Treasures Uncovered, but Mystery Remains

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By Judy Berman

Howard Carter’s candle flickered in the darkened tomb. He could see only small bits of it at a time.

It was 1922. For more than 3,000 years, it had been hidden. The tomb in the Valley of the Kings was nearly intact.

Tomb robbers had trashed a portion of the tomb in search of gold. But Carter, Lord Carnarvon (who financed the search), Carnarvon’s daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, and Carter’s assistant, A. R. Callender, also saw incredible wealth: a gold burial mask, statues, jewelry, chariots, weapons and a solid-gold coffin.

What they’d found was the tomb of a nearly forgotten Egyptian pharaoh – the boy king. King Tutankhamun, also known as King Tut, was 9 years old when he became pharaoh and reigned about 10 years from 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C.

On the third floor of a museum in Cocoa Beach, Steve Cayer has captured that scene inside the tomb, and he hopes to open it to the public this summer.

“I took pictures of the actual tomb, and we duplicated it for Al (Rao) to paint,” said Cayer, the curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures.

Cayer said the people who pilfered the chamber were the ones who built it. They took the gold and jewelry, and broke pottery to see what was in them. Then, they sealed it and no one knew of its existence.

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Until Carter’s discovery, Tut was almost unknown.

“There was almost no record of his life anywhere in Egypt, except on the walls of his tomb,” according to National Geographic’s website.

The burial site contains a stone sarcophagus with King Tutankhamun’s solid-gold coffin and two smaller coffins that are believed to contain his stillborn daughters.

Even more mysterious is how Tutankhamun died. That is still being investigated today.

In a nearby display case, Queen Nefertiti gazes down on the visitors in the museum. The replica, like the original in the Egyptian museum, was never finished. It has only one eye painted and an incomplete ear.

Queen Nefertiti bus from the Berlin museum

Queen Nefertiti bust from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin 

The Tourist Development Council helped finalize the money to buy the Egyptian exhibits in St. Louis before it returned to Cairo.

“I packed the stuff myself. It took two days,” Cayer said of the museum-quality exhibits.

The museum also features the famous trenches of Terra Cotta warriors. There is a painting of them on the wall, and Cayer aims to obtain replicas – about a dozen – of the soldiers.

Terracotta Army - the museum in Cocoa Beach aims to acquire some replicas to add to a mural depicting them.

Terracotta Army – the museum in Cocoa Beach aims to acquire some replicas to add to a mural depicting them.

When you walk thru the third floor, you also will see a replica of a sacrificial area from MesoAmerica, the Mayan culture. The work on this began seven years ago. It’s built in stages and then assembled here.

The tour thru these exhibits was exciting. I can’t wait to see the completed product.

 

What’s the coolest place you have ever visited or still hope to see?

 

Link to Steve Martin’s “King Tut” video on Saturday Night Live: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=127426280679189&set=vb.143791135690959&type=2&theater

Photo: King Tutankhamun – replica of his tomb – not yet open to the public – at the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida. photo by Judy Berman

Photo – King Tut’s death mask replica at the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo by Judy Berman

Photo: Terracotta Army of First Emperor – author airunp http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a0/Xian_guerreros_terracota_detalle.JPG/640px-Xian_guerreros_terracota_detalle.JPG

Photo: Nefertiti bust – Agyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum, Berlin), Dec. 28, 2005 – taken by Magnus Manske    (The Nefertiti bust in the Cocoa museum was excellent, my photo did not reflect that. So I chose to use the Berlin museum photo.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f9/Nefertiti_bust_%28front%29.jpg/450px-Nefertiti_bust_%28front%29.jpg

 

Fore more information:

KingTutOne.com – King Tut the boy pharaoh   http://www.kingtutone.com/tutankhamun/information/

King Tut’s Tomb   http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/king-tuts-tomb

Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida  http://www.museumofdinosaurs.org/

 

 

 

Ancient Beasts

 

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By Judy Berman

Skeletal remains of one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs tower overhead, just a few feet from me.

At 43 feet long and 12 feet tall at the hips, the Giganotosaurus, or Giant Southern Lizard, is terrifying. It’s one of the many impressive exhibits in a museum in Cocoa Beach, Florida, that hopes to open to the public next summer.

Steve Cayer, curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, acquired one of six castings of the “original (Giganotosaurus) found in Argentina in the 1990s.”

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Giganotosaurus stomped across South America’s swamp land about 100 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period.

That’s 30 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex made his appearance in North America. It weighs 8 tons, 3 tons more than T. Rex. One in pursuit of its prey is scary enough. But it’s believed Giganotosaurus hunted in packs.

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At the time dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Florida was under water. We’re millions of years removed from these ancient beasts.

Still, I shiver when I spot a Velociraptor chasing a juvenile Gallimimus over a fallen tree above the Giganotosaurus.

It’s a scary reminder of that scene in the movie “Jurassic Park,” when one of those predators outwitted park ranger Bob Peck (Malcolm) and slashes the ranger with its terrible long 3.5-inch retractable claws.

Donna Cayer, the museum’s education director, says their dinosaur museum will attract old and young alike.

“They know (dinosaurs) once lived. They come to life in their minds,” she said.

What about people who question that the dinosaurs ever existed?

“There are enough fossils found on every continent,” Donna Cayer said. “When they lived … we can debate that. All I know is they’re older than dirt.”

The Cayers and artist Al Rao help bring those scenes to life with dioramas that depict the period the dinosaurs lived in.

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In the Jurassic diorama, a killing machine, the Allosaurus (“different lizard”), attacks a Diplodocus. The Diplodocus, the largest dinosaur skeleton in the museum, is about 90 feet long.

The Cayers hope to open the $3.7 million museum project to the public next summer to coincide with the premier of the movie, “Jurassic World.” Their complete dream will become a reality with additional funding from corporate and individual donors to their nonprofit museum.

The movie will feature a hybrid dinosaur – as if the real ones weren’t scary enough. Steve Cayer said “the original movie, ‘Jurassic Park,’ has people all messed up. They brought (dinosaurs) back from different ages and they all lived together.”

The Cayers plan to have a museum that is lifelike, colorful and fun. The dinosaur exhibit will be housed on the second floor of their building. The third floor will feature ancient cultures.

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On the building’s first floor is the Dinosaur Store. There you can compare your foot to the size of a T. Rex’s footprint and check out other artifacts and replicas on display, and some for sale.

“One little boy was just walking around going: ‘Wow. Wow. Wow,” Donna Cayer said, chuckling as she recalled the 3-year-old’s reaction.

I felt the same way myself.

 

Do you have a well-kept secret in your neck of the woods? Are you looking forward to the new Jurassic World movie? Would a museum like this one intrigue you?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie video – premier of “Jurassic World” due out in June 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFinNxS5KN4 

Main Photo: T. Rex skull – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Photo: Giganotosaurus – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Photo: Velociraptor chasing prey on a fallen tree scene above the Giganotosaurus. Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Photo: Allosaurus attacking a Diplodocus – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Photo: compare the size of a T-Rex footprint to man’s. Steve Cayer, curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

 

 

Links to Dinosaur sites:

For more information on the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures in Cocoa Beach, Florida: http://www.museumofdinosaurs.org/

LiveScience – Giganotosaurus – Facts about the Giant Southern Lizard http://www.livescience.com/24642-giganotosaurus.html

Velociraptor Mongoliensis – National Geographic http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/prehistoric/velociraptor-mongoliensis/

LiveScience – Diplodocus – Facts about the Longest Dinosaur http://www.livescience.com/24326-diplodocus.html

LiveScience – Allosaurus – Facts about the “Different Lizard” http://www.livescience.com/24815-allosaurus.html

 

Buried Treasure

Treasure hunter

By Judy Berman

A beachcomber shuffles along the sand, shifts his metal detector slowly left, then right, in search of something shiny or black.

He scores a few bottle caps, loose change … and, then, he spots pieces of eight (gold), and silver that has a black silver sulfide patina on its surface.

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.* Treasure hunters today hope to strike it rich like Kip Wagner did in the 1950s.

Wagner, a retired Florida contractor, frequently went to the beach in search of driftwood next to the Sebastian River. Instead, after a hurricane, he found a piece of eight – also known as a cob, a Spanish silver coin dating back to the 1700s.

He wondered why gold and silver kept washing ashore near his home. None of the coins were dated past 1715.

He began working with his friend, Dr. Kip Kelso, in researching shipwrecks from that time.

They discovered that the treasure came from the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet. During a violent hurricane, 11 of 12 Spanish Galleons and one French ship sank between Sebastian and Fort Pierce.

About 700 people – crew and passengers – lost their lives, and the fleet’s precious cargo of gold, silver, jewels and jewelry now lay on the ocean floor.

Some 1,500 survivors struggled to shore and set up camp while awaiting rescue. This site, now known as the Survivors’ and Salvagers’ Camp, is in the Sebastian Inlet.

Treasure Island - book cover - 1911

Help did arrive within weeks. “Over the next four years, official Spanish salvors, Indian divers, English pirates, and privateers and river pirates of various nationalities flocked to the area to retrieve – or steal from each other – as much treasure as they could,” according to the McLarty Treasure Museum in Sebastian, Florida.

“Less than half the material originally listed on the ships’ manifest reached the Spanish treasury. The rest, so recently pried from the mountains (of Mexico and South America), now lay buried in sand and silt of the shore.”

Wagner purchased a $15 Army surplus metal detector. That led to finding the encampment, cannonballs, swords and artifacts from that site. Later, he took his search to the ocean and discovered remnants of one of the ships.

With the aid of their subcontractor, Mel Fisher, Wagner’s group – the Real Eight Company – salvaged the wreck of El Capitana from the 1715 Fleet.

By the mid-1960s, they hauled in “silver pieces of eight, gold doubloons, bars and plates of both metals, pearls, jewelry, and rare Chinese porcelains.”

Efforts continue to “coax from the seabed what 18th century divers left behind.”

Mel Fisher's Treasures, Sebastian - Oct. 2014 (4)

There are still untapped treasures and areas to explore along the Treasure Coast. Who knows what the next major storm will stir up from the ocean?

But some try to resist that siren’s call as young Jim Hawkins did in the last lines of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island”:

“The bar silver and the arms still lie, for all that I know, where Flint buried them, and certainly they shall lie there for me. Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island, and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”

 

Have you ever searched for treasure? Gold? Books? Memorabilia? What was your best find?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: The Spanish ship Atocha Shipwreck Found – Gold Treasure Discovery – Mel Fisher Story. It also includes search for the 1715 Spanish Fleet.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNdi4pbUIwc 

1.Main Photo: Treasure Hunter

2.Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – book cover (1911) – Illustrator: N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) http://www.openlibrary.org/details/treasureisland00steviala http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Treasure_Island_title_1911.jpg/436px-Treasure_Island_title_1911.jpg

3.Photo: Mel Fisher’s Treasures – 40 pound “clump” of about 500 silver coins as a diver would find them on the ocean floor.

* Quote: “The, eh, stuff that dreams are made of.” Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade) telling Ward Bond (Detective Tom Polhaus) what the black statuette is in the movie, “The Maltese Falcon.” (1941)

Link to: McLarty Treasure Museum at Sebastian Inlet State Park – http://www.floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet/activities.cfm

A Grand Weekend

Connor and Kaitlyn at the McLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Fl

By Judy Berman

Gold was within our reach. But we walked away empty-handed.

To some, that would be mighty disappointing. For the grands, Kaitlyn and Connor, it was just one of the adventures we had during their visit in October.

All great excursions involve food. Right? We stopped for lunch at Capt. Hiram’s Restaurant in Sebastian, Florida. While we ate, we sat on an open deck and watched plovers and sea gulls scurry back and forth hunting down their meal.

Mel Fisher Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida

Then we went down the street to Mel Fisher’s Treasures Museum.

After searching for 16 years, “a salvage team led by Mel Fisher recovered the mother lode of the Atocha” in 1985. The Atocha, which sank in 1622, met a similar fate as the eleven Spanish vessels that sank in 1715 in a storm near present-day Sebastian.

gold bar at Mel Fisher's Museum, Sebastian, Fl

Seven hundred lives were lost and more than 14 million pesos worth of treasure went down with the eleven Spanish Galleons. No wonder this area is referred to as the Treasure Coast

It’s typical to take the sites and attractions for granted. In our role as tour guides, we discovered the many treasures close to us.

The next day, we were transported from visions of gold, silver and jewels hauled from the depths of the sea to a ride up a seven-story tower overlooking Port Canaveral on the Space Coast in Brevard County.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral - Oct. 2014 (24)

What is it like to navigate a boat? The “pilots” made it looks easy, but I bet it’s harder to do than parallel-parking a car.

On the fifth floor, Connor, and then Kaitlyn, safely steered their vessel via a simulator through Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship. Not a dent or a scratch on either boat.

We shifted our course from the present to the past. It was all just a touch screen away.

Where did early native populations live? Where did the first European settlers land? We discovered this and more thru an interactive map.

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When you enter the Exploration Tower, and when you leave, visitors are reminded of our fragile environment via the exhibit, “Embrace,” by Sayaka Ganz.

Vivid blue and white right whales, red jellyfish and stingrays can be seen from the lobby and second floor. It’s remarkable not just by its size, but from the elements used to create it. Ganz recycled items that people toss away: kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

From trash to treasure. That, too, is worth more than gold.

What attraction near your home do you want to see or return to?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Video clip: Wallace & Gromit’s “A Grand Day Out” – ‘We Forgot the Crackers.’ (No, we didn’t forget the crackers, but we did have a Wallace & Gromit video marathon … and we had a grand time.)  http://www.spike.com/video-clips/czwml1/wallace-gromit-a-grand-day-out-we-forgot-the-crackers

Music Video: Jimmy Buffet singing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (with apologies to our vegetarian granddaughter) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBsPZV14I-k 

1.Main Photo: Connor and Kaitlyn outside the McLarty Treasure Museum which is part of the Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida.

2.Photo: Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida – photo taken by Ebyabe on April 25, 2011 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/67/Sebastian_FL_Fisher_msm04.jpg/640px-Sebastian_FL_Fisher_msm04.jpg

3.Photo: Gold bar from Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum

4.Photo: Exploration Tower – Port Canaveral, Florida – Connor and Kaitlyn piloting and navigating a boat using a simulator thru Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship.

5.Photo: Exploration Tower – “Embrace” exhibit by Sayaka Ganz. She captures the movement of right whales, rays and jellies out of discarded objects such as kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

Links to sites:

Mel Fisher’s Treasures in Sebastian, Florida http://www.melfisher.com/Sebastian/Sebastian_Museum.asp

McLarty Treasure Museum at Sebastian Inlet State Park – http://www.floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet/activities.cfm

Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral - http://www.explorationtower.com/

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Spooky

By Judy Berman

A narrow creek glides thru a quiet, secluded glen that is nestled in a little valley among high hills.

The gurgling brook could lull you to sleep as you wait for a fish to bite. A walk in the woods in the fall as the sun glints among the trees is calming. Autumn leaves litter the forest floor.

By nightfall, that same setting is menacing.

Each innocent sight and sound becomes more ominous. This is what a very superstitious Ichabod Crane encounters in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

One day, Ichabod, a lean and lanky bookish fellow, wanders into the village of Tarrytown (now known as Sleepy Hollow, New York). Single ladies there consider the new schoolmaster to be quite a catch.

But he longs for the lovely Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a Dutch farmer.

Ichabod’s attracted to Katrina’s beauty and to the wealth she would inherit when her father, Baltus Van Tassel, dies. Ichabod is consumed by daydreams of overseeing the spacious farmhouse on the “green, fertile banks of the Hudson River.”

Katrina doesn’t lack for suitors. Ichabod’s main rival was Brom Van Brunt, known as Brom Bones. Brom also was courting the very flirtatious Katrina.

One day, a messenger rode up to the schoolhouse and announced that Ichabod was invited to a quilting party that evening at the Van Tassel home.

Ichabod borrowed a broken-down plow horse from Hans Van Ripper, an ill-tempered farmer that he was staying with. The steed, Gunpowder, must have inherited his owner’s very nasty disposition.

Sleepy Hollow cemetery-bridge

At the Van Tassels, Ichabod was delighted to see a mountain of food on the tea table. He danced the whole night with Katrina while Brom Bones brooded and fumed.

When the dance ended, Ichabod joined Baltus and other men on the porch.

They swapped stories about goblins and ghosts. Brom Bones claimed he had a run-in with the Headless Horseman, the main spirit that haunts their region.

“Some people say it is the ghost of a Hessian soldier, whose head was carried away by a cannonball during a battle of the Revolutionary War.”

Locals believe his body is buried in the graveyard of the old Dutch church. At night, they say, his ghost continues to ride in search of his head.

Ichabod was the last to leave the party late that night. It’s believed he proposed to Katrina, and left with a heavy heart when she turned him down

His overactive imagination kicks in as he rides through the dark woods to get home.

As he approached the scene where many of the ghost stories had been set, he began to whistle nervously.

Huge, gnarled limbs appeared to be outstretched human arms. To his relief, Ichabod discovered that it was only a large tree.

Suddenly, there was a groan. Ichabod’s “teeth chattered and his knees knocked furiously against the saddle. Again, it turned out to be another innocent sound: one branch rubbing against another in the breeze.”

He was about to cross the stream when Gunpowder stubbornly refused to move. Ichabod panicked. He dug his heels into the horse and whipped him.

Then, he heard a splash. When Ichabod looked up, he saw a towering black shadow ready to spring on him.

Twice, Ichabod stammered “who are you?” But he got no reply. Soon the race was on between Ichabod and the terrifying figure that appeared to be carrying his head in front of him.

Sleepy Hollow - The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane

Both headed for the church bridge. Gunpowder’s saddle came undone and Ichabod clung to the horse. He heard the goblin’s black horse trample the saddle.

The old horse made it to the bridge and thundered across on the opposite side. But the Headless Horseman did not vanish as the legend said it would, and threw its head (a pumpkin) at Ichabod.

The next morning, Gunpowder was found nibbling the grass outside Van Ripper’s gate. Ichabod didn’t show up at the school house. A search party found no trace of Ichabod – only of the saddle, Ichabod’s hat and a shattered pumpkin.

Shortly after Ichabod’s disappearance, Brom Bones wed the lovely Katrina. When anyone mentioned the pumpkin, Brom burst out in a hearty laugh, leaving some to believe that he knew more than he chose to tell.

Some say that Ichabod fled the area in terror and moved to a new community, where he settled down and got married.

Others insist that he was spirited away by supernatural means. They claim they’ve heard him singing a melancholy tune as they take an evening stroll thru Sleepy Hollow.

Ichabod’s spirit – and that of the Headless Horseman – live on in Sleepy Hollow.

The historic community has hayrides and other events for little ghouls and goblins, and an opportunity to hear about the author, Washington Irving, in “the legend behind the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” http://visitsleepyhollow.com/

Happy Halloween!

What’s your favorite non-gory ghost tale?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Video: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – a short story by Washington Irving (1820) – narrated by Glenn Close https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmImfSZ6Nl8 

Main Photo: Spooky (Ghost Light) – taken 2004 by Popperipopp http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/Ghost_light.JPG/640px-Ghost_light.JPG

Photo: Sleepy Hollow – Cemetery Bridge – used with permission from photographer Jim Logan http://visitsleepyhollow.com/legend-landmarks/

Photo Reproduction of artist John Quidor’s “The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” (1801-1881) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/The_Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Crane.jpg/640px-The_Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Crane.jpg

Quotes are from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” – a Treasury of Illustrated Classics adaptation.

Hoover Dam, Ragtown and Dingbat Houses

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (9)

By Judy Berman

What would drive a man to take his family across the country and set up in a squatters’ camp in the desert where the average temperature was 116 degrees?

The three D’s: Desperation, the “Dust Bowl” and the (Great) Depression. During the 1930s, thousands fled to whatever Promised Land offered a job.

A drought turned their land into a “Dust Bowl” and rendered it useless to grow crops and to make a living. This forced thousands to leave their homes in a five-state region of the Great Plains in search of work.

“On October 29, 1929 – Black Tuesday – the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. By 1933, one out of every three Americans was living in poverty. Thousands lined up to apply for a handful of available jobs,” Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum Permanent Exhibit. (Exhibit 2: Welcome to Hard Times)

Two years before construction began on Hoover Dam in 1931, the area near Las Vegas was flooded with job-seekers.

They lived in Ragtown, a makeshift shantytown on the floor of the Black Canyon next to the Colorado River. Their “homes” were made of tents, cardboard boxes, tin scraps and anything that amounted to shelter from the scorching heat.

“When somebody … became overcome with the heat, we dashed out there with these ice buckets and we’d pack them in ice. If their heart took it and they survived, OK. But if their heart stopped, that was it. We sent for the undertaker,” Bob Parker. (museum’s Exhibit 4: A Deadly Desert Place)

Boulder City - cottages built by Six Companies, Inc. - save

Six Companies Inc., a “supercompany” made up of six construction firms, agreed to build the dam for just under $49 million. The Boulder Canyon Project authorized Hoover Dam for flood control, improved navigation and regulation of the Colorado River.

Temporary housing was built in Boulder City for those who would work on the dam.

The homes – 658 of them – were called “dingbat” houses because of the quick and shoddy way they were constructed. The boxy homes had a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom.

Two men could throw one together in about 12 hours.

They looked so much alike that it wasn’t uncommon to wake up and find a stranger sleeping on the couch. When he was awakened, he’d look around bewildered, get up and head for home.

“The dingbat houses were a great improvement over the squatters’ camp, but the ragged construction style created hazards of its own. Dust blew in thru the cracks in the walls and doorways, piling up against the houses, creating small dunes throughout the neighborhood,” according to “Boulder City,” a PBS documentary.

Boulder City - bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam - save

Despite the hardships at home and the hazards of dynamite blasts at work, the workers at Six Companies completed Hoover Dam two years ahead of schedule and well under budget, says U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Restoration.

Their work created an engineering marvel that draws millions of tourists a year. Some staggering facts (U.S. Department of Interior Department of Reclamation):

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (7)

  • Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall. That’s 171 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
  • At its base, Hoover Dam is as thick (660 feet) as two footballs fields measured end-to-end.
  • Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the USA, contains enough water to flood the entire state of New York with 1 foot of water (26 million acre feet).
  • Between 1931 and 1936 when the dam was built, 96 men were killed in industrial accidents. None were buried in the concrete.

Hoover Dam - mascot

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Source: Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum – http://www.bcmha.org/

Source: Hoover Dam, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

Source: Boulder City – PBS. http://www.pbs.org/bouldercity/script.htm

1. Main Photo: Hoover Dam Tour Center, Nevada – mural of construction workers – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

2. Photo: Boulder City – cottages built by Six Companies Inc.: Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – April 1, 1932  http://research.archives.gov/description/293623

3. Photo: Boulder City – bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam, capacity 150 men:Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – July 27, 1933   http://research.archives.gov/description/293924

4. Photo: Hoover Dam – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

5. Photo: Hoover Dam – mascot – memorial to dog beloved by the construction workers at Hoover Dam. Taken – April 13, 2012. Filed in wikimedia.org. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg/640px-Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg   Used with permission by photographer: Adam Kliczek, http://zatrzymujeczas.pl (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Grapes of Wrath

Migrant Mother - Florence Owens Thompson - 1936

By Judy Berman

My role model is a paroled prisoner, an unrepentant killer.

After four years in prison on a manslaughter charge, his concerns were only for “today.”

Time and life’s experiences shifted Tom Joad’s focus from selfish self-interest to helping others in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

He is one of the reasons I root for the underdog – personally and when I was a reporter.

The politics and social injustice that existed when the book was written have changed. But the book still resonates 75 years after its publication on April 14, 1939.

Like many families in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Joads are forced to leave Oklahoma. A drought turns their land into a “Dust Bowl” and renders it useless to grow crops and to make a living.

Landowners and banks evicted tenant farmers. Some homes are torn down by tractors, leaving residents with nowhere to go.

They’re told that there are jobs in California. Before they can get to the Promised Land, they are taken advantage of by crooked car salesmen and dishonest pawnbrokers when they try to sell their belongings to pay for transportation and for their trip.

Migrant worker's family, Nipomo, California

Defeated, they pack what possessions they can and drive down Route 66 in rickety cars and trucks to California where they – and thousands of others – head to migrant camps in search of work.

Life on the road is hard and fraught with danger. The Joads and others are treated with hostility because so many Okies are flooding into California and there’s not enough work for them. Some are starving.

Ma Joad, the family’s strength, believes that helping others will be rewarded. While there is greed, she has also witnessed kindness from strangers. She repays that by feeding some of the starving migrant children at the camp.

Early on, Tom Joad and Jim Casy, a family friend and ex-preacher, begin to wonder why the tenant farmers aren’t organizing a union to fight the injustices of poverty wages and harsh treatment at migrant camps.

They’re told that if they do organize a protest that they will be black-listed from the camps. That means they’ll never find work.

When the Joads settle in at the Weedpatch camp, a government-sponsored place, it appears their luck has changed for the better. But trouble still follows them.

A Farmers’ Association plans to sabotage the camp. They fear that the Okies are a threat to their way of life.

Work is again hard to find. The migrant workers are paid far less than promised and it’s not enough to feed their families. Casy urges them to strike.

Their protest is met with violence and motivates Tom to work for the community’s good. He’s on the run.

Ma Joad fears she won’t see him again. Before they part, Tom comforts her and vows to continue to fight injustice wherever he finds it.

Grapes of Wrath - Henry Fonda - DVD cover

“I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry ‘n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there.”

My colleagues at the Observer Dispatch in Utica, New York, paraphrased that quote to reflect on my career at the paper.

It’s a comparison I’ll cherish always.

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Movie clip – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Famous “I’ll Be There” speech in the movie by Tom Joad (Henry Fonda)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw  

Video – John Steinbeck and Grapes of Wrath – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqaTv8cCWeg  

Photo – Migrant Mother (1936) – Florence Owens Thompson – (Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.) Photo by Dorothea Lange, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg/461px-Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg

Photo – Migrant worker’s family – Photography of Florence Owens Thompson, known as “Migrant Mother”, Pea-Pickers Camp, Nipomo, California.  Photo taken 1936 by Dorothea Lange http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg/754px-Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg

Photo – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Henry Fonda as Tom Joad – DVD cover