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Monday, 4 July 2011

Russell Lee: Vale, Oregon, Fourth of July 1941


Citizens of Vale, Oregon take off their hats during the Pledge of Allegiance (radio program) on the Fourth of July

Ride at the carnival which was part of the Fourth of July celebration at Vale, Oregon

Main street of Vale, Oregon, on the Fourth of July. Vale is one of the shopping centers for the farmers who live and work on the Vale-Owyhee irrigation project.

One of the floats in the Fourth of July parade, at Vale, Oregon. All floats were of a patriotic nature this year.

Ride at the carnival which was part of the Fourth of July celebration

Baseball game, part of the Fourth of July celebration at Vale, Oregon. The annual Fourth of July celebration has been held in Vale, [Malheur County], Oregon, for many years. Formerly the rodeo has been one of the chief attractions, but this section has changed from an exclusively cattleman's country to one of farmers since the Vale-Owyhee irrigation project has attracted farmers principally from the Dust Bowl areas. This year for the first time there was no rodeo and the baseball game became the prime attraction.

"Batter up" at the baseball game which was part of the Fourth of July celebration at Vale, Oregon

Kids' tug of war at the Fourth of July celebration at Vale, Oregon.

Tug of war at the Fourth of July celebration

Greased pig race, Fourth of July

Father with his two daughters on the merry-go-round, one of the carnival attractions at the Fourth of July celebrations

Men gathered around one of the carnival attractions in Vale, Oregon, at the Fourth of July celebration

Fireworks for sale

Fourth of July carnival


Lunch at carnival stand

Boys at Fourth of July Carnival

Cold drinks on the Fourth of July

Police officer, Fourth of July

Sign in Riverside Park at Vale, Oregon. The picnic on the Fourth of July was in this park. Most of the farmers in this predominantly agricultural area are from the Dust Bowl states and the church has strong influence.

Youngsters in the park on Fourth of July

Picnic on the Fourth of July

Picnic on the Fourth of July

Motorcycle club member painting a sign on the Fourth of July

Motorcycle racers


Motorcycle riders at the Fourth of July celebration

Motorcycle club boys rough-housing

A grass fire breaks out on the Fourth of July

Grass fire on the Fourth of July

Grass fire on the Fourth of July

Fighting a grass fire on Fourth of July

Fighting a grass fire on Fourth of July

Fighting a grass fire on Fourth of July

Tired picnickers

Interlude, after watching the Fourth of July parade

All photos by Russell Lee (1903-1986), Vale, Malheur County, Oregon, July 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Administration Collection, Library of Congress)


TC said...

Russell Lee's work has graced so many posts on this blog I can't even tote them all up.

Just a few:

At the Fair (I): Pie Town

Russell Lee: Boom Town

Russell Lee: Everything Must Go

Russell Lee: Mays Avenue Camp, Oklahoma City, 1939

Russell Lee: Riches (Along the Million Dollar Highway)

Russell Lee: Saturday Night in the Nature Theatre

Russell Lee: South Side of Chicago, April 1941

Russell Lee: Streetcar Terminal, Oklahoma City, 1939

Russell Lee: The Middle of Nowhere (A Texas High Plains Survey, 1940)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this and for all the previous Lee poems, essays, etc. Toting up the exact number really is unnecessary because you've reached "critical mass" and Lee's work and world (the world is our world, of course), as affected by BTP's point of view and aesthetic, has taken on a rich, independent life that readers/viewers can easily summon up every time they close their eyes. Having visited a local July 4th celebration last night in Tuxedo (one I realized I've been participating in for almost 30 years) makes viewing the Vale celebration a richer experience. You see some people you know well, some people who aren't exactly strangers, and kids in various stages of development growing up. You definitely see Americans who seem unconcerned (for the July 4th moment at least) with some of the things D.H. Lawrence was alluding to yesterday. And, not to get too topical, seeing these Americans (from another troubled time, about to become even more acutely troubled) gathering together on Independence Day, I think about the disturbing coverage we’re receiving in New York at the moment of the developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. Although I recognize that newspapers often operate on the principle of seeing who can be the first to run the latest “man bites dog” story, the breathless, highly incomplete reporting about the immigrant hotel worker and her alleged deeds, words and motivations, strikes me as heartless, but revealing about how the “little guy” forever remains the “little guy.” (This reminds me of the final illustration in yesterday’s post.) The nature of both the silence and the noise on this one troubles our holiday. A more cheerful thing I noticed yesterday, however, occurred during the fireworks finale over Tuxedo Lake when amazingly choreographed red, white, green, blue and purple explosions reminded me simultaneously of reading a Tom Clark poem or listening to a particularly touching Bob Marley song. I don’t know exactly what summoned the thought, but it was an uplifting one. Hope you have a good day.

Julia said...

I LOVE the last picture!
(they're all great, but I do love this one. Thanks, Tom



Thanks for ALL THESE -- the record of another time and place, lest we forget. . . . Though "downtown" Bolinas will be filled to the brim today, I managed to get to the channel for a paddle before sunrise, no one on the beach, osprey with fish flapping overhead. . . .

Happy 4th !


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, silver of planet above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

relations which may as such,
translate “forgetting”

to be the viewer, like love
of sound, waiting for

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
line of 7 pelicans gliding toward ridge

J said...

the yokels at least had some nice brims in the 30s-40s--and cops were not all outfitted with kevlar and jackboots. Apart from..a few hip urban scenes, J-Edgarness has increased in the heartland (regardless of what bleatnix and hippies said)---multicultural, tho, now .

TC said...

Yes, I love that bottom picture. He has carefully polished his best boots to a bright shine for the special occasion, but they pinch a bit, and it's been a long day, so...

Keeping in mind that the families we are seeing in these pictures are the same ones who a few years earlier were blown and starved off their farms in Oklahoma and Texas, packed everything they had left into their jalopies, sometimes with a sign saying "Oregon or Bust", and ventured West into the Great Unknown. They have come a long, long way from the European ancestors to whom Lawrence was alluding. In this context, the sincerity and earnestness in the faces of the hard-working farmers, standing at attention during the radio-cast Pledge of Allegiance, is very much of its time. A passage of time

which may as such,
translate “forgetting”

but nonetheless invites our remembrance -- and our respect, if we are capable of that.

By the by, it's still farm country up there on the eastern edge of Oregon.

aditya said...

Like the post itself this is such a wonderful comment thread with a happy farmland ending!

Julia said...

True, Tom, very true. And it's very moving to think about these families.

El recorrido de posts sobre el 4 de julio que hiciste estos días es muy profundo e interesante!

TC said...

Many thanks, Aditya and Julia. Let us somehow discover and then somehow live upon a happy farmland forever.

Julia said...

Tom, now with your wishful thinking about living "upon a happy farmland forever", you make remember the final stanza of Garcilaso's Eclogue I:
(the poetic voice is addressing to his late beloved, Elisa)

Divina Elisa, pues ahora el cielo
con inmortales pies pisas y mides,
y su mudanza ves, estando queda,
¿por qué de mí te olvidas y no pides
que se apresure el tiempo en que este velo
rompa del cuerpo, y verme libre pueda,
y en la tercera rueda,
contigo mano a mano,
busquemos otro llano,
busquemos otros montes y otros ríos,
otros valles floridos y sombríos,
do descansar y siempre pueda verte
ante los ojos míos,
sin miedo y sobresalto de perderte?

Julia said...

("make ME remember", sorry. There must be many other mistakes in what I wrote, but at least I can correct this one...)

TC said...


To be taken by the hand and led into those other valleys must be the primordial poetic dream.

This bit in particular of the Égloga primera is very beautiful:

Contigo mano a mano
busquemos otros prados y otros ríos,
otros valles floridos y sombríos,
donde descanse, y siempre pueda verte
ante los ojos míos,
sin miedo y sobresalto de perderte

aditya said...

Oh don't you worry. I had anyways read 'make me remember' before you commented again! I really do not know Spanish.

Valleys! ahh! I spent the last week entirely in one of the biggest meadows/valleys with the cattle and a couple of friends sometimes at heights of 14000 feet reading plucking wild baby strawberries by fresh mule dung..

Stefanie Eskander said...

I'm a little late on this one, but I wanted to thank you for posting so many of these Lee photos on your blog. My family lived in Vale for 15 years, from 1939 to 1954. On the 4th of July, 1941, only my oldest sister had been born... she would have been about 18 months old. I have looked carefully at all the photos, and have seen nary a glimpse of my folks. But I love to think that they knew many of these people, even though they were still newcomers in 1941. What a wonderful glimpse into the world of my parents in the early years of their marriage and life together in Vale.

TC said...


What a delight to be conducted by a poet into a valley at the top of the world to pick wild baby strawberries, amid the fragrant mule dung.


It's wonderful to hear from someone who has family memories that go back to that little town. It's the remarkable quality of Russell Lee's photography that he was able to capture common people in the middle of their lives, so naturally that for a moment you feel you are almost sharing those lives. A respect, and a sympathy.

By the way, if your folks were newcomers in Vale at that time, they weren't alone. I think the majority of the local populace as pictured on this Fourth of July had come up that way fairly recently, from other parts of the country where things had been difficult, in particular the Dust Bowl areas of the Plains and Southwest.