Interview with Paul Edwards
Interview with Paul Edwards
Interview Date: July 13, 1992

Camera Rolls: 314:52-55
Sound Rolls: 314:27-28
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 Paul Edwards , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on July 13, 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
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[camera roll 314:52] [sound roll 314:27] [slate marker visible on screen]
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QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

OK, I think—let's just start where we just left off. Just tell me what your, what you felt the Depression was, you know, the condition of the country at the, at that, at that time in '34.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. 1934 was something of a pivotal year in the history of the Depression. It was—we'd been through, particularly if you were in the Middle West or the Northwest where I was, we'd been through at least three or four years of Depression. I mean, our crops had been without value. Work was very scarce. And it was, we were in a depressed area long before the consequences of Wall Street's collapse hit us out there. In fact, we didn't know Wall Street. Who owned stock in Aberdeen, South Dakota? Very, very few people. And the state was not in an agitated— [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

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QUESTION 2
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INTERVIEWER:

Let's begin just about what you felt that, you know, you felt that the Depression was inevitable and—

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. The Depression was not a thing of great urgency. It didn't hit you all of a sudden in its totality. It crept up on you. It crept from the Middle West, where prices were down, farmlands were down and everything. And we didn't, we didn't question it as, as a historic procedure. It was sort of God's will. He imposed this on us. We lived with it reasonably comfortable. You had to move around, you had to job hunt, and if you were a young guy, you were particularly up the creek. But I have no remembrance of being deeply engrossed in the significance of the impression [sic] until some alternatives turned up. By 1934, the government began to assert its role in our lives. It's the first time the government had come into a, a working relationship with people in great numbers. I remember the first piece of legislation was the Federal Works Program, and—

INTERVIEWER:

Actually, I'm not, I don't want to—I'll stop you here, because I don't really want to get into that part of it.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yep. OK.

INTERVIEWER:

But to repeat just again the, that you just felt that there's nothing you could do about the Depression.

PAUL EDWARDS:

That's right, right. You want a repeat on that?

INTERVIEWER:

Yeah.

PAUL EDWARDS:

The Depression did not hit us all of a sudden with great, dramatic force. We kind of slid into it, and we, we had no sense that it was a great financial collapse. We just thought that things were tough, and that had been imposed on us historically.

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QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

But things were always tough, but did it seem like it was any different?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yeah. Well, they got tougher. It was a, was a creeping sort of thing. It, until it hit you it was somebody else, someplace else, the other fellow. But gradually, with the, even the simplest kind of hard-hand labor, ditch digging, harvest work, and what have you, those kind of jobs began to vanish, and you had people congregating working men. We had a great class of working men in those days, the likes of which doesn't exist now; either you're in the middle class or you're on welfare, and, I mean, that division and anxiety. These hard-hand laborers were, were in the American economy in thousands. I remember towns like Duluth and Spokane and later Los Angeles and San Francisco where thousands of men were on the street. And everybody got up in the morning and went someplace where they'd had the tip there was going to be a job. And when you got there with your tip and all, you're here with three or four hundred men outside the gate fighting like dogs to get through to where there were maybe three or four jobs wanted on the, on the gang in the hole, you know. And it was, it was massive but ill-defined. We didn't know—Guy would go down earlier in the morning at the line-up, or wherever you thought there's going to be a job, and by nine o' clock you know there wasn't going to be, so you drifted over to skid row, and there's where you hit your agitators. That's the old days of agitators. These guys would be up on a box or a chair, and some of them were preaching Communism, some of them were preaching religion, and socialism. I remember one black preacher says, up there standing up, got a pair of gloves on, just white cotton gloves, and he'd wring his hands, and he'd say, "Jesus Christ say he's coming' in the crowd. He ain't coming' through a crowd, he ain't coming' by a crowd, he's coming' in the crowd." You know, just senseless maunderings. But men would gather round, and they'd shout derisively to him. It didn't bother him. He just kept going. But then, about after an hour or so of that, they'd form up and they'd march on City Hall.

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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

OK, OK. Let's move on to—

PAUL EDWARDS:

OK, something else. Good enough.

INTERVIEWER:

[laughs] I want you to tell me about, actually, in this vein, when you first heard Upton Sinclair. Tell me about going into the meeting and what attracted you to him, and—

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. My, my first experience of encountering Upton Sinclair was a result of wandering around downtown in Los Angeles looking for something to do and hopefully some kind of work to earn a few bucks, few quarters. And I came to this all. I can't remember where it was, but it was somewhere not too far from the Biltmore. I went in. I'd, I'd read about Sinclair in the, in the papers, but I'd never seen him. And I went in, sat down, and we sat there. There was probably three or four hundred man, most of whom were just  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  death to get a place to sit down. They didn't come there for enlightenment. But out on the stage came this little dapper fellow, little silver-haired guy, small, looking like a professional man that had no relationship with that audience, and wore glasses, a kind of pince-nez sort of thing, which set him apart of from the run of the mine [sic] anyhow. And he began his speech. Well, I had been reading some of his stuff. I had read the book , , and I was terribly impressed with that book. He, he makes a clever remark about that book. He says that he wrote that book to get to the minds and hearts of the American people and he hit them in the stomach, because it, it, it didn't result in any great sympathy for the workers, which he was out to create, but Americans as a people became aware of the filthy conditions under which their meat was being prepared, and it caused a whole revision in all the laws applied to it. Well, he, he was, he reached you with the common sense that you felt in his thesis that we should, had millions of people out of work, and should be producing for consumption. End Poverty in California was predicated basically on the theory that you've got all this manpower, and all this talent, and all these goods going to waste. And what would make sense would be to apply the use of those goods and the production of goods to meet the needs of those who had nothing. And if you were one of the us, as most of us were sitting in that audience, that made a hell of a lot of sense.

INTERVIEWER:

Why did it make sense?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Because we had, we, we would stand around on the streets of the city. Take Los Angeles for example. I can remember when there was a man on every corner, huckstering fruit, particularly oranges. A big sack of oranges for twenty-five cents, you know, twelve, fifteen pounds. And everywhere you read about the destruction of crops. I remember the story,
** I think there was a photo of it in one of the L.A. papers, of almost a quarter-mile long, a pile of oranges as high as your head. And they'd throw gasoline up over it and set fire to it,
** and burn them up, just, just to get them off the market. The market prices had collapse. That was true everywhere. In South Dakota, I remember harvesting wheat and when we sold it for twenty-seven cents a bushel. And you couldn't hardly pay for the gas you used hauling it to the elevator. That was that total collapse of the, that economy. So then, then the drama began to come home. But it wasn't the working stiffs that caused the trouble. The, the, where they tried to, attempted to lynch one of the government agents was in Iowa, a group of farmers attacked this truck and spilled the milk, and we saw it all over the country. And that was the first incidence of violence.

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QUESTION 5
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INTERVIEWER:

Let's go back to Upton Sinclair, though, and California, in California.

PAUL EDWARDS:

OK. Hold on, though.

INTERVIEWER:

And when you described it to me before, it's more of an emotional response. I mean, you knew that they were pouring, an idea that they were pouring gasoline on these oranges and there were people there hungry. Kind of, kind of tell me what you felt as a seventeen-year-old.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. I was a seventeen-year-old kid when this was going on, and I wasn't a choice piece in the marketplace. But I was hungry. I stole milk off the back porches to eat. We had bottle milk in those days, so you can steal a bottle of milk and drink it and sell the bottle for a dime. And so it was a common, ordinary way of staying alive was to pilfer those back porches in the early morning. Well, into this thing stepped this little silver-haired man, right, saying that even to my young mind made sense in terms of, of need and in terms of the circumstances that existed. He reached—you know, it was funny. He was not a dramatic speaker. He was very a very pedantic sort of dude. He felt deeply, but he was not a glamorous soul who moved you with passion and that sort of thing. He just laid it out very fundamentally in a very ordinary type of delivery. He wrote much more ferociously than he spoke. And he, when he wrote, his language was full fire, and you didn't forget it. But—

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QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

And he [Upton Sinclair] appealed to you.

PAUL EDWARDS:

But somehow or other, he reached you. He had, he had, there's this earnestness about him. And he felt, you felt like someone was speaking to your circumstance. And very few people were in those days.
** It wasn't, it wasn't as though there was a plenitude of this kind of thought. He was, he had, he had a way of speaking and of taking you with logic to his ultimate conclusion.

INTERVIEWER:

Now, you said you were very inspired by him—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

We should pause.

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QUESTION 7
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INTERVIEWER:

OK, you were telling me before about how Sinclair captured your imagination, and how he inspired you. Tell me about that feeling in you that he evoked.

PAUL EDWARDS:

All right, good. I suppose that Upton Sinclair was one of the real, basic, formative factors in the way I've lived my life. He, he had a sense of, of making you want to do something good and serve people, and it became the whole thesis underlying my political and public career, because I never, I never lost the basic fact that he put into that, you know. Production for use. I still can live with that as a slogan very effectively, and I think as a matter of fact I'm struck with it today, because night before last on the tube—you don't want that story?

INTERVIEWER:

No, we have to stay back in the time period.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right.

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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

But it, it, let's just continue on. What's, explain to me again what was "Production for Use" and what it meant to you as a seventeen-year-old.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. "Production for use" was a concept that appealed to me, because I had been without many things and many essentials for a long time. I'm talking about food and shelter. And at the same time, the, the time the country was full of rotting services, and, and, and fruit and vegetables and everything. You couldn't sell them, you couldn't give them away, but they weren't made available to you.

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QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

I'll have you start one more, one more time. And the way that you told it to me before, which was that you had seen, that you knew that they were pouring gasoline all over the oranges, and that you were, you were hungry, and—can you start that way?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. If you can imagine how it must have seemed to me as a kid without resources and hunger, to pick up a newspaper and see a photograph of huge, monumental piles of oranges, and I'm not talking about throw-aways or culleds [sic], these were choice oranges, right. And they'd throw gasoline up over there, and here'd be a huge bonfire that didn't really consume the oranges but destroyed them. I think as much as anything else it was the destruction of them. If they'd, if they'd burned them all up, that would have been something, but instead there was a pile of unusable waste, you know. And, and that outraged me. That filled me with rage. And, and it continues to fill me with rage
** when, when I encounter hunger and supplies sitting unrelated. And I've had a lot of occasions to do that in my life.

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QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

And how did Sinclair connect those concepts to you?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Well, immediately it came to mind when he was speaking and he used the phrase "Production for use." This was an absolute refutation of what I'd seen. This was to make those oranges available to hungry people, or whatever, whatever was involved, or other stuff as well. And, you know, if you're seventeen and impressionable and you look at that, and you think,
** "Well, God almighty, what's the matter, where's the sense in this circumstance?"
** And Sinclair was asking you to make sense out of it. That's, that's what grabbed people. And you have to understand what's surprising is that instead of applause from the segment of the population who had things, they were scared to death of him. They saw him as the avenging angel come to balance out their sins. And, and it was, it was amazing to me how the animus of people was roused towards this little guy when, when he was trying to preach salvation, you know. He was, he was talking in terms of, of things that could greatly alter the circumstances of the worst-off.

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QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

You said, you used the words before that he [Upton Sinclair] captured your imagination. Can you use those words again as you're telling me what you felt about him?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yeah, yeah. Right. I suppose the, the thing that stayed with me almost visionary. This little man seemed like a sort of avenging angel.
** He was, he was—to find this kind of philosophy and this kind of concern flowing from a man as distinctive and as, as, with the status he had in society. He was an established author. and , and these other books had come out. He was one of a group called the muckrakers. You remember them? Ida Tarbell, I can't remember, there were four or five of them that were labelled this. And he was, he was the one that was most productive and got it into the public mind and the public mainstream some of these terrible circumstances.

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QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

So how did he [Upton Sinclair] capture you? You said that he, his words and ideas capture your imagination?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. I suppose one of the most effective things about him was that without any hyper stuff or without anything, he spoke to you in a way that struck home with you. And he became a source of inspiration and of, of philosophical enlightenment. He took you out of the ordinary stuff you had. Mind you, I'm a high school graduate at this time, so I'm a very learned man. But no place in that educational process had there been anything comparable that moved me and took hold of me and influenced my whole life the way his, his discourses did.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, OK. Can, can you stop for a second?

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QUESTION 13
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PAUL EDWARDS:

I had been out of high school for some time, and I had travelled and worked in the Northwest up to that time. I worked in fruit and I worked in the harvest and I worked in the forest. I worked as a bull cook in a lumber camp. And all of a sudden, I, my brothers were in California, two of them, employed. And California was the land of milk and honey. Everybody thought that if you can get to California and get a job you'll make it, you know.
** So my brothers had come home for Christmas, and we all had Christmas together, and they went back to California. And when they left, there was a great hole in my life. So I talked my dad into lending me a five dollar bill, and I started hitchhiking south.
** And California has always had a great appeal, and particularly the north/south pull, along the coast. Everything seemed ordinary in your home state of western Oregon, but if you got over that border into California you were tripping, you know. And, so I, you know, and then there—with the kind of illusions that a kid has, I can just see myself being discovered as a movie talent. Somebody was bound to understand my beauty and be intrigued by me. And particularly that was enforced up in my area when Bing Crosby came down there. Bing, Bing was a hometown boy. I was in high school when we hired him, his band, when he was going to Gonzaga [University] to play the junior prom. So he was an ordinary mortal who all of a sudden was just, had hit the happy land, right. And everybody thought that they were closer to Bing than they were, and they were going to come down and run into Bing, and he was going to get you a job. All those things. It, it was a pull that no seventeen-year-old kid could resist. It was just much too much.

INTERVIEWER:

You said also, you said that it's like a magic about California. Can you tell me that?

PAUL EDWARDS:

California had a connotation of magic. It was where things happened that no other state, no other community produced, you know. It, it was, it was excitement. It ran all the way from horse races to movies, you know, those things and sports. USC was the dominant sports college on the west coast in those days and had glamor boys galore. And I remember going to—one time I was in San Francisco and there was a big football game on there, and I wanted to go to it, and I didn't know how to get in. And just then the team came running by, and Ernie Nevers from Stanford was playing, and he handed me his helmet and said, "There, kid. Bring that in for me, will ya?" And I  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  go right into the ball game. So things could happen. Anything could happen to you in California. It was going to happen to you in Walla Walla or Spokane.

INTERVIEWER:

But there was— [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

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QUESTION 14
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INTERVIEWER:

So there was some magical pull, you know, a feeling?

PAUL EDWARDS:

That's right. It was a, it was a wonderland. It had an outreach, and you wanted to be part of it. Because everything else at home seemed to ordinary, but in California it was multiplied by X number.

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QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

Even when times were hard and there weren't that many jobs in California, you still felt that you could—

PAUL EDWARDS:

That was not reported to us. That was not part of the make up of the Spokane papers or the Walla Walla papers, or what have you. That side of California wasn't portrayed. It was the glitz and glimmer side of it that you got in the press, you know. And you, you didn't have any questions but, what, if you could get to California, most of your problems would be solved.

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QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me how you got, did you ride the rails into California?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Not that time. I did many times. I came down—

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me about riding the rails, about meeting guys like yourself looking for work.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. It's hard to imagine in these days the, the degree to which transient America was on the railroads. There were hitchhikers. I did a lot if myself. But the great mass of people swarmed onto those box cars and into those gondolas. And if it was cold weather, you got into a reefer. You kicked open the top of a refrigerator and crawled down in that area. I went one time across from, I went down to Colton, and I grabbed a train and headed east. It was an orange train, carrying all oranges, Manifest Fruit train. And we went down through Phoenix and across to Tucson and up to Liberal, Kansas, and on to Kansas City. And we stayed in that reefer. My kid brother and I managed to rip loose some restraining wires there and get into the oranges. So we ate oranges all the way across the country and we never lost that train. By the time we got to Kansas City my mouth was just ringed with sores. I was just—the acid, it really got to you. But—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

We have to change rolls.

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QUESTION 17
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INTERVIEWER:

You know, riding the rails, people called you guys hobos, right. And you would—and sometimes there was fear, you know, or they used to be, you know, the concern of whether to  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  of these hobos coming in. What'd you think about that?

PAUL EDWARDS:

The term "hobo" was seldom used by the guys that were on the road. It was a, it was something put together by the press and by the public, but you never thought of yourself as a hobo. You were a worker. You were looking for a job. "Hobo" has an implication of he's just riding the rails and going nowhere. He isn't looking for work, he wants a handout. Well, that wasn't characteristic of the great volume of men who were on the road. They were looking for jobs, and they, they, they moved around in relationship to the, to the least glimmer of hope.

INTERVIEWER:

Can we stop for a sec? Instead of saying "they," because you were part of it, right?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say "we"?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yeah, sure, fine. Right. That's good.

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QUESTION 18
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INTERVIEWER:

Ready?

PAUL EDWARDS:

The term "hobo" was something that was seldom heard by or used by people that were on the road. We, we were looking for jobs. We were looking for the places where there's work, and the least indication that if you got to Wisconsin there'd be a job, if you got to Minnesota there was work, or if you wanted to work in a harvest, get over to North Dakota. So that always there were, we really resented that term "hobo". And it wasn't used among the fraternity or brotherhood of free riders nor the railroad men didn't call you hobos either.

INTERVIEWER:

So what would be—were you kind of ordinary guys, just out of a job?

PAUL EDWARDS:

There was every element of society reflected in there. I remember one time going into a jungle when we got off the train, and there, oh, probably about 150 guys there, right. And there was a mutual cook-out, you see. Everybody would go out and hit the stores, get the waste vegetables, get the bad, unused cuts of meat, and then you all came together. And you had these five gallon oil cans, ten gallon oil cans, and you cooked up a Mulligan stew. And everybody shared in it. And there was no price attached to it, but you were expected to go out and do your soliciting for, you know, if you took part in it. I remember one time a man in a very handsome suit, wearing a tie and collar, looked like he didn't belong there at all. He, I got to talk to him, and he had just lost a good job. And he'd left his family, and he was heading out looking for work. That man stood out like a sore thumb, because he was still dressed in the garb of Main Street, you know? But he was with us, you know. And it was amazing, the different talents that were shown in, in that community. And then there was the low-life. I remember being in a jungle one night when a fellow came down, a pimp with two girls that were working for him, and he was selling those girls for fifty cents or a dollar a piece.

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QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

Let me ask you, kind of to go back on, you know, subject you talk about before. You know, a lot of times that you guys were being—what the press was saying was—

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INTERVIEWER:

—the government, you were radicals.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yeah. Right.

INTERVIEWER:

What, I mean, in response to that, what, what were you? Were you out to overthrow the government?

PAUL EDWARDS:

There was a, there was a kind of case made in the public press and certain elements of the community who tried to paint us as villains, as though we were on the border of assuming a Communistic control of the local community. And that, that picture was also so far from the truth. There just wasn't any such element. And I never heard revolution talked about, and I've been in jungles when they burned them down and burned you out, because they, they didn't want you in the community. It wasn't community acceptance. I don't mean that at all. But there was no real threat ever in all that I saw or did that where there was any kind of a threat of Communism or of revolutionaries. It just wasn't there. There was, I think I had, I remember one old Swede who was a Socialist by declaration. And there was a great number of, of people with Socialist background mixed into the working man's class. And that was because they game from Europe. And remember they had social security in Germany ever since 1880, right. And you had Sweden and Norway and Denmark and all those countries moving towards a more generous social concept of what government was for. These guys had been indoctrinated, and they were immigrants who came in the postwar period after World War I. And you ran into them, and you'd hear them if you were on a harvest crew at night, and conversation would build up while you—these guys had a clear idea that there was a better way to do things than we were doing them. And I suppose that to that degree they were inflammatory. But it was an inflammatory based on reason, and they were reasonable men.

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QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

And, and who were most—and you were—you said there were also a lot of guys like yourself out of high school who may have been, there were no jobs in their own community.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. I came out of high school in 1930, and was blindsided by the recession, but didn't, the Depression, and we didn't even know what it was, didn't know what the term was. We were just, it was in the natural course of events that we were on hard times. And we had to hustle for jobs. And we did all the lowly things that are done now by immigrant labor here and around this part of the country. We picked apples. We thinned apples in the spring. There was a sequence. You got, you thinned apples, which is to say, in the agriculture country, you knock every other apple off the tree.

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QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

Were you ever scared during this time that you'd never make it, that times were going to get so bad?

PAUL EDWARDS:

I never remember any sense of fear of tomorrow, or of the drift of things. We were swimming in a tough stream, but it was, it was the natural order of things. Once more, to say, we thought it was the logical way that history ran, that you had—my brother  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  used to make me, he was my oldest brother, and he'd make me work hard, because you hired out for tough. You knew it was tough, and you hired out to handle these big bundles or pitch bundles or pitch hay or whatever. He always felt it was your obligation as a working man to, to give the man his money's worth. That's not revolutionary, that's, that's pretty conservative, to the point of view that I don't, I have a hard time linking the word revolution with the Depression. There was a not a sense of revolt. There were individual flair-ups under great provocation, but there was no mass move towards the resolution of our problems by revolution. It just did not exist. I saw strikes and I saw riots and I saw police attack a gathering of discontent labor men in San Francisco on horseback. I wasn't there for the shooting. I left before the end. But we used to—there would be maybe 3,000 men.

INTERVIEWER:

I'm actually, I need to ask you to stop. Can we stop for a second?

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QUESTION 22
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CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Let's get settled here. Hold on just one second. Alrighty.

PAUL EDWARDS:

The California migration reached out to people in many directions. It just wasn't up in our part of the country. If you look at the Dust Bowl, in the intervening land, people by the hundreds of thousands drove out of there in old rickety wagons with stuff piled up on top them, and you know, "California or Bust." This was, this was the promised land. And, and they came short of money. My God, you can't imagine how short of money people had to go on. And they traded off jobs, they did little jobs, they did anything they could for a few gallons of gasoline to keep going west. And they bedded down in the damned circumstances, wherever there was a public park. My specialty was band stands. If you could find a band stand in a park, you could always crawl into that and be sheltered for the night. And it was a, it was a time of—there was a dynamic to it. It was, it was underway. It was massive in its import, and it's affect California ever since.

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QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

OK, that's—OK. Great. The next question I want to ask you again was about Upton Sinclair. You used the term that Sinclair was a "minor league miracle." [laughs] I liked that term.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Oh, you liked that? [laughs]

INTERVIEWER:

So if you could tell me again that that's what you felt about, you know, guys like you that— [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  Oh, we need the slate?

PAUL EDWARDS:

There was a fascination that followed from my exposure to Upton Sinclair that stayed with me all my life. He was, he wasn't big, he wasn't vociferous, he wasn't violent in his language, but he was a kind of a minor league miracle. He, he took you with him. And he took you into the thinking process. He was a thinking man's radical, you know. He wasn't just an ordinary skimmer, he, he really had a profound philosophy. And if you ever bought into it as I did, it became more or less the ruling motif of your life.

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QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

Explain to me once more about "Production for use," as if I know nothing about it.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. At the heart of the End Poverty in California program was really a very simple phrase, and that was "Production for use." That was a new term. We know about production for sale, for trade, and we, we had all sorts of commerce in which production was the—I remember Wendell Willkie used to say, "Per-duce. American must per-duce." And again we've got the same chant going by the little fellow down in Texas. "We gotta per-duce." And, but nobody ever put the ending on that phrase. Produce for what? Produce for use. That was what made sense to me, and it still does in this day and time. There is, there is such a capacity for production in America that shuts down when the profits aren't long enough. That seems to me that there ought to be some sort of a balance in there, that at that stage of the game you could produce it for use, and find a—I suppose, in a sense, the reasons the economists criticize it, they say that's resorting to a barter system. Well, I don't know that I condemn the barter system in its entirety.

[cut]
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QUESTION 25
[change to camera toll 314:55] [slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Let me get settled here. Just give me two seconds. OK. Any time now.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Production for use was more than a slogan. Every place I've ever been in the field of international aid—

INTERVIEWER:

I want you to stay with the, the past. Stay in '33, '34.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right, right. All right. Production for use as a slogan, or as absolutely the substance of End Poverty in California, reached out to every farmer, every fruit grower, every, everybody that was in the business of producing, particularly in the area of foodstuffs and that sort of thing. Because every wheat bin the Northwest was overflowing with wheat. And it was selling for as low as 27 cents a bushel. And that was not production cost by far. The farmers, out of sheer habit, kept growing the damn stuff, because farmers grow the wheat. And yet every corn bin, corn was—I remember hauling corn into this elevator in the Depression, working on this farm in Indiana, when it was three cents a bushel the day we went to the elevator. And the day we got there, it was dropped to two cents a bushel. Now you, you know this is not production for profit, so it was production for loss. So it was production for use was much more, much more sensible than the other proposal.

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QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

OK. You said you went to, you said you followed Sinclair around, went from meeting to meeting  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . Can you—

PAUL EDWARDS:

That's right. I suppose I went to only four or five different locations. I wasn't a, I was not a member of the troop. I wouldn't represent myself. I was just a, a convert or an addict. A new, a new formula. I went up into Ventura County. And we went out east of here to Imperial Valley, and that's where trouble came on, because that's where the police and the American Legion with the baseball bats broke up the meeting. The meeting was never held.

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QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

OK. That's one other, one other question. I want you again to describe to me what you describe very beautifully but I want to get one more time. Give me the visual image of, of knowing, of these oranges being, the gasoline poured on, and how that, how mad that made you when you knew that there were people who were hungry.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right. Going back to the, to the "Production for use." I suppose the most inflammatory thing that I was witnessed, or was imparted information and saw the pictures, were great rows of oranges, piled as high as your head, and they threw buckets of gasoline up over them, and then they touched a match to them. Oranges are not the best thing to burn. But there they were. They cooked and popped and blistered, and you threw away a quarter-mile-long rack of oranges. I remember one, one other fruit that was brought into play in the Depression, and that was when it hit San Francisco for the first time. And they were selling apples on the street. And here would be men, dressed in the kind of clothing that you'd go to work in an office.

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QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

 [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]  But back to the oranges just for a moment. And the oranges, seeing those made you understand "Production for use"?

PAUL EDWARDS:

Yes, yes. It, it—the sight of, the sight of the destruction of that amount of foodstuffs—and oranges were one of the early recognized virtuous fruits with lots of, of health-giving characteristics. And the idea of burning and wasting that volume of particularly useful foodstuffs outraged me, and it filled me with anger. And it became almost symbolic of why I was easy to persuade that this little man with the silver hair was preaching a gospel of salvation, that he was speaking to a very real situation. We were hungry,
** and here was food just being destroyed. They didn't even have a marketing program for it like they had later in the New Deal, where they took those same oranges and gave them to people. That became part of the Surplus Food Program, if you remember, as they did with beef in South Dakota, and they did with—up where I lived in those days, in South Dakota, that's when we learned to eat grapefruit. All those Texas Democrats had got the grapefruit that was grown in Texas into the market, and they were giving it away to the people in North, South Dakota who'd sometimes waste it and feed it to the hogs.

INTERVIEWER:

So in California things were just rotting while people were hungry.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Right.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Great. Good.

INTERVIEWER:

Thank you. Great.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Good. I hope it shapes up for you.

INTERVIEWER:

Oh, wonderful.

PAUL EDWARDS:

Good editing will help you.

[cut]
[end of interview]