Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Grapes Of Wrath - Bakersfield History

Last week, I took a little trip for work to Bakersfield, California. Whenever I travel outside of the immediate area, I like to look for landmarks or fun stuff to check out while I'm on the road. I didn't have to venture too far from my work sites, because the sites themselves were packed with history.

The first site I inspected was a migrant camp used back in the Dust Bowl days (1930-1940).... And the adjacent lot (now an apartment complex) was previously used as barracks for Prisoners Of War after World War II. Most of the original buildings that occupied the area have been demolished. A small portion of the property I inspected was dedicated as a historical site (now protected by the government) and contains buildings from the days of the Dust Bowl.

Here are some pictures from my trip....
I took some of the pictures in black and white to add a vintage/creepy factor....

Common/Gathering Building

Kitties Cuddling On The Roof Of The Common/Gathering Building

Stage At The Common/Gathering Building

Beds For The Migrant Workers

Vintage Sewing Machine (and Chair?)

Gas Stove

Fire Hose Coils

Day Care Learning Center

Interesting story about this next building.... This building a post office built for the migrant worker camps during the Dust Bowl era. You can see this building in the movie 'The Grapes Of Wrath' in the scene where the owner of the migrant worker camp is welcoming 'the Okies'....

The representative was telling me all about how his family had moved to the the area in the mid-1960's. He told me that this metal and concrete building is identical to the structure that housed his family of six.

That was the extent of the fun stuff at the first property.... There wasn't much at the second site, aside from the migrant worker camp that currently occupies the site.... The camp had a really creepy vibe.... I pulled into the site, and it was completely deserted. The site representative was at lunch and the camp was completely vacant (the camps are only occupied during peak farming seasons.

The site representative finally arrived and explained that the property was actually a German Prisoner Of War camp after World War II. The POW barracks were torn down to build the migrant camp on the site.

The only remnant of the POW camp was in a grassy field, away from the buildings. We venture off the beaten path to get to what is known as 'THE OVEN'. My guide tells me that when a prisoner of war would die at the camp, it was more cost effective to cremate the bodies and ship the ashes back to Germany.

I don't put much stock into the supernatural, but even with 80 degree weather and the sun blaring down on us, it felt cold in the immediate vicinity of 'THE OVEN'.

After getting my pictures, and walking away from 'THE OVEN', the representative explained all about how tenants are constantly reporting seeing figures in military uniforms standing at the edge of their bed. One older couple complained about seeing the ghost of a little girl roaming the property at night, and since that incident, very few people stay out past sundown for fear of an encounter with a supernatural being....


  1. Wow, these photos are so awesome! That POW thing is freaky though and the ghosts. Dang! I'd be freakin' out big time. Very interesting... It's funny the first thing I thought of when you mentioned Bakersfield is that big sign they have in the city - I've seen it on, don't laugh, Bridezillas and another reality show that went to Bakersfield ... do you know which one I'm talking about? It's yellow and blue :)

  2. I know exactly which one you're talking about.... The arch sign.... I didn't go under it, but I did see it from the freeway. It's bright yellow and hard to miss.... lol

  3. Seriously, what in the world is more interesting than history. Especially "local" places and stories. This is a great post!
    Nest time I got through there, I may actually stop!

  4. That's cool but creepy that people are actually staying in after sundown so they don't encounter ghosts. I would leave if I saw one and never go back.

  5. Dang...I'm only 2 hours away and didn't even know about this...I think I might have found a weekend trip..Those are really great pics. Thanks for this post..I loved it!

  6. Creepy but really cool. I love seeing history and learning the stories behind places. Though of the things that have happened are truly scary to think about.

    The cats are cute too.

  7. Amazing photography!!!!! You have a great eye (well two actually).
    I enjoyed living vicariously through you in your photos!

  8. I really love the pics! (I especially found it cool that you put the "oven" ones black and white!) Omg that really is creepy, about the oven! I certainly wouldn't stay beside it at night at ALL!:P Who knows, huh?

  9. How interesting.

    You take wonderful pictures.

  10. That is really cool. I would hate to live in the metal 'house' but I'm definitely up for seeing ghosts... still hasn't happened, but maybe someday...

  11. Jeeze, you certainly made history come alive. What an interesting, creepy cool time for our country.

  12. I got chills down my spine when you mentioned the ghosts of men in uniforms and the little girl. Damn that's spooky. I dare you to spend the night!!

  13. I used to live in Ojai for many years so I am familiar with Bakersfield [cut through mountains many times on HWY 33] I didn't know this was there. thanks for the good read & goosebumps...

    Nice place you have here. =]

  14. Wowsers. Great post and even better pictures!

  15. That was an awesome post. I enjoyed your pictures and the information you gave about them. I learned a great deal from what you posted.

  16. I also wanted to say "Thank you for getting rid of the captcha"

  17. Awesome pictures and an awesome history lesson my friend. I loved the really is a glimpse into a piece of time and history that is so interesting to me.

    Thank you for the awesome post!

  18. I've been to the Weedpatch Camp in the photos on several occasions and the whole story about the oven is a complete fabrication. They did not cremate the remains of any deceased German soldiers, as a matter of fact they buried them just like anybody else and for a curator or anybody else involved with historical preservation in Kern Country to perpetuate this myth is flat out irresponsible. Here is a link which indexes the burial sites of enemy combatants in the United States during WWI and WWII. Its too bad the Germans and Japanese never afforded the luxuries we showered onto their captured troops. But cremate their remains? Poppycock! Plus Weedpatch camp was still occupied by American prisoners during WWII and they were called the Okies.

    The times and horrible treatment of US citizens during the depression make Weedpatch a scary and haunting place. Not an incinerator used to burn garbage.

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  22. Your post takes me back to my childhood as I was born in Bakersfield in 1937 and lived in Arvin, Weed Patch, on the DiGergio Farms until 1947. I never heard any stories about the cremation of prisoners. I was also part of the Okie generation. Very interesting story and pictures.


  23. History is always so interesting, especially when you get to see the old places up close!


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