17 May 2012

The 1940 Federal Census and Olinda

The 2 April release of the 1940 Federal Census provides an opportunity to see how much the Olinda community changed in comparison to the two previous enumerations from 1930 and 1920.  The most obvious change is the rapidly declining number of people.  In 1920, the community numbered about 950 persons.  Ten years later, the total was less than half, just over 460.  In 1940, there were five pages of the census marked "Olinda" and most of a sixth sheet identified as "Olinda/Carbon Canyon."  The population on these several sheets totals 232 persons, only a quarter of that found twenty years prior.

There could be many reasons why the rapid decline was found.  Two major potential ones stand out.  First, oil production at the field, which opened in 1896, could have dropped significantly, either because of dwindling crude reserves or that coupled with a lessened demand because of the Great Depression which spanned the decade of the 1930s.  Another reason, though, would be that more and more oil workers were choosing the reside in nearby towns away from their places of employment, instead of the in the "company towns," such as existed at Olinda.  Notably, of the 65 households in the Olinda area in 1940, only 10 of them (or about 15%) of them consisted of home owners, the rest being renters. It might well be that those oil workers who could afford to own their own homes would choose to live in Brea, Placentia, Yorba Linda and other communities in close proximity to the Olinda fields.  In contrast, the were 240 households in 1920 and 119, almost exactly half, in 1930.

Of the 232 denizens of Olinda counted by census taker Carl Smith from 15-17 April, 121 were male and 111 female, a 52/48% split.  This represents only a slightly narrowed change from the previous censuses, in which, in 1930, women were 47% of the population, and, ten years before that, 46%.  Persons under 21 years of age numbered 82, totaling about 35% of the residents (in 1920, they were 39% and ten years later, 43%).  As to ethnicity, 93% were white and, of the 217 white persons, only two came from Europe, these being a couple who were German and Hungarian.  The remaining 15 residents were Latino, coming from three households of the Valenzuela family, who worked as ranchers.  This census also asked residents where they had lived five years prior and virtually everyone was in the same house, excepting a couple who came from Long Beach, another transplanted from Anaheim, a family that had been in Buena Park, and one person who'd migrated from Iowa.

Regarding occupations, there were the usual oil field job holders, running the gamut from general laborers to rod men, gaugers, pumpers, pullers, mechanics, carpenters, truck drivers, janitors, bookkeepers, and so on.  There was an "oil shop foreman" as well as an "oil production manager."  A husband and wife were proprietors of the local filling station (him) and general store (her) and these two were one of the few homeowners, residing in a house self-valued at $1500.  There was a separate "oil company store manager."

There were, though, quite a few persons who worked in occupations outside the oil industry.  These included citrus workers, including packing house employees, a worker in the Orange County Juvenile Home, a part-time school teacher, a high school secretary, a school principal, a bank stenographer, an insurance salesman, and a cafe laborer.  There were also several people labeled as "new worker," which was not specified as to what this exactly meant.  Several ranchers were listed among the denizens, as were a few folks associated with the La Vida Mineral Springs resort.

This detail of the above page shows the 29 residents living along Carbon Canyon Road in the Olinda community of the Fullerton Township in the 1940 federal census.  Clicking on the image opens it in a separate window with a larger view.  The image was uploaded from Ancestry.com which obtained the original census sheets from the National Archives.
This leads to the 29 persons identified as residing specifically in Carbon Canyon along Carbon Canyon Road.  Four households were headed by oil company workers, one of which 66-year old N. J. Neal, was a home owner, in a self-identified $500 modest residence.  Neal's son, E. H., owned a similarly-valued home, and worked as a citrus packing house packer. 

Another son, Elton A. Neal, was listed as a "cafe owner," and this would appear to mean the cafe at La Vida, which, in 1930, had been run by Archie Rosenbaum, generally thought of as the resort's manager during much of the 1930s.  As noted in the post about the 1940 census in Sleepy Hollow, however, Rosenbaum was shown as living in that community and associated with the Hiltscher hot springs resort, just over the county line.

A. J. Barnes, a 58-year old native of Ohio, was shown as "principal of school," which would probably indicate the Olinda School, formerly located on what is now the east end of Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  He lived with his Missouri-born wife and 24-year old son, the latter being the insurance salesman noted above, and the family was unique in Olinda in that all three were college graduates.

Edward F. Gaines, who came to Olinda in the 1910s and took up ranching on land in what is now Olinda Village, was shown as being 72 years old and living with his 78-year old wife Tammie, in a $5000 residence.  His occupation was, as it had been since he came to the area, "ranching for self."

This left two other households, both associated with La Vida Mineral Springs.  The first was that of 27-year old Aubrey Meyers, born in Oklahoma, and who was listed as "laborer, La Vida Springs," and his 24-year old Kansas-born wife, Naomi, who was a bottler for the famed La Vida mineral water. 

The other was that of W. N. Miller, a 50-year old Missouri native, his 49-year old wife, Minnie, also from Missouri, and their five year old son, "Billie" or Billy.  Miller's occupation was "mgr of La Vida Springs" and, notably, he was renting a residence at $20 per month.  This is notable because online references state that William Newton Miller (who has been discussed elsewhere in this blog) started La Vida in 1924 with a son-in-law, although not only was Miller too young to have had a son-in-law at that time, but there was clearly an operating La Vida Mineral Springs resort well into the 1910s.   More on that history to come very soon.

So, it is not entirely clear what the situation with William Miller was--the 1940 census indicated that he, his wife and son (there were three older children who had moved out of the household as adults by 1940) were at the same residence in 1935.  Prior censuses in 1930 and 1920 show that he was an "oil company driller" in the first, and a "petroleum producer" in the second and he had lived in a comfortable bungalow in downtown Anaheim that he purchased in 1924. 

A likely explanation is that Miller had reopened La Vida in 1924, ran it for several years and then fell into hard economic circumstances during the Great Depression.   By the mid-30s, then, he became a manager, renting a residence, at the resort he formerly owned.  What would be interesting to know is what happened after 1940, to Miller, to La Vida and to the wider Olinda community (which, actually, almost certainly became narrower.) Unfortunately, the 1950 census won't be released until 2022!

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