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Family Room: 1941

Family Room: 1941

May 1941. San Diego. "Family living at Kearney Mesa defense housing project. This man came out to California from Oklahoma 10 years ago. He has been an agricultural worker and had lived in various FSA camps. Now employed as a painter at Consolidated Aircraft." Medium format negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

North American Aviation Strike - Los Angeles Times

U.S. Ready to Seize Plane Plant.

June 7, 1941: The strike at the North American Aviation plant, in which Army troops dispersed union activists and took over an essential American defense facility, is one of the landmark events in Los Angeles history.

Russell Lee

I can’t remember seeing a picture of him here before, even as a reflection. He was born in 1903 (and lived till 1986), so he’d be in his late thirties in this shot. I attach a photo of him from a year later, from 1942.

Relections and shadows

There are two light sources evident in the photo, as best evidenced by the two shadows of the floor lamp. The shadow on the side wall is considerably off-axis from the camera angle, coming from a good distance to the right. That's the flash unit being held by the man reflected in the window. The other shadow, on the wall behind Dad, is from a light source on a very close axis to that of the camera, so close that it has to be from a flash unit mounted on the camera itself, the bulb and reflector a few inches higher than and very slightly to the left of the camera lens. Therefore, the guy in the window reflection is an assistant, not the photographer. Plus window guy would have to have third hand to click a camera shutter, since one is holding the flash and the other the white thing.

Who was on strike?

Oh no, Shorpy has done it to me again.

The newspaper headline screams about a labor union defying FDR against striking at a defense plant. I wondered: which plant, which union, and what happened?

Two clues: it is May 1941 and the plant is an aircraft facility in the LA area.

Off to Google where I found a US Department of Labor bulletin -- Number 711 dated 1942. This document listed all of the strikes from 1941.

Sure enough, there it was: the UAW (then part of the CIO) called a strike against the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, CA on June 5th. By June 9th, FDR ordered the Army to take control of the plant and the workers returned the next day. A settlement on wages was achieved by July 1st. [page 25 of the bulletin]

The document also notes that all strikes were cancelled on 8 December.


Role Playing Set Piece

While the photographer futilely tries to hide from his reflection in the window, Mom and Dad have been placed in their traditional roles. Mom sits on the couch holding baby, while Dad sits to opposite side and pretends to be interested in newspaper contents.

Caught in the reflection

Our intrepid photographer seems to be shooting from the hip.

Kadette K-10

A nice Kadette radio in this picture. Model K-10 from 1937. Attached photo from Lynn Toppo and Radioattic.

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