It’s happening locally
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