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

Last revised March 19, 2017