The Life and Times, Page 6
As Told to Dan Reddell
I asked my folks what they were going to get for the chickens and they said 25 cents each. We had three or four hundred. I said, "Here, take my $25 and turn them loose." They did, and I never saw that $25 again.
The early part of '33, Pop went to Arizona to see if he would feel better there. He stayed for two or three months with the Starlings, while I made the crop on the farm.
The Starlings lived in Ajo, Arizona, where a huge open pit copper mine was in operation. After Mom and Pop sold out and left for California, in 1935, they stopped in Ajo and Pop worked in the mine until union demands caused the owner to close it down, which ruined the town.
In 1986, I returned to Ajo and found a Starling living there. I knocked on the door and told the old lady that answered that I was looking for Mary Nell Starling. She looked at me and said, "I'm Mary Nell Starling, and you're Les Reddell." We hadn't seen each other since I had stayed with the family so many years before, but she still recognized me. Six members of her family are buried in Ajo.
When Pop came back from Arizona, Lea Etta got married to Gilbert Nixon, at age 19, in 1933.
Right after they got married, I decided to head to California for good. We were picking cotton and I threw down my sack and said I was leaving for California. Gib and Lee Etta said they were coming with me.
Before I left Amherst for the last time, I hauled five or six bales of cotton and left it with Mom and Pop; it was worth 5 cents a pound at that time.
Gib, Lea Etta, and I came to California, arriving on the first day of November, 1933. We drove my Model A Ford, and we just sailed out here, and didn't have any problems at all.
We drove the southern route, through New Mexico and Arizona. We got to Bakersfield and stayed a while with one of Gib's cousins and immediately got jobs picking
oranges and working in a poultry house, picking feathers off of turkeys.
Soon, I went out to Kern Valley Packing Company that belonged to Oscar Rudnick, who came to California so poor that he went to selling shoe strings on the streets, but he became a millionaire, owning the Packing Company and many other businesses and properties.
He saw I was a farmer, and offered me a farm out in Rosedale, horses and all, if I would rent it. I did, in January, 1933, and later he wanted to sell it to me for crop payment, but I just wasn't ready to be tied down, only being 21 at the time. He took me to his house a time or two and his maids brought us dinner; turned out later that there was oil nearby the land he tried to sell me.
Gib and Lea Etta and I lived in a nice little three bedroom house. Lea Etta did the cooking and housework. We might be irrigating, picking cotton, or baling hay during the week.
I had weekends to go out, and I met a lot of girls, but I only had one serious girlfriend in my life, and I married her.
I went out and got a job milking cows at Van Horn dairy, just a few miles south of Bakersfield. Gib took a job there, too, and soon he got jobs there for all his kin folks that had moved out here, including his mother and father. The company furnished Gib and Lea Etta a small house and I bought a trailer house to live in.
We would get up at 2:00 a.m., milk until 8:00 a.m., go home, and then come back at 3:00 p.m. and work until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. All this for $60 a month. I got tired of that and went to work in a creamery in town for a while, parking my 24' long trailer on a vacant lot.
I also picked cotton, and then Joe Dunn came to see me and I put him to work. He was quite a musician, being able to play the violin and other instruments, and I could pick a guitar, so we...CONTINUED...