In the Grapevine Public Library, there is a poster displaying one of the most iconic images from the Great Depression; Migrant Mother. I have seen this photograph for years and have always been struck by the woman in the picture; both strong and vulnerable, defeated and determined, plain and beautiful. The image was shot in a pea picker camp in 1936 after the timing belt in their car had snapped and her husband and sons were away having repairs done in town. Six photographs were taken of Florence Owens Thompson and her children by Dorothea Lange, working for the Resettlement Administration. In 1998, the iconic image was turned into a 32 cent postage stamp, which is a bit poetic in the fact that Florence was only 32 years old at the time. Only a few years out of her 20s and yet she looked so much older.
A second picture in this series moved me so much, that I based a post on it called, It wasn’t supposed to be like this…. In the foreground is 14 year old Viola, looking as if her disappointment in life was more than she could bear. At 14, we all long for more than is reasonable, but in Viola’s case, life was indeed worse than she could have expected. Add that to the ennui resident in the soul of the normal 14 year old and you can see this girl, longing for beauty, romance and “happily ever after”, is sure that life is over before the exciting part got started.
The happy news is that they did make it. I found an image of Florence and her three daughters in 1979, 43 years after the photograph was taken.
I do not know the details of all the people in the original photograph. What was the story of Viola’s life, after she moved on from this iconic image? I have not found the story. What I do know, is that they were ashamed. They were dirt poor, selling the tires off their car to buy food, when this photographer arrived to take their pictures. They never wanted to be identified as “that family” the poor Okies in the image that nearly everyone in North America has seen.
It was not until Florence was very ill, and unable to pay her hospital bills, that the family eventually came to understand the importance of that image. The request went out for donations and they received $25,000 to pay for the expenses. After Florence died, the surviving son (the baby in the famous photograph) received 2,000 letters which showed him that this image, a curse on his family for his whole life, was much greater than his shame. It was a source of inspiration and encouragement to people he would never meet.
Share your experiences as a job seeker. I have never been so surprised as I was when a talented, intelligent job seeker I barely knew, thanked me, in front of a small group of other job seekers, for my blog. She said that my posts let her know that she was not alone. Others were facing her same struggle and they were doing it with humor and honesty. I’ve been thanked by others since that time.
I have written about my grandfather, Choctaw Bowman, who went on to achieve modest success after a hard start in life. However, it is my other grandfather, Bill Snider, who never achieved success, who inspires me. I hope to publish his story some day, but suffice it to say, he was knocked down time and time again, only to beat out a modest living and die happy.
I was laid off well after the prime of my life. I had no dreams of rising back to my former glory and traveling the world in business class, staying in four star hotels and eating steak dinners on a corporate expense account.I had to face the harsh realities that life was not going to end as well as it had started.
That is what I chose to write about.
We can not all succeed but we will all fail. Share your experiences as you forge a path forward. Blog your experiences and you just might find that you are being thanked by someone younger, more talented and intelligent than you are, because you share a common experience with honesty, humor and hope.
Good Luck and Godspeed,
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