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Berrien Bunkhouse: 1940

Berrien Bunkhouse: 1940

July 1940. Berrien County, Michigan. "Old barn used as bunkhouse for migrant fruit pickers from the South. This grower employs only unmarried Negroes." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Well groomed

They work hard during the day but still have hopes of getting lucky at the nightly dances! They need to look nice.

Much we still don't know

I question Tamara's statement that these bachelors obtained the best paying jobs for this work. They were also selected because they were negroes. From what I know about 1940s America, a negro work crew would have been paid less than a white one … or charged more for lodging, food, etc.

I understand migrant workers with families have less personal time to devote to themselves. Still, I am struck by how well groomed are these four men. Each one is clean shaved, except the one mustache, which is neatly trimmed. Their hair is neatly cut. Maybe they helped one another keep groomed?

Soot Webs

Those webs are actually caused by charged particles of debris floating in the air that are leftover from whatever they have been cooking on the stove. This is common to see in homes that have had a fire loss or you can find them in the homes of heavy smokers.

They look creepy but it's just science doing its thing. Consider this a benefit of fire and mold remediation classes. The sad thing is, in a fire loss, clean-up companies and claims adjustors have to continually let distraught insureds know that it's not because they didn't keep their house clean, but because of the smoke that was present in the fire.

Here's one of many resources put out by ServPro that explain this phenomenon:

At least they'll stay warm

Yes, these are better accommodations than were provided for a lot of the migrant families we've seen on Shorpy. They even have a stove. So I wonder, was it easier for the unmarried migrant workers to get the best paying jobs with the better housing? Although the poor gentleman in the polka-dot socks is in desperate need of a new pair of shoes.

[Wives and kids require extra housing. Hence the preference for bachelors. - Dave]

Tangled webs

I believe the "black hairy-looking stuff" JennyPennifer inquired about is an accumulation of soot-covered cobwebs. The major cause of the soot, of course, is visible at right.

Not the Hilton

But better accommodations by far than those endured by the man with his sons and (I assume) his wife, living and sleeping in the back of a truck. But what is that black hairy-looking stuff on the walls?

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