September 2, 2005


School Days! School Days! Are Back!

Parents, county-wide have a smile on their faces as they happily trot through the shopping malls with their little darlings in tow! One cannot help but see the radiant smiles on their faces, as they happily walk through store after store buying the latest back-to-school fashions for their little darlings! Soon, very soon, peace and tranquility will return to the family hearth and Mama can go back to watching her favorite noon time Soap Opera! It’s now vacation time for the Mama’s and Papa’s of the Nation.

One can’t help but reminisce how it used to be in the “old days”. The coming of summer meant only one thing to many a family in the state of California: it was time to pack your work clothes, jump into the old truck or car, and head for the fields and canneries of the State. Summer was the time of the year when many of the families worked picking grapes, prunes, apricots, or worked in the cotton or potato fields, or harvested the tomato, lettuce or strawberry crops. We had three months to earn sufficient money to be able to attend our schools beginning in September. If one was lucky, it was possible to work in the Canneries of San Jose, where one could earn what we considered good wages! There were times when no one made sufficient money to pay the bills back home. It was quite evident to those who had year round salaries, that times were bad. All the Mexican American kids, the Oakies and Arkies, who immigrated to California during the depression, as well as the Filipino indentured migrants and the Chinese coolies, were desperately poor. It was the era of the depression and many died of hunger, sickness, and/ or working under some very harsh working conditions.

The children of that era didn’t know whether they would have school clothes, shoes or even if they would have food to eat. To a child of that era being poor was a humiliating experience. Going back to school in September was faced with trepidation. We had little or no money for clothes, shoes, or money for books. Much as the Nazis placed the Star of David on the Jewish community, the poor were branded by the clothes that they had to wear. We had to wear the clothes that the government gave us. We had no money to buy the cloth to make our pants and dresses. The government gave us clothes that were identical in style and color! We stood in shame in front of our former classmates branded by the clothes we wore!

What helped us survive through the depression years? The same thing that many of today’s children, who are discriminated against, or who suffer the pains of isolation brought about by racial discrimination……The unconditional love of our Mothers and Fathers, they gave us the courage and strength to survive and overcome the barriers that we face. We are what we are today because of the inner strength they provided us to face life on its terms and overcome what ever obstacles we are confronted with.

Yes, Summer is over. I don’t know about you, but, I am going to miss my Grandchildren as they head back to school.

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