The Great Depression comes to the Inland Empire, But Upland Found a way to not let families starve and build a new City Hall.
The Great Depression came to the Inland Empire in the early 1930's....From listening to my parents and other family members talk about the Great Depression, its a wonder they were able to survive....My dad for instance, went to live on the Thomas Mt. Indain reservation up near Anza where his family was, and even though the reservation was affected by the depression since it was overseen by the government, the residents were actually a little better off than the average citizen....My mom was living in Hemet with several family members as well as other families.
But here in Upland, as my uncle Jack described to me, things were just a little bit better, because of what the city did to make sure its residents suffered as little as possible, and at the same time this small program paid off in a big way several years later when it came time to build a new city hall complex.
In other cities of the inland empire, work conditions were so bad that the city of San Bernardino fired all women employees if they had a husband at home who was working.....They wanted to fill those jobs with people who had no jobs.
In Colton, logging crews were hired to go into the San Bernardino foothills and Mt's and log dead trees and bring them down into the city for resale....Only problem was back then there just was not much logging going on with regular logging companies and the Forest Dept had closed down most of logging in other areas to keep people out of the forests and cutting down trees for cooking and heating.
In Upland, the first job program was based on what Colton had attempted, that is establish a municipal wood yard, hire out of work people to go around and clean up and trim dead and dying trees....Only trouble was that three times as many men applied for the positions as there was wood available for cleanup, so the yard was closed down.
Upland also hired men to dig the trenches for a new water line running along Foothill between Euclid and Mountain ave without using any ditch digging equipment....The Upland city manager wanted to hire as many men as possible and pay them 35 cents an hour to dif the trench by hand.....30 men were hired for the job which took about 6 months to complete but it gave the men some money in there pockets to feed there families.
In late 1931, the city became concerned because so many people were not able to pay there water bills....But the city did not want to cut off the water to the families because they realized with the great depression hanging on every ones heads that act would only make the problem worse.
Then, the city manager came up with a novel approach to solve the problem on a long term basis....In 1926, the city had purchased about 20 acres at Mountain and 23 rd street with the idea of sinking a new water well there.....The location turned out to be a poor choice for a water well and worked was stopped.
So the city manager decided on a very novel approach to the problem....The city would hire out of work men to go up to this site and clear all of the brush and pay off their bills....At the same time, other workers planted several hundred Lemon trees and took care of the trees and expanding throughout the northern Upland area helped take care of other groves thus working off there water bills.
Since the city owned this 20 acre plot they were able to sell the property for $42,000 in 1936....Now we jump ahead three years when the city bouncing back from the depression decided to develop plans for the building of a new modern up to date city hall....The city using the funds that it had made from the sale of the grove, and that had allowed families to keep there water on, was matched by the Public Works Administration in Washington as part of the New Deal agency that provided matching funds for public projects and to create employment.
Because of a unique and novel way of keeping people's water on, the city was able to open the new City Hall in March 1939 and did so with no tax nor bond money ever being used.
The city of Upland was commended by the President for its ability to make it through the tough times of the Great Depression, save its citizens a great burden and grow at the same time.
Gary Hall, theghostpainter