass the winter. Hitchhiking along the Pacific Highway had proven a slow mode of travel for the unfortunates.
Medford Daily News, December 14, 1930, page 5

Jobless Men Live Outdoors Near City's Environs
    Hungry, jobless, homeless, sleeping under the drab December skies, shaving under the grey morning light, washing in water flaked with ice--that is the fate of hundreds of unfortunate men this winter. An even twenty men were observed yesterday grouped around inadequate fires near the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company mill, and close to the railway tracks.
    Apparently, in spite of their misfortunes, the men desired to remain neat and clean, because several of them were washing. One was shaving a heavy beard. His barber shop was the wide expanse of territory; his mirror an old tin can.
    Only one of the unfortunate wanderers possessed an overcoat--the rest were insufficient garbed.
    The men were of all ages, ranking from time-worn unfortunates of sixty to youngsters that should be attending high school and turning out for sports. Instead, they are putting up a losing fight against life.
    The men were engaged in trying to cook very meager food over a fire. There was no protection from the icy December winds.
    The twenty did not represent all the unfortunates that passed the night in that locality. Many of them had drifted on south when morning gave a slight respite from the winter chill. Many more of depression's victims slept on hard bunks at the city jail. However, to them the jail is heaven after the cold ground.
    Medfordites having warm, comfortable homes and many blessings during the Christmas season can feel doubly fortunate in that they are not suffering as manifold thousands are in the United States this winter.
Medford Daily News, December 20, 1930, page 3

    Because of his assertion that he made and sold beer to support his family, including several children, H. A. Smith, who resides on East Jackson Street, was given a sentence of 30 days in jail in Judge Taylor's court yesterday afternoon and then was paroled on condition that he will observe all laws in the future.
    He had pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of 58 bottles of homemade brew. The parole was given in order for him to obtain work, as with him in that the family would be without support.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 16, 1931, page 4

    In the way of relieving the local unemployment situation in the city of Medford, through City Superintendent Fred Scheffel, the latter provides employment, in shifts, of about 20 men a week--at least it averaged that last month and so far this month--in putting them at work at extra common municipal labor, in stretches of three days each, at 35 cents an hour pay.
    For instance, eight men were placed at work yesterday morning at cleaning out gutters and the like, and after they have worked three days they are replaced by eight other unemployed men for three days, and so on. Of course, only local men are so employed, heads of needy families being given preference.
    One peculiar feature about the city's providing this extra labor in the way of unemployment relief is that quite a number of citizens who lack money with which to pay delinquent assessments owed to the city beseech to be given employment at this extra work, they volunteering that all the money thus earned be retained by the city to be applied on whatever delinquent sum [is] owed. A number of such have been given brief employment during the last two months.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 24, 1932, page 5

    MEDFORD, Ore. (UP)--Hard-pressed farmers and business men of the Rogue River Valley are using hay as a medium of exchange in place of money. Many farmers are paying workers in hay, priced at $6 the ton in shock.
Oswego Palladium-Times, Oswego, New York, July 27, 1932, page 7

    A policy of making no further charity doles from their own relief fund to able-bodied persons, "be they men, women or children," unless work is provided for the recipients to perform in return for the assistance rendered them, was adopted yesterday afternoon by teachers in the Medford school system at the general organization meeting held in preparation for the opening of school, Tuesday.
    The relief program was brought up along with other matters, and instructors decided that it is an educational as well as economic problem and should be given educational treatment.
Should Have Program
    The teachers also went on record as recommending that no contributions by any other relief-dispensing organization be made that cannot show a worked-out and accepted program whereby provision is made for requiring that all able-bodied persons who receive assistance from it shall perform some worthy work, or service in return for that assistance.
    The observation of the teachers has been that needy persons of worthy type do not desire charity but rather a chance to work and earn what they receive, it was pointed out at the meeting.
    Much of the keenest suffering as a result of unemployment in this city is on the part of those who are too proud and too self-dependent to accept charity. "They do not apply to charitable organizations for doles, but they and their children suffer in silence. Such people are too precious an element in our American citizenry to be overlooked and neglected in their times of need," it was stated.
    The only way to reach or to aid these people is to offer them an opportunity to work or to serve for what they get. They will have it no other way. They despise the dole and will not accept it, it was also stressed.
Should Abandon Dole
    "For the sake of preserving that which is best and finest in our American manhood and womanhood, not only for the present but for this generation now coming up, we stand committed to the principle that the dole and the unwise use of charity in solving our relief problems must be abandoned. In its place must be worked out a plan whereby money or goods expended for relief may be earned by every able-bodied recipient who benefits therefrom.
    "To the furtherance of this end, we pledge our support to all future relief work in which we are to have a part." The staff of teachers agreed in a written statement to the press.
    "The teachers of the Medford public schools recognize the serious problem of unemployment relief work in this city, and although their incomes have been greatly reduced this year they intend to assist again in bearing the burden as they have done in the past," the statement continues.
    "Last year, the teachers of Medford not only contributed liberally to the Community Chest, but in addition raised and administered a relief fund for needy children who were not reached by the regularly organized charity institutions of the city because they and their parents are possessed of too much personal pride and independence to apply for it.
Charity Misplaced
    "Through several years of having a part in both watching and administering charitable relief, the teachers have become increasingly conscious of the fact that a most serious problem is fixing itself upon the people as a result of it. The unemployable element of the population is becoming so mixed with the worthy unemployed that they are receiving a dignity to which they are not entitled and many times charitable assistance which they do not deserve.
    "There is, without doubt, a growing class of people in the country who are fast learning to relish the dole and who prefer to lean upon others rather than support themselves through their own planning, working and saving. Children are now in the schools coming up under these conditions. This is becoming not only a social and economic problem, but it is an educational problem as well, and of serious consequences for the younger generation. As such, the teachers feel it proper that public attention should be called to it.
    "The teachers recognize the fact that many worthy people are now needing assistance and will continue to need it--perhaps throughout the winter. With that need they are in full sympathy and will contribute to its alleviation insofar as their abilities will permit."
Medford Mail Tribune, September 4, 1932, page 1

    The Welfare Exchange, operated in the old city hall building, is so much in need of clothing of all kinds and sizes that another appeal is being made by those in charge, in order that those who apply for aid tomorrow and next week need not be turned away.
    Last Saturday more than 50 of the unfortunates who must ask for aid in clothing their families this winter were assembled in the store room at 9:30, the opening hour.
    Twenty women were anxiously seeking work in the sewing room so that they might receive clothing in exchange for their labor. Mrs. Glenn Smith has been supervising the sewing for some time.
    The loan of two more sewing machines for use in the workroom is asked by the committee, and anyone who will loan a machine is asked to call headquarters, 1050, tomorrow.
    Among things most needed by the Welfare Exchange are sleeping garments, stockings, underwear, shoes, coats, suits and house dresses, but anything contributed will be utilized or exchanged.
    The public is again reminded that the Welfare Exchange is open only on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and that in case bundles cannot be left there on these days, Mrs. David Rosenberg, whose telephone number is 1325, will see that contributions on these or other days are collected and delivered to headquarters.
    Mrs. H. D. McCaskey, who is in charge of the exchange during the illness of Miss Helen J. Carlton, has announced that all persons interested in this work are invited to visit the shop and workroom so that they may see how the work is conducted as well as the needs of this department of welfare work.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 11, 1932, page 9

    Medford residents from Bear Creek east and to the city limits are asked by Miss Helen Carlton of the Welfare Exchange to make a careful survey of their clothing supply and select at least one garment or some article of wearing apparel to be given to those less fortunate than themselves.
    Trucks will start out Wednesday morning at 8 o'clock to pick up these contributions, which should be placed on the doorsteps and marked Welfare Exchange.
    The articles much hoped for are underwear, shoes, rubbers, stockings, trousers, overalls and men's shirts and coats, but anything will be accepted.
    Since so many of the women in the workroom need to work for food as much as clothing, arrangements are being made to issue scrip at the value of 20 cents a working hour, which may be used for either food or clothing, according to Miss Carlton.
    Cash contributions would help much in supplying emergency needs.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 4, 1932, page 1

By L. R. Shurtleff.

    Early in January two men who had learned of the Southern Oregon and
Northern California Mining Association plan to put some of the unemployed to work on the proven placer grounds of this section, called upon one of the members of the associations for information and financial aid.
    They knew of some ground that they could work where they could make at least a living wage, providing they could get some financial assistance to get there and take care of their families while they were making their first attempt, but that at the present time they were dependent upon the county for food for their families.
    They were told that, owing to a present lack of funds, the association could do nothing to help them, even though it was one of the plans of the association to do this very thing.
    Their story was, however, so appealing and so plausible to the member of the association to whom it was told, that he asked them how much it would take to get them started and was told that they could make it on $5. He managed to raise this amount for them by borrowing it from a friend.
    Happy, they left, filled the car with gasoline and oil, spent the rest for food, leaving the greater portion of the latter with their respective families, and hied to a piece of county-owned property.
    In twelve days they returned, bringing back $20.80 worth of gold, which they sold to a local buyer. They proceeded immediately to return the $5 loan, purchased a few more supplies and were again off to the diggings, returning this time in six days, being compelled to cease operations temporarily on account of snow storms, and bringing $15 back with them. At this writing they are
probably again at work.
    Names of these men, as well as the man who assisted them, are on file at the office of the association, and the story is told for the purpose of showing that with the mere assistance of five dollars, two families were taken from the "bread line" and rendered self-sustaining and that this same effort might be
duplicated many times.
    Tuesday W. H. Maltby, who built a good share of Medford's sidewalks, and a man with considerable mining experience, called at the office of the association and said that there are at the present time 200 men working on the old Sterling mine and that they are producing by hand work alone over $200 per day. Many of them are working on county-owned ground, and he stated that he could count thirty rockers in a row in a distance of a hundred feet.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 2, 1933, page 10


    The Welfare Exchange is badly in need of supplies of many sorts, according to announcement from relief headquarters today. Pieces of yarn for tying quilts, bias tape for binding dresses, spools of silkolene and sugar and flour sacks are among the rather insignificant articles which would mean much to many people in the valley if supplies of them were turned in at the Exchange. Pieces and scraps for piecing quilts are also needed, spools of thread of any number, and in the larger classification furniture and a cook stove.
    Anyone with any of these things to give is asked to get n touch with the Exchange or to leave them at the Shell station on Sixth and Front streets, where a box is being placed by the Welfare Exchange to receive contributions each day.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 24, 1933, page 9


    A happy atmosphere reigns again at the Welfare Exchange, where women who worked diligently last year are greeting each other in the new headquarters in the city hall and looking forward to another successful year.
    A pleasant surprise came to the workers yesterday, when a non-resident entered the shop, stated that he had heard of the splendid work, and wanted to share with the committee in carrying it on. His cooperation met with enthusiastic appreciation.
    In addressing the Business and Professional Women's Club Tuesday evening, Miss Helen Carlton, chairman of the exchange, found the members anxious to lend a willing hand and eager to supply whatever garments they had available. The members promised their cooperation in all channels possible, and their fine spirit was commended yesterday by Miss Carlton, who expressed the belief that this particular project will be of an even greater service to the community this year than it was last.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 21, 1933, page 2


    Miss Helen Carlton of the welfare exchange turned in a detailed report Friday to the Community Cheat of the work of the extension from September 1 to January 15. The interesting figures give some realization of the work accomplished through this relief agency.
    From September to January 125 full-size comforters and 15 baby comforters were made. From the funds received from the Community Chest 820 yards of material were purchased and 125 bundles of cotton and wool batting.
    During December, 116 women were given work in the shop, and in two weeks in January 47 were given work. In the two months of December and January, 985 garments were brought in for exchange and 1081 were given out.
    Miss Carlton, in making her report, told many incidents surrounding the requests for clothing. She stated that the welfare exchange was wholly dependent on the Community Chest for the continuation of its activities, since the number of garments, comforters, etc., given out exceeds the amount of material and clothing brought in. Materials must be purchased for the lining of quilts and many of the garments. These things are given to families in exchange for sewing done in the work rooms of the welfare exchange.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 27, 1935, page 10

    The Welfare Exchange will close tomorrow after a successful winter's work, it was announced today by those in charge, who said they appreciate very much the interest the public has shown in the work that has been carried on.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 19, 1935, page 1

Officer Says Families Need Support of Accused Shady Cove Men--
Have Served Three Weeks in Jail
    Sheriff Syd I. Brown reported today that he intended to take Rueben Train, Ralph Bender, Norman Abla and George Milton, Shady Cove residents, serving county jail sentences for possession of deer meat in a closed season, into justice court next Monday and recommend they be released, so they may go to work and support their families. Each was given [a] 60-day sentence and $75 fine.
    "Three of these men have jobs at $5 and $7 per day on road work in Jackson County, and the foremen have assured me they can go to work when released," the sheriff said. "All have families, have no funds and are unable to get relief. By turning them out now, they can support their folks.
    "If the men serve out their time and fines, it will be August before they are freed, and all the work will be gone," the sheriff further stated. "They will go into next winter in the same shape they are in now.
    "They have served three weeks, and I believe have learned a lesson. The purpose of the law is to reform, not persecute. If they violate the law again the old sentence and fine reverts against them," the sheriff concluded.
    The men were arrested by state police with nine deer while returning in an auto on the Crater Lake Highway from a hunt on upper Elk Creek.
    A committee of the Rogue River sportsmen's Club, Inc., requested by Justice of the Peace W. R. Coleman to make leniency recommendations in the case, declined to do so Thursday.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 31, 1939, page 1

Last revised July 5, 2018