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Old 04-05-2011, 06:14 AM
 
9 posts, read 18,346 times
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HI there,
I'm an English student from Dorset in the UK writing an essay on...yep, you've guessed it Of Mice and Men, set near Soledad in Montery county California. Rather than comb the book analysing characters I thought I would try and find out as much about the setting and times (circa 1937) and wondered if you good guys over there in California could get your hands on a few vital statistics for me...believe me, I have tried to trawl th'internet for these nuggets of information but I'm a bit of a technodunce,(though it seems not all bad as I've managed to find this site which just might glean Californian gold for me in the shape of someone with the data at his fingertips (or in his head!))
if anyone has any info they would like to share on the life and times in Soledad and the ranches, such as the Tyler ranch mentioned in the book, during the '30's I would be delighted to hear from you. Alternatively if anyone has any hard facts about the population of Soledad or Monterey county, the type and number of towns along route 101 (was it even built in 1937???) , distances between towns etc i would likewise be delighted to hear from you.
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Iminei

Deepest Darkest Dorset
UK

Last edited by iminei; 04-05-2011 at 06:40 AM..
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:46 AM
 
Location: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties
6,390 posts, read 8,809,622 times
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You need to be more specific about what stats you want. The Salinas Valley towns were all built as farm centers, they were tiny places, not much more than crossroads.

Highway 101 was designated in 1925, but it was not all paved.

The Salinas River bed was used as a road in various places as it is often dry. It is sometimes called the longest underground river in America, although this week it looks like you could take a steamship up it.

In the early twenties my grandmother inlaw and her family broke down near Bradley while they were on their way from Los Angeles to enroll her in UC Berkeley, they were using the riverbed as road, and were stuck for a few days by the river, until the part came in by train.

My grandfather's (An Englishman from Tottenham by the way) diary mentions driving to San Francisco in 1932, he states that all but 16 miles of the road were now paved.

The ranches along the valley were productive farms, and cattle ranches, the ranch in the book is fictional, but modeled on existing ranches.

Some of the greatest horsemen and horse trainers have come from the Salinas Valley, including the Dorrance brothers, and Monty Roberts, the "horse whisperer" who has worked with your queen's horses, and annoyed her snooty grooms with his efficacy.

The famous actor James Dean was killed in an auto accident while on his way to Salinas to take part in an auto race.

My Grandfather is mentioned in one of Steinbeck's books, not identified, but he and his partner went to the valley to seek contract farmers for his specialty crop (he immigrated from England to grow that crop). Steinbeck heard about them and incorporated them into a short story.

And finally, while I was in the military overseas, I read most everything Steinbeck wrote, as his descriptions of the landscape of the central coast was spot on, when he talked about pushing through the willows to fish a creek, the sights and smells and feel he described, took me back home. When I got home I talked to my dad about that, he said also read Steinbeck's books while overseas in WW2 for the same reason.

Although.... My dad and most farmers and ranchers in this area thought Steinbeck was a communist stirring up trouble with some of his books.... A feeling that persists among some today.
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:07 AM
 
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Wow! that's an absolutely fabulous and inspirational reply and will help me get somewhat of a feel for the place and time. do you know how many people lived in and or around Soledad around the time of the book?
tiny? was Soledad as tiny? i mean are we talking 10...100...or how many? the theme of the essay is loneliness although I'm going more on an isolated/ion theme, so wanted to feel how it would have been...something that is difficult living as I do in one of the most overcrowded islands in the world, (although I thankfully live in a much quieter Old Georgian market town, in the relatively less populated art of North Dorset)
I'm interested in the feeling of people that JS was a communist, is that still so do you think? and stirring up trouble? how exactly?
i thank you for your reply and look forward to hearing some more if you've time
regards
iminei

P.s I'm interested, what was the speciality crop? (I can't guess as OMaM is the only Steinbeck book I've yet read.)

Last edited by iminei; 04-05-2011 at 10:20 AM..
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Old 04-05-2011, 11:51 AM
 
Location: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties
6,390 posts, read 8,809,622 times
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I imagine there were no more than 500 people in and around Soledad, even today their aren't too many. Many of the ranches were isolated, located up side canyons in the Gabilan Range or up on the low slopes of the Ventana Country (Steinbeck once wrote in a story that the Ventana country was the last area in the lower 48 states to be explored, steep canyons, heavy chapparal, high mountains).

As for Steinbeck being accused of being a communist, he wrote about the existing social injustice in the US. The Grapes of Wrath is a classic on that topic. The same sort of people accused Martin Luther King of being a communist and accuse Barack Obama of being a Socialist....

There was opposition to the Steinbeck Center Welcome Home :: National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, for those same reasons.

The specialty crop was sweet peas for their seed. Our family had grown them in England for generations, Grandfather sought the American Dream and immigrated. At one time we grew over 3,000 acres of sweet peas, from Salinas to Ventura.
In the book, The Long Valley there is a story; The Harness, it describes my grandfather and his partner visiting a down on his luck farmer, a short piece of synopsis here;
Quote:
The local farmers question his secrecy, but soon discover Peter had the audacity to plant forty acres of sweet peas, a touchy crop that is considered quite a gamble by the locals. His fellows assume Peter must be "touched in the head since Emma died" and predict disaster for his crop (88). Much to the farmers' chagrin, the sweet peas grow magnificently, and Peter takes quite a profit.
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:46 AM
 
9 posts, read 18,346 times
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AAAAGGGHHHHH!!!i just wrote a whole long, brilliant reply and have lost it!!!!!!!!! bugger!
speedy synopsis of lost post:
sweet peas! wow, pretty, fragrant decorative climbers? have you one named after you?
Essay...aaaagggh, solitude, harshness..any ideas??
disapproval of local wonders...angel of north.
lovely weather today, must go out and enjoy.
hope you have a lovely day/evening/night/sleep....whatever time it is there
thank you very much for writing back to me and your help, are you any good at essays..hahhahaa
xx
will right a proper post when i have calmed down with this machine and finished work later today
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Old 04-06-2011, 08:09 AM
 
Location: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties
6,390 posts, read 8,809,622 times
Reputation: 2622
I hate it when I lose a post..
By the time I came along the company was pretty much done with sweet peas, they are labor intensive and as labor costs rose after WW2 the company cut way back. So, none named after me.

Steinbeck has an interesting story, one of my favorites, Flight It tells the story of a boy who escapes into the Ventana country, where there are mysterious "dark watchers". It too reflects some of the harsh nature of the landscape.

Incidentally, I will be in "Steinbeck Country" this weekend, working on forest trails in the Ventana Wilderness.

There is another author whose works reflect the solitude and harshness and the isolation of the area. His name is Robinson Jeffers, you can google him and come up with his works. Some of his story/poems make Steinbeck's work look like bedtime stories for children.
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Old 04-06-2011, 11:17 AM
 
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so how far is Steinbeck country from where you live in....squint..San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties?? I'm awful on distances and obviously think, as you are in California, Hollywood is on your right and up the street is...um... San Francisco....Haahahahhahahaha
working on forest trails sounds interesting, I'm getting lumberjack shirt and sweaty muscles or is it shorts and clipboard, counting the bumblebees?
loooong shot, you wouldn't be into cp's would you??...anyway dinner (the making of) calls...
i will try and google flight, anything to put of this essay!!
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Old 04-06-2011, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Northern California
3,707 posts, read 14,151,427 times
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Soledad was first settled in 1791 by the Spanish www.ci.soledad.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=328
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Old 04-06-2011, 12:14 PM
 
Location: Mountains of Oregon
17,091 posts, read 20,873,353 times
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Soledad Prison was built in 1946. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soledad,_California
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Old 04-06-2011, 01:15 PM
 
42 posts, read 71,878 times
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Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California (LOC) | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/3551599565 - broken link)

The above picture is the iconic photo from Dorothea Lange of the great depression. She has a lot more pictures of the migrant works in California during that time.

This is not from Soledad but Nipomo which is about 120 miles south. It is representative though of the tough times that forced people from the dust bowl (Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma) to migrate to California as farm workers. These people were all over the agricultural areas of California.
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