08 January 2012

The 1930 Federal Census and Olinda

The increasing affordability of the automobile and the growth of suburbs contributed to a change in the "company town" concept, in which manufacturers had provided housing for workers on the site of the business.  Some local company towns, such as the Simons Brick Company yard in Montebello, as well as the many oil company leases that existed in the region, were affected by the changes in transportation and housing, because workers could live in towns and cities and enjoy the amenities there without having to live at a work site, with the noise, smells and isolation.

This appears to have been the case with the Olinda oil field, as noticeably observed in comparing the 1920 and 1930 federal censuses.  The 1920 enumeration, discussed last entry, counted nearly 1,000 persons within the area from Valencia Avenue east (with a few people on the west in those leases that straddled both sides of the road.  By 1930, however, the entire area designated as the Olinda precinct within the Fullerton township, had less than half the population.

There were 462 persons listed in Olinda in 1930, most, obviously living within oil leases, thought there were 64 persons who were outside of the oil field, in Carbon Canyon and also to the south along Valencia Avenue and Rose Drive.  For the 398 residents of the fields, here is the breakdown by company (CCMO is the Chanslor Canfield Midway Oil Company, successor to the Petroleum Development Company on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad lease):

CCMO:  222
Olinda:  77
West Coast:  56
Shell Oil:  21
General Petroleum:  19
Fullerton Oil:  3

On gender, the percentage of men in the Olinda area was 53% and women 47%.  Adults 21 and over amounted to 57% of the population and those under 21, 43%.  The white population was still overwhelmingly dominant at almost 97%, with 12 Latinos, from two families named Reyes {and likely related) and the same Japanese family, the Fujimotos, residing on the West Coast lease as they had ten years before, although the head of the family was now a "roustabout," or general laborer, and not a boilermaker as before.  Finally, as to home ownership, there was a slight change in home ownership, as 16 of 119 househoulds consisted of families who owned their residence, about 13% of the total.  One residence in particular stood out in terms of its value.  Most owned residences in the oil fields were small, plain wooden dwellings at low value, but on Rose Drive, citrus rancher Michael Harmon, owned a home worth $60,000, a pretty substantial sum at the time.

The same general run of oil field occupations existed in 1930 as a decade previous, including drillers, rotary helpers, rodmen, several types of engineers, machinists, firemen, watchmen, electricians, and others.  A few men held position of authority as superintendents, chief clerks, shop foreman and the like.  Also, where there were several Santa Fe Railroad workers in 1920, there was only a field inspector in 1930, residing on the Olinda lease.  There seemed, however, to have been more variety of jobs held by members of households in which the male head was an oil field worker, including more work done by women.  This seems to be a consequence of the automobile, which allowed oil field residents to find jobs further away from their homes.  What is also notable is that, while in 1920, there were a number of men who lived in bunk houses on a few of the leases, there weren't any who did so ten years later.

On the CCMO lease, there was a barber, dentist, dental assistant,, glass factory worker, nursery bookkeeper, boarding house cook, store clerk, bus driver and real estate salesman.  At West Coast, one wife of an oil worker worked in a beauty shop and there was also an airplane mechanic and citrus workers. On the Olinda lease, there was a garage mechanic and citrus house packers.

There were also oil field-sited jobs that were not directly tied to the business.  Along or near Valencia Avenue, at the CCMO, Fullerton and Shell lease areas were three teachers, presumably at the Olinda School, including Alexander Barnes, a 47-year old from Ohio, Gladys Payton, 31, from Tennessee, and Ethel Overton, 39, born in Illinois.  Overton's husband, Job, also 39 and from Indiana, was the bus driver.  On Valencia Avenue, there was a gas station, run by 67-year old Iowan Omar Waitz.  The CCMO had a company store, whose keeper was George Cullen, a 60-year old Indiana native who was one of the few homeowners in Olinda and he had a manager, 22-year old Clarence Perrin, a native of California.  A teacher, perhaps also in Olinda, lived there, too, Mary Lemke, whose husband had a citrus ranch on the lease property.  There was a bus driver on the lease, too, Walt Cullen (son of the store keeper), but his occupation specifically said "high school," which probably meant that he drove Olinda teens to the only local high school, Fullerton Union.

Of the 64 persons not enumerated directly on oil lease land, a few of them worked in the fields, but there were a few farmers in Carbon Canyon, such as Ramon Reyes, Edward Gaines, who, as in 1920, ran stock where Olinda Village and the Hollydale Mobile Home Estates are located, and Adolph Friend, a West Virginia native in his early 70s who ran cattle in the Canyon, as well.  Down on Valencia Avenue and Rose Drive, there was citrus grower Harmon, another Reyes family, a building contractor, and a moulder for a brass factory.

The 1930 census was taken in April, about seven months after the stock market crash of October 1929 that signaled the beginning of the Great Depression.  By 1932, when banks failed en masse, the Depression worsened.  The 1940 census is due to be released this year, so there will be an opportunity soon to examine that enumeration and see what further changes came to Olinda.

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