Interview with Horace Bristol
Interview with Horace Bristol
Interview Date: December 21, 1992

Camera Rolls: 318:94-99
Sound Rolls: 318:49
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Horace Bristol , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 19, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

*
INTERVIEW
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
[camera roll 318:94] [sound roll 318:49] [slate marker visible on screen]
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 1
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, hold it. Rolling, mark it.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, I want to—let's start by talking about 1937. Tell me a little bit about what you were doing in 1937, how your life was then.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, I would, I would say that in 1937, as far as I was concerned, it was sort of the beginning of, of a very interesting period. Having been through the Depression myself, and knowing, knowing how difficult it was, although it was never the way so many people were suffering, I had been hired by magazine when it started. So, well, it was quite relatively easy, the easiest period in my life, so far. I was in San Francisco, and the, when started out, they asked me to be a staff photographer, which, I, nobody realized how glorious or important it was, it was, but I was excited and very, very happy about, about the opportunity, because it meant doing something that had never exactly been done before in the way of journalistic photography. It was actually the epitome of what I would want to do, and looking back on it, it was still a great period, because with, with the people I was working with, and the acceptance of the magazine, I could go anywhere and be reasonably welcome. But, but the main thing I know you're interested in, is the fact that the '37s [sic] were not a glorious time, we were just, for many people, we were just emerging from, from, and slowly, from a very, very tough time. So when I went out with, not on an assignment, but I went out with Dorothea Lange, who was a very famous photographer, and her professor husband, and saw the conditions under which the migratory laborers were working, I was, I was surprised and shocked, because even as a Californian, I wasn't, I wasn't aware of that aspect of how, how close to the, to the margin everybody was. When it came, at this time it was a very rainy year, and these people weren't close to the margin, they were over the margin with the floods and all these circumstances.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 2
SUSAN BELLOWS:

I wonder if you could just describe that for me a little more in detail, that, the first time you went down with Lange. Where did you go?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, at, very—the thing that took me down there first was the actual news-happenings of the lettuce strikes, when, quite, for me at least, quite a violent experience, I mean, with the hired, well, you can call them strike-breakers or goons, as they were referred to, who were armed with pickaxes, to either beat or threaten to beat these workers into, into accepting non-living wages...not only that, but I was quite shocked to see that our California police highway patrol was used as strike-breakers as well, and with large amounts of tear-gas to subdue the, they weren't riots, but at least, they intimidated the, the strikers. I was, I expected a certain amount of difficulty for, I was a young man, but fairly strong, but Dorothea Lange was young, was not-so-young, and small, and somewhat handicapped, we call it nowadays, from early polio, and the way she stood up to these very burly deputy sheriffs and, as they were sworn in, and they did this all under the auspices of legality. But the way she stood up to them just amazed me, and I remember that one of my greatest memories is this little, little woman standing up to, to the police. But I realized that what I, it was a great story, I thought, and so I asked magazine if they wouldn't like to do a story on, on these migratory laborers. We call them migratory laborers, the term "Okie" was used disparagingly about them. We, we just, particularly when we refer to them, themselves, we just used the term "migratory laborers". When, when they were...I sort of lost my train of thought.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

That's OK, that's OK. You were starting to talk to me a little about what seeing their living conditions and seeing the story inspired you to do.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh, yeah. Well, the fact that it was, that the weather was so, so really bad compounded their problems. In the first place, they came out there, sort of lured by the flyers that were sent out, telling of "Sunny California" and wonderful jobs that were waiting for them, and when they actually crossed the border, they found they were in a place that had no jobs and was beginning to be partially underwater, no work of any kind. So, this was a terribly discouraging situation.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 3
SUSAN BELLOWS:

But tell me a little bit about who these people were, and—

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, they were, we call them, now, "Okies", and they did come from Oklahoma, but they came from Arkansas and maybe northern Texas, wherever they'd been dispossessed by circumstances, that is, the Dust Bowl. Actually, we also referred to it as the Dust Bowl. But it wasn't the Dust Bowl alone, it was the fact that these people were mostly small, independent farmers. Some of them were sharecroppers, but most of them had their own, small, farms. When they couldn't make any living off of it, the banks foreclosed, and they just didn't have a place anymore. But with the attraction, the allurement of wonderful jobs in California, they came out expecting, confidently, to find work. It wasn't that they were just wandering, they had the expectation, which was that of jobs were there [sic], and this was rather unfair, but it did bring the prices down for what labor there was, because people would work for anything, just... There were no signs, "Will work for food," because there was no use, there was just no, no work. And I wanted, so I wanted to do a story, but this was not a story such as you now see in Somali [sic], because these people were all relatively healthy, they were hungry, they weren't starving, but they were on the borderline of, all the time. So, when I suggested to the editors in that we ought to do a story, they, they, I think I probably sent them a picture or two to give them an idea, and of course it was very discouraging, these weren't happy people, and was not interested in, in doing a story on, of this type at that time. When I sent the things and asked them, they said, well... you know, makes, its street-sales come from pretty girls on the cover, and they said nobody wants to look at tired, frightened Americans. So, then I went to magazine, which is a sister-publication of , but it was at that time called the red corner of , and they were a lot more sympathetic. So, the editors were delighted with the idea of doing a story. I should say that, first, that I, I, I wanted to do a story by myself, as I usually operated, but when I, when I saw that they didn't want a story—

[camera cuts to slate, audio continues from the previous roll]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

I'm going to interrupt, we're just rolling out.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh. Is it, is it all right?

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Oh, it's terrific, this is a ten minute roll.

HORACE BRISTOL:

OK.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

So, we've talked for ten—

[cut]
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 4
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:95] [sound roll 318:49]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, you were—why don't you tell me what you did after turned it down, and offered it, and, you decided—

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, well, no, I'll tell a secret, was that turned it down as a story from me. So I decided, well, I had seen a book that Margaret Bourke-White, who was also a photographer, and I thought, if she can do a book, they can't complain about my doing a book on my own. So, she had worked with an author, Erskine Caldwell, and so I thought, well, I'll have to get somebody, another author, similar ability, to work, to collaborate with me. So, being in San Francisco, I thought, John Steinbeck who had, he had also done a book, , on agricultural problems, and seemed very sympathetic. So I picked up the phone and called him, and asked him, would you be interested in doing a photographic book on migratory labor? He was very willing, and asked me to come down and talk to him and to his wife about the project, so I drove down to Los Cados, which is south of San Francisco, and we had lunch there, a leisurely talk about, it wasn't, it wasn't a big problem, I mean, just a way of how we could work it out. He was, he was editing, I think, , so he, during the week he didn't have any time, and since I worked for I didn't have any time either, but I felt that the weekends were legitimately mine to do as I chose. So we decided to go down every weekend and start interviewing the various people who were in, not so much organized camps or groups, but who were scattered along the roadside, living in, in the car itself, or in ragged tents, stretches of canvas on, on a, even on wet soil, grass. At any rate, it gave us, this way, we could, we could move, we didn't have to be too much disturbed, I mean, we worked with individual families.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 5
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Tell me a little bit about how, how you would do this on the weekends, you would—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

I'm sorry, can we cut for a second?

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Sure.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Mark.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, describe it for a little bit, how—

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, as I said, we would go down on the weekend, which meant, since I lived in San Francisco, I'd go down to the nearest Safeway, and fill up my station wagon with all the cheapest cuts of meat, and the bulk, things that were filling, but not expensive, and day-old bread, and such things as old, wilted vegetables that the market probably couldn't sell anyway, and so they were at a bargain. Made a very healthy sort of a mixture, anyway, and we, the purpose of these things were not in any way a bribe, or a gift. These were a method that we felt, that could sort of, not just show, show our interest in them, but we, we would ask them sort of to cook it for us, make it look as if they were doing us a favor. These were very proud people, that's one thing I can't overemphasize. These were very independent, I would say, religious, god-fearing people who weren't looking for any charity, and of course there was no, there was no such thing as welfare or relief or, there was statewide relief, but they found out that they weren't eligible because they hadn't lived anyplace in California for a year, which I think was a necessity. But at any rate, they weren't looking for, they were looking for jobs. By, by our coming there, and trying to become part of the family when we interviewed, they could accept us. We never, I never found any semblance of resentment as, while I was poking a camera in their face and taking their pictures. Of course, I really sort of followed behind Steinbeck; he interviewed the people, he talked to them, and I just happened to be there taking pictures. They accepted this, never a question so far as I could see. I think the pictures sort of show the fact, that these, these people, I don't want to say they were relaxed, but they were not posing, they were just being themselves, and of course they're sad pictures, in many ways. My wife says, Oh, they're lovely pictures, but I don't want to have any of them up in my room, because they are so discouraged. I always, I always felt that these people had reached the point of, that they were truly, had been...life had just beaten them down, and they accepted whatever demands, for example, that I would make, taking pictures, without any question.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 6
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Tell me a little bit about how you felt during all this time, about what you were seeing.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, it was a, it was a great education for me. I lived in, had always lived in rural, sort of farm communities. My family had been ranchers. I realized we didn't have much understanding or sympathy for these people who actually came to California, and were a part of the whole system of California agricultural wealth. I mean, the term "migratory laborers" was very apt, because, they were Mexicans originally, and they would come up usually from Mexico, or from Imperial Valley, and have a regular path that they would go every year, migrating, if you want to call it that, up to, finishing up with the apples up in Washington state. Through oranges, through the lettuce, the oranges, the, and the various what they call "stoop crops", because they had to stoop to pick them or cultivate them, and then ending with the fruit in, up near Yakima Valley. So, and then they would come back and prepare, wait for the cycle to start all over again the next year, but all this had changed with these people, these Americans, Anglos, or call them whatever you want, all came out of Oklahoma, because they were not looking for a pattern job, they were looking for a job, anything, a permanent job if possible, because at that time they assumed that nobody was ever going to go back to the Dust Bowl. So they were quite a different, in quite different circumstances.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

And posed a very different problem for the state, I think.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, the state wasn't at all prepared for them or this problem. As a matter of fact, the people who had benefited most from the migratory laborers themselves were very resentful of the fact that the, here were people who were sort of really looking for permanence. It was much easier to deal with people who were here today, gone tomorrow, and you didn't have any responsibility for them, and who were in a position where they couldn't really demand anything in the way of consideration or wages or health or even elementary sanitation. There were, the farmers just felt no responsibility for them at all. One of the things that Dorothea Lange and her husband had done so well with the beginning of the understanding of the situation on the part of the government, because the government with the farm resettlement, or whatever—

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Hold on, a minute, we're out another camera roll.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh, well, I'm sorry...

SUSAN BELLOWS:

But I want to pick up with that story.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK.

HORACE BRISTOL:

OK.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Do you need to stretch at all?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Sure, I will.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK.

[cut]
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 7
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:96] [change to sound roll 318:50]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, mark, marker.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

We were talking before about the, the migrants, the Okies, and people who came in and posed kind of a different problem for the state, and really brought up this problem of responsibility, and who's going to be responsible. I wonder if you can talk to me some more about that.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, the farmers in California, I don't know whether this was a concerted attempt, or whether they actually realized what the situation was, but they didn't want any responsibility for these people. Oh, I started to tell you about how the Farm Resettlement was trying to make American people aware of the problem, and the photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Carl Meidenz[?] and others really helped. It was a form of propaganda, rather, maybe negative propaganda, but it helped to make Americans of that generation, at least, somewhat aware of the problem. In this they served, I think, and important position, and of course when, ultimately, when Steinbeck wrote , it was a very seminal sort of, beginning of the understanding of the problem, and therefore, extremely important to the American people. Actually, I don't think the people we photographed really benefited very much, but the awareness of the American people really has improved a great deal, and I think Steinbeck's book , and the movie, played a very great part in this. Of course, this was, the use of the book and the movie was very important, because I run across lots of people who haven't read , but they've seen . Fortunately, since 20th Century Fox used some of my pictures as, well, giving some information for casting. I don't know how important it was, but some of the people that ended up in the movies [sic] were actually dead ringers for, for the people that Steinbeck and I photographed, and talked with. So, I think that the modern generation is at least a little aware of what things were like, which was not the case in 1937.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Yeah, I was going to say, it was really, the reality of these peoples' hard times really became art, and there was this awakening.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Yeah. That's right. It was very slow, and didn't, in the '37s [sic], it wasn't true. I personally didn't, I didn't know how impressed I was until retroactively, looking back, I realized that it made me a lot more sympathetic and understanding for these people.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 8
SUSAN BELLOWS:

I wonder, I want to take you back a little bit, and ask for you to describe for me again the living conditions of these people, what you saw when you and Steinbeck went down there. How were they living, what did it look like?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, the worst, they weren't, sleeping on, without any covering, but they were sleeping with just a ragged piece of canvas or cloth to actually break the rain. They were wet, and the grass or the dirt was wet. Some of them would build their tents or raise their tents, if they had any, underneath the concrete roadway culverts, which meant that they had perfect protection from overhead rain, but when the streams began to, to build up, it had its own dangers, of course they would have to move. I don't think anybody was forced out by the rains, but then they had no steady form of obtaining food. There was, they had no money to buy food, and there were no stores for them to buy food, and no provisions to provide... Actually, the American communities were, individually, charitable people, but this was just overwhelming, and they rather ignored the... there were individual people who would try to do something, but it was a little too big for, to undertake as personal charity. I mean, I'm sure the churches did what they could, and individuals did what they could, but there was, I think, a general tendency to ignore the whole situation, just, just sweep it under the rug, so that you didn't think about it.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 9
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Describe what it looked like when you were down there in the spring during the floods. What did you see then, among  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, of course, Steinbeck did tell the story of how some of the families were living in, twenty-four families in, to a boxcar, which was provided by the individual farmers in this particular case, but, and then watch the rain and the floods come up inch by inch, until—

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 10
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Why, why don't you tell me that story as you saw it, because you were there, you told me before you'd gone there? Why don't you tell me what it looked like to you, when you were there?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, these boxcars had become just inundated, so that the water was maybe a foot or so in, and over, overrun the floor of it. The washing was hanging up to dry over, just, not roaring fields of water, but, just gently running fields of water. It wasn't the kind of flood where, that washed out things, it just was, water permeated every place. Of course, the, when it became sort of general, there was not so much place for these people to move to. I mean, they always moved to higher ground, but all of them were sort of road-bound in the sense that they, they had to, everybody had to have some form of transportation, because, it wasn't, there was no public transportation, if they wanted to go any place in search of a job, they had to have a broken down "jalopy", they called it, that people kept running some way or other, with baling wire, or rags, to keep, keep the gasoline, which was, they would buy by the gallon. But it was very important to them to have this, but they were sad-looking vehicles. So they, they more or less...

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 11
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Talk to me a little bit about what you felt. You would be leaving your home in the Bay area...

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, that was a difficult thing, I'm sure, for Steinbeck, and certainly it was for me. The sense that we would, we would go down the night before to, to be there in the early morning to start working on Saturday, and naturally we'd stay in a...motels weren't luxurious as they can be now. They were just the cheapest form of place to sleep, but they were warm and relatively comfortable, and they all had coffee shops where we could get nice, hot breakfast, and so we would, we would early in the morning have our breakfast there, and coming out of a warm situation, start working with people who had, who were shivering, who had nothing, no food. It was sort of a shameful situation for us, because you couldn't, I mean, if we'd been hungry too, and I think we kinda felt we should be hungry, in order to really have great empathy with, with these people, but naturally, I mean, life does go on. So, we—

SUSAN BELLOWS:

You need a break now?

HORACE BRISTOL:

You all right?

[camera cuts, audio continues]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Yeah. Yeah, good, OK, it's another ten-minute pause. You talk fast, don't you?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh really, are you already—

[audio cuts out] [change to camera roll 318:97] [sound roll 318:50]
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 12
SUSAN BELLOWS:

We were just talking in the break about the kind of questions that seeing these poor people raised about our economic system in the country. You want to tell me a little bit about that?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, I, nobody talked politics to them, nobody talked about the government. They didn't feel, they didn't express any feeling that they were entitled to anything. They sort of thought the way I felt, that it, I mean, they themselves felt, I didn't feel it, but they thought, this is just an act of God, that has put them in this position. They weren't really about to feel that they, that any special, that anything was owed them at all. They did feel a little resentment about, that they were, some attempt to mislead them as to working conditions was made on the part of somebody, and that was the growers, and this was really shameful. But in general, perhaps I should explain, in '37, about that time, well, earlier of course, it developed, but it was fairly strong, the feeling that there was something missing, something wrong, with this system that allowed this sort of thing just to be accepted. A lot of talk about Steinbeck being a Communist, and whatnot, and the sort of agitation against Steinbeck even in his own hometown as being a Communist, I felt was very unfair. I don't know whether he was a Communist, and frankly I didn't care whether he was a Communist, but he had so much sympathy for the underdog in the system, that he, like so many intellectuals...I would kind of like to say thinking people, felt, this shouldn't be. So, he was...he didn't talk politics to me, at all, when naturally we couldn't go and be with these people without talking a little bit, and being not just shocked, but sympathetic. That was the main thing, I mean, it was not the kind of thing you were shocked about, because you, you sort of accepted that this existed, there was no use being shocked about it. But we couldn't help but feel that, somehow or other, fundamentally, this was wrong, particularly in a country as rich as America was at the time.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 13
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Describe for me a little bit more about how the migrants were treated by local residents, or state officials, or the growers themselves. What kind of treatment did they receive?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, in general, I felt that the, the local people, farmers, particularly the associated, the individual farmers are one thing, but when they grew into associated farmers, would have been very happy if they could have ignored it, and pretended that they didn't exist. But since they did exist, they, they seemed to have a great deal of resentment against these people moving in, and just the fact that they did exist. I mean, it wasn't they resented them individually, it was just the fact that well, why should they sort of destroy the relatively smooth pattern of California life by, by just being there asking for a job, or hoping for a job? They were not, they were not terribly at all aggressive about it, but they were really rather pathetic in their hoping for some sort of work.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 14
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Did you ever hear of or see of residents or farmers or growers being aggressive in trying to move these people along, or—

HORACE BRISTOL:

No, there was a certain amount of strike activity, which in those days was not at all organized, as it became later by Chavez, or people like that, but it was all sort of more or less spontaneous. When people, for example, when the price per box went down beyond, beyond any reason, where it was, it was impossible, no matter how hard you worked, to earn enough to buy any food, or any appreciable amount of food, there were some strikes, sort of spontaneous strikes in the Salinas area. That's where I first ran across it, where, where the associated farmers and the highway patrols, and deputy sheriffs, and took, they were the ones who took the aggressive action, see. I don't wish to believe or paint these people as lily-white, I don't know. But I mean, I know that they all were unhappy in not being able to work, and perhaps I idealize them to a certain degree, because I certainly became very sympathetic with, with their wish for a better life, by working for it, and not at anybody else's expense.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 15
SUSAN BELLOWS:

I want to shift gears for a little bit, and talk about one of your later, next assignments for . You went up to the San Francisco—

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh, oh, before we finish about—

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, please do, go ahead.

HORACE BRISTOL:

—about, let me tell about the Rose of Sharon.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, please do.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Is that all right?

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Sure, that's fine.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Because, she's, this is one picture that I had, to me represented, it was a very sympathetic and I knew, photographically, a very, well, it expressed a certain mood and situation. Of a young woman, who was nursing a baby, and I thought it was a very sort of madonna-like situation, with a part of the, I mean, a hand of the husband in the background. So this happened to be kind of a favorite picture of mine. So, when Steinbeck used the story of this woman in the last few pages of the book, he changed it to her giving her breast to the dying man, and I was unhappy because, one, it hadn't happened, and two, it was not terribly fitting at that, at that time in 1937, American people were extremely conventional. Not the way we are today. It was, I thought it was put in to really sort of shock and titillate the readers, and I, when I expressed that opinion to Steinbeck, he was very resentful. So, at any rate, it may not have any importance, but I'd kind of like to put it in.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 16
SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK. We, well, I'm glad you shared that story. At, right around the time, actually, was coming out, you were given an assignment by to go up to the San Francisco Fair.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Yes, that was quite a different situation. This was all very light-hearted, and while it did have, the Fair did have a certain amount of seriousness, it had some artists such as Diego Rivera, Covarrubias, who painted murals, so culturally it was quite interesting, but it didn't seem to have a great significance in America's development. It was all, I thought, amusement park type of celebration, you know. I don't know.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Why did send you there to cover it?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, was all in favor of selling magazines, and one of the stories they were particularly interested in was the one on Sally Rand's nude ranch, where the girls in, just about as naked as they could get in those days, with not much more than a holster around their waist, were, one of their occupations was throwing horseshoes, to show a very bucolic situation. And I remember it so well, because—

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

We're out.

HORACE BRISTOL:

[laughs]

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Wait right there, pause there. You have to pick up the story right when we stick in a new roll—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

[laughs]

[audio cuts] [slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:98] [change to sound roll 318:51]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And...marker.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

So, finish telling me your story now.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, to finish the story, at any rate, I was photographing these girls playing horseshoes, and the main thing that I was very interested in was the little boy who was right beside me, and he was talking to his mother, and he said, "Say, Ma, those girls can't play horseshoes for anything," as if that was why the people came to...it was at that time, that kind of a show was quite, there was not all the kind of exposure that there. People kind of take for granted nowadays thanks to television and a few other things.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Thanks,  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] .

[cut]
[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 17
[slate marker visible on screen]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

So, if you would, can you talk to me a little bit about what you were aware of about the War, at this time, say in '39?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, in California, of course, or in the West, we were aware that there was a lot of, sort of, preparation for war. For example, I did a story for on, when they were developing the first what they called a Flying Fortress up in Seattle. In general, a lot of preparation and a lot of effort and money was being spent in, by '47 [sic], for what we called preparedness. It wasn't for war, but we, obviously people were worried about, about the possibilities. I happened to be driving with my son over a bridge in Washington when the news came that Hitler had invaded Poland, and my son, who was nine years old at the time, said, "Well, Dad, if that's the way the world is, it's a hell of a world to bring children into," and I agreed with him. I've agreed many times with children who feel that the older people can't adjust their lives so that we can live in peace. The only way that economies develop is when they can count on either defense spending, or war spending, as we did later on. So, we're still facing that now, the hangover from...Our prosperity here, in the West, was built on defense spending, and we're feeling the lack of it now.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 18
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Yeah. When your son said that, were you beginning to feel afraid about what was going on overseas, were you afraid you—

HORACE BRISTOL:

No, I, I mean I think it was such a shocking event. I don't know how many people remember about 1939, when they went in, but it was totally unexpected. I mean, we'd sort of lulled ourselves into the belief that everything was going to be all right, and it was a shock. Here we were facing, we weren't facing war actually ourselves, but it was the beginning of war. Of course, when war actually came, I went into the Navy and was lucky enough to be able to still continue to do stories with, with a photographer, under a photographer, who commissioned, who himself was commissioned, and then commissioned five officers to photograph the Navy at war.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 19
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Was there, you were living in California all during these years, was there a little bit more awareness of what was going on in Japan, or any fear of...

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh, there was, there was really, the Japanese, I mean, California or the West, has been very racist anyway, beginning with people like William Randolph Hearst, who was my wife's, my, pardon me, my mother's employee [sic]. She was an editor of a woman's section of a Hearst paper, and Hearst was talking all the time about the "yellow peril", and how Japan was such a danger to, to America. So the farmers were aware in some ways, in a resentful way, of the fact that the Japanese would come and get a small piece of otherwise wasteland, and turn it into a truly productive situation. The farmers were, I don't know whether I should say envious, but they were resentful of the Japanese ability to do that. And they criticized it, based, largely on the basis, well, they said, they worked long hours, the wife works, the children work, and of course that happens to be a rather Japanese convention, everybody turning to and working, and it was true. So, when war came, California was quite happy to confiscate the land and incarcerate, or whatever you want to call it, the Japanese in internment camps. By that time, I began to be a little bit understanding and resentful myself of this attitude towards hardworking people, who wanted nothing more than just to be allowed to work hard.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 20
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Were you shocked by Pearl Harbor, were you surprised by that?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, I didn't believe, I didn't believe that the Japanese would be powerful enough to undertake such a thing, because Japan is a very small place, with practically no resources, and we're such a big country, with every resource, and I couldn't believe that the, that the Japanese would make war on the United States. One of my, when I went to Japan later on, one of the men that I was quite interested in reading about was an admiral, Japanese admiral named Yamamoto, who said, frankly, he said, "This a great mistake. We're never going to win this war." He'd been an ambassador in Washington, and he knew the power of America. But I never personally expected to see this happen, or the day that Pearl Harbor occurred.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 21
SUSAN BELLOWS:

I think, tell me a little bit about what happened in California after Pearl Harbor.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, there was, I was in Alaska when Pearl Harbor occurred, and when I finally came down to, managed to get back to California, I was, I knew that my life as a photographer was going to be very restricted, because California, particularly, had almost hysteria about the Japanese landing as they did at Pearl Harbor, so that any photography that could be considered of strategic objects was forbidden here. I mean, if you even took a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, people would say, that could be used for spying. So I was quite happy to go into the service, into the Navy, and be able to take pictures that were sort of constructive. My wife called, I was in the Navy as Lieutenant-Commander for four years, and my wife calls me the photographer correspondent who never took pictures of blood or anything like that. I tried to do stories that were constructive, about what Americans were doing and could do, not actually the devastating part of war. Perhaps it's a cop-out on my part, but I felt I could still do a job in a constructive way.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 22
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Well, I think everybody felt very differently about that war. I wanted just to ask you if you have any—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Yeah, I know...summary thoughts about how living through those years changed you, changed your attitude, maybe not something you were aware of at the time, but, you know, something that you became aware of when you looked back on those years and what they meant to you, how they—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Cut.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:99] [sound roll 318:51]
SUSAN BELLOWS:

OK, I want to just talk about, what you think when you look back on those years, how it changed you or changed the country, or what started, maybe, during those years.

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, at 84, you have a lot of time to think about what we all did wrong, actually, and if we learned anything from the last depression, I hope that it will be in some ways conducive to understanding of what we must do in the future. I feel that, for one thing, television is a very good thing to make, particularly the young people, what it was like, and what it shouldn't be like in the future. So, I'm very grateful for having gone through these years, and learning something. I mean, unfortunately, nobody can learn except by experience, I mean, textbooks and all that don't help too much. Sometimes I think television is going to help people do this.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 23
SUSAN BELLOWS:

But what did you learn during those years, would you say?

HORACE BRISTOL:

Well, "learn" is a big, big order. How I feel, I feel that we all should be aware of what goes on around us, rather than just take it all for granted. Because, I know, as a young man, I was relatively young in the '30s, I just took things for granted. I found out that things didn't work out very happily for lots of people, just around me. I wasn't thinking about the outside world, but, I mean, here in my own communities, that is, in California, where I felt it was my home and community, and should have been responsible for. I took everything for granted. I just, I hope that that doesn't carry on into the '90s and the next century, actually, where people will be aware of what's happening.

[missing figure]wyzgaMN8eUM
QUESTION 24
SUSAN BELLOWS:

Now, you started to tell me, you thought the '30s were the beginning of an awareness of, and I wasn't quite sure—

HORACE BRISTOL:

Oh, well, the '30s were the beginning of, as far as I was concerned, of the fact that, that Americans are not exempt from problems at all, that we have to understand and accept, and find some sort of solution for them. I mean this, I know this sounds very utopian or something, I don't mean that, but I just feel...the people that I met, for example, in the, in the "valley where the grapes of wrath were stored," in that particular case we were so unaware, and so uncaring, of our own people. I mean, I'm happy to see that today we're caring a little bit about what's happening in Somali-land, or Somali, Somalia, but I do hope that we also can be considerate of our own people and planning more for the way we do it in the future. I'm sorry, that's not very good...

SUSAN BELLOWS:

No, no, no, that was—

HORACE BRISTOL:

That was [sic] very well-worded.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

It was very fine. Thank you.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, let's cut.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Yeah.

HORACE BRISTOL:

OK.

SUSAN BELLOWS:

Thank you so much.

[end of interview]