The Great Depression, accompanied by years of Midwest drought and wind storms, figure prominently in Kern County's history. Lured by the promise of green orchards and plentiful work, more than a million people from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas made their way west in the late 1930s, only to find that the California Dream was but a mirage.
In 1992, then Cal State Bakersfield history professor Jerry Stanley documented this seminal event. The resulting photo-essay book, "Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp," immediately garnered national acclaim and prestigious awards.
Published by Random House and still in print 21 years later, the book documents not only the struggles of these "Okies," but also the redemption they found through one man -- Kern County Superintendent of Schools' Leo B. Hart. His work establishing a school at the Weedpatch Camp near Arvin placed hundreds of lives on a different trajectory, and in the process, helped re-write local history.
The New York Times Book Review called this 77-page book "a powerful account of a desperate time." Written for young adults, this title remains a "must-read" for all who call Kern County home.