Category: Living in the U.S.A.

Teen hitchhikes and bikes from L.A. to New York


“In 1939, a 17-year old girl living in California decided to embark on a monumental bike trip across the country. The World’s Fair in New York City was her destination. That girl was award winning photojournalist and filmmaker Ruth Orkin (1921-1985).

“Orkin grew up in Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s, and at the age of 10, received her first camera, a 39¢ Univex. She began by photographing her friends and teachers at school. Obsessed with traveling after three cross country train trips with her family, she took a job as a teenager at a travel agency in 1937. When a pamphlet for American Youth Hostels arrived in the mail one day at work, offering cheap lodging and cooking facilities for travelers journeying by foot or bicycle, the call for adventure was too great to resist.

“At 16, Orkin took her first Youth Hostel trip to San Francisco, and the following year somehow convinced her parents to let her bicycle across the country. Multiple newspapers carried the story of this 17-year old on a cross country tour of U.S. Youth Hostels. While she had actually hitchhiked from LA to Chicago, and then Chicago to New York – equally adventurous and kind of crazy — Orkin later wrote in her book, A Photo Journal, published in 1981, ‘The bicycling was done while I was sightseeing in each city: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Boston. I also biked the smaller distances between the four eastern cities and while hosteling through four New England states. All in all I biked a total of 2000 miles during those four months!’”

Excerpts and photo from .


Pismo Beach


Image: undated postcard from

“…attempts to incorporate the city were finally successful in 1939, when Pismo Beach became a sixth class city by a majority of seven votes. In 1940, worries over increased taxes led the citizens to vote to disincorporate the city. The majority was eight votes in the election.”

Excerpt from .

Writers’ Ranch, Imperial Beach


Image: 1943 photo from David Smith via excerpt link below.

“Thomas Halbert Hall, former chauffeur of the late Minnie J. Douglass has a modest fortune at his command with which to purchase lots and erect homes for writers who could not be self supporting from their journalistic efforts. Hall is author of several text books, and was appointed by his late, employer to oversee the establishment of a ranch for writers. Hall has received a permit to move 170 cottages from Tent City in Coronado and work of this project is well underway. The houses are to be remodeled at an expense of $20.00. Hall has already purchased 200 lots for the ranch, and has announced he plans to erect 300 cottages for the colony, and later a $40,000 apartment building for income property.”

Excerpt from The Chula Vista Star newspaper, May 12, 1939, Page 7 via . Click on the link to read more about it.



In 1939, gypsies (a catch-all term — see links below) were in southern California. Both accepted and maligned, it is difficult to make generalizations about them. See the links to learn more. The differences of opinion include whether to spell the term with a capital or a lower case “G.”

Read a first-person account about the gypsy name here: .

“Generally… the urbanization of the Rom began as early as the end of the eighteenth century when various groups began to spend the winter months camping in vacant lots on the outskirts of cities, and intensified when ‘a large number of Rom flocked to the cities during the 1920s and 1930s to take advantage of various relief programs, and remained there because of gas rationing and because of increasing business opportunities within the city.’*

“Because Gypsies tend to follow economic opportunities, the most populous cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and Portland, have the largest concentrations of Gypsies.”

Excerpts from . Click on the link to read a long article and comments on the subject.

“Several groups, all known to outsiders as ‘Gypsies,’ live today [2017] in the United States. In their native languages, each of the groups refers to itself by a specific name, but all translate their self-designations as ‘Gypsy’ when speaking English. Each had its own cultural, linguistic, and historical tradition before coming to this country, and each maintains social distance from the others.”

Excerpt from . Click on the link to learn more.


*Silverman, Carol. “Everyday Drama: Impression Management of Urban Gypsies,” Urban Gypsies (special issue of Urban Anthropology ), Volume 11, No. 3-4 (fall-winter) 1982.