It’s hap­pen­ing lo­cally

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - RICHARD RYAN Richard Ryan lives in El Cen­tro and wel­comes your com­ments at rryan@mail.sdsu.edu

Ilove Hal­loween. When else do I get to wear or­thodon­ti­cally cor­rect fangs? And then there’s the candy. Save a few pieces for the kids in cos­tume though they have be­come rare where we live. There are more ac­tiv­i­ties at schools and churches with many hav­ing taken place this past week­end. How­ever, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Holtville is hold­ing its “Trunk or Treat” cel­e­bra­tion to­day from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the church’s park­ing lot, 560 Maple Ave. Re­move the empty soda cans, and dec­o­rate your car’s trunk.

We saw clev­erly dec­o­rated pump­kins at the Hard­ing School Hal­loween Fair last Thurs­day in El Cen­tro. I couldn’t have been a judge for the pump­kin con­test. I would have given them all first place prizes. The kids and their par­ents are very imag­i­na­tive in us­ing pump­kins as plan­ets, scary clowns, an­gry birds and ele­phants. There were games and a haunted house. The haunted house was a con­verted class­room filled with teach­ers and the prin­ci­pal which sent the kids to scream­ing. The hor­ror was made real as each kid who en­tered got even more home­work for that week. The bar­ba­coa plates made up for any ad­di­tional home­work. They were de­li­cious. As the DJ an­nounced the end of the fair at 7 p.m., the lawn sprin­klers came on sur­pris­ing stu­dents and their par­ents. Su­per he­roes in cos­tume had no de­fense against sprin­klers.

We sus­pect our neigh­bors are hold­ing back on their Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions for another un­named date. It used to be that the neigh­bor­hood was decked out in or­ange lights, witches and Freddy what’s his name porch dum­mies. Have El Cen­trans be­come too cool to cel­e­brate Hal­loween? I hope not.

On Fri­day night, we at­tended a lec­ture and power point at Pi­o­neer’ Mu­seum. The topic was Dorothea Lange, the fa­mous 1930’s pho­tog­ra­pher who cap­tured the mood and hu­man­ity of Dust Bowl and Ap­palachian mi­grants seek­ing a bet­ter life. Lange pho­tographed in Im­pe­rial Val­ley in 1935 and 1937 for the Farm Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion. How was she suc­cess­ful as a pho­tog­ra­pher among peo­ple so poor they were liv­ing in tents or ram­shackle struc­tures? Lange didn’t rush her pho­tog­ra­phy. Rather, she min­gled with her sub­jects get­ting to know them. It was ev­i­dent that she re­spected them ask­ing their per­mis­sion to be pho­tographed.

I only know of Lange as the pho­tog­ra­pher of mi­grants from the Great Plains’ states which were dev­as­tated by drought and wind storms in the 1930s. I did hear years ago that Lange had pho­tographed mi­grant camps in Im­pe­rial Val­ley, and I think that the county pos­sesses some of her pho­tos. Many of her pho­tos are archived at the Smith­so­nian Mu­seum and the Li­brary of Congress in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Our knowl­edge of Lange was en­riched by Deb­o­rah Thorn­burg’s ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion at Pi­o­neers’. She did her re­search and then some. In ad­di­tion, Deb­o­rah sold tick­ets for the de­li­cious home cooked din­ner that we en­joyed prior to the lec­ture. It was low fat and healthy up un­til the dessert for which we begged for sec­onds.

Both Lange and Ansel Adams, Deb­o­rah pointed out, also took pho­to­graphs of Ja­panese in­ternees at Man­za­nar. But Lange pre­sented por­traits of peo­ple where Adams took group shots. The gov­ern­ment didn’t use any of Lange’s pho­tos since it was not the mes­sage it wanted to con­vey. The hu­man­ity of Lange’s pho­tos comes alive in her cov­er­age of the Dust Bowl mi­grants in Holtville, Cali­pa­tria and Braw­ley. These are im­ages of white Okies, Tex­ans, and Mex­i­cans who picked peas, mel­ons and other crops. If you do some read­ing on this era, you’ll learn that LA County Sher­iffs main­tained road blocks so mi­grants wouldn’t reach LA. Class war­fare does ex­ist in the U.S., and “Stein­beck’s Grapes of Wrath” en­cap­su­lates it for that time. Deb­o­rah’s lec­ture lead me to or­der Ti­mothy Egan’s re­cent award win­ning non-fic­tion work, “The Worst Hard Time,” about those who sur­vived the Dust Bowl. Also, check out one of Deb­o­rah’s ref­er­ences for copies of Lange’s pho­tos: www.loc.gov/pic­tures/ re­sources/fsa

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