Tuesday, 30 January 2007

1930 You Don't Get Anything For Nothing


‘Let me assert my firm belief,’ said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ However, for the families living through the great depression of the 1930’s, it continued to resound with both fear and uncertainty. To call it a roller coaster ride maybe considered something of an understatement. No one would have believed that the Californian state, which had bathed in such dizzy heights of incredible wealth and glory, would soon to witness the worst economic collapse ever in the state's history. Throughout California, thousands of unemployed workers packed up their families and what little belongings they had to set off on an uncertain journeys across the great state. Their hopes and dreams pinned upon what little prospects the next town might bring. Makeshift encampments became their homes, here the family dined on such tasteless delights of mulligan stew, a watery cocktail of discarded vegetables salvaged from the nearest grocer. In downtown Oakland, the out of work destitute would take to living in large concrete sewer pipes, laying in wait to be sunken beneath the rich Californian soil. What became one man’s ultimate humiliation was another man’s shelter, and if a 6-foot length of dry concrete was all there was, you’d better take it or someone else sure as hell would. Some 200 people filled these pipes, a concrete labyrinth of tubular homes that the residents would aptly call ‘Miseryville’ but became infamously known by the press as ‘Pipe City’.




Above: Ruth Eastwood and her son Clinton
On December 3rd 1932 The Oakland Post-Inquirer released the following statement of Pipe City, ‘To qualify for citizenship in Pipe City you must be jobless, homeless, hungry, and preferably shoeless, coatless, and hatless. If one also is discouraged, lonely, filled with a terrible feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, one's qualifications are that much stronger. One belongs. Not all of Pipe City's inhabitants are that way. Some of them have learned that a philosophical attitude helps. One may tinge his philosophy with a drop of irony, even bitterness, and the concrete may seem less hard and the blankets less thin and the mulligan less watery. But it takes a lot of philosophy, you bet, to make concrete either soft or warm!’
It read like something from a Steinbeck novel, but it was during these deeply depressing times that Clinton Eastwood Junior was born at St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco on May 31st 1930. The Young Eastwood was attracting attention from the very moment he was born, weighing in at Eleven pounds, Six ounces; he certainly became a star with the nurses. ‘I always said he was famous from the day he was born, he was special from the start’ said his mother Ruth. She remembers him as a daring toddler, always a dear and charming boy whom she fell in love with immediately. A bond between mother and son that remained solid until her passing in 2006.


Above: Clint Eastwood Birth Certificate
Ruth and Clinton Senior were married at a very young age; Clint’s father was of Scottish – English decent, while Ruth was of Irish ancestry. As a family, Clint and his younger sister Jean, frequently moved from town to town. ‘That was during the depression, you know, and my dad travelled around a lot looking for work’. Although Clinton Senior was a relatively educated man, and trained as a cost accountant, the harsh truth of the great depression would begin to take its toll. He was reduced to moving around Northern California; taking any job he could, including pumping gas at local stations.
‘Jobs were hard to come by in those days. So there were times when we had to be separated, when times weren’t good, I had to live with my Grandmother, on her farm up near Sunol, near Livermore.’ Clint’s grandmother was quite a woman, living by herself on a mountain and totally self-sufficient. ‘She probably had more to do with my turning out the way I have than any educational process I may have gone through.’ He doesn’t remember either him or his sister being exactly poor or suffering as children. When looking back he can see how his father may have had some worries, but again, both Clint and Jean were never aware of it. As a youngster Clint would play mainly alone, it was a situation that prompted the imagination to become active, and from this he would create his own wondrous stories.

3 comments:

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Theresa Barranco said...

I heard he also lived In Sunol Ca With his Grandma at some point! ?