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Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, Calif., Vol. 2

Continued from Oct. 3:

The largest historical employers in Madera have been farming and food processing but it is nearly impossible to find anyone who has spent their entire life doing this because it involves such long hours and so completely physically destroys people that men and women seek other types of work at the first opportunity. People do all sorts of work to survive. Today, one in three Madera jobs is related to agriculture. About half of the people I interviewed have had some experience growing or processing food.

All of those interviewed live and work in or very near the City of Madera. Note that as the town has evolved, so have work and travel patterns. Today, Madera enjoys a fairly balanced economy which is less susceptible to economic down-turns. However, the workforce also travels. Nearly one third of Madera’s residents drive to a job outside of the city limits since it is becoming a suburb to Fresno.

Currently, there is an alarming depletion of underground aquifers upon which the town depends. In addition, an increasing number of wells are being abandoned due to toxic pollutants. If ground water poisoning continues, the Central Valley will be home to many ghost towns.

While Volume One included a chronology which very briefly describes Madera’s evolution, Volume Two includes population census data from 1890 to 2020 and recent information about ethnicity and language. The fact that more than half of our residents speak Spanish or Spanish and English suggests that our police force would be well served to have all officers capable of speaking conversational Spanish to avoid misinterpretation. There are maps which illustrate the physical growth of the city over more than a century and a timeline about urban development during those first decades of existence.

The appendix also includes a list of all mayors and known council members. These are citizens who represented us and deserve to be remembered. Unfortunately, staff reported that they do not have a complete list of council members nor the time to make one. After I volunteered to do the research while wearing gloves and a mask, staff denied access to their records, citing the danger of possibly exposing staff to the coronavirus. The information is mandated by statute and supposed to be available to the public. It is contained in a state mandated book of local ordinances which includes the names and votes of the mayor and council. Unfortunately, the Madera County Library and Museum did not have this information quite simply because it is not their mandate to archive city information.

In order to create this book, I had to be a good listener. When reading their words, our townsfolk come to life, offering a rich picture. There are no villains for one simple reason: we are all neighbors just listening to each other so we might work together better. Mr. Doud has graciously agreed to print six excerpts in the weekend paper over the next few weeks. Each will be a personal story about a neighbor’s life. If you are interested in reading more testimony from our neighbors, Volumes 1 and 2 of Neighbors: Oral History from Madera California are available at both Maildrop and G.B.S. on Howard. They are also sold on-line via Books. I have already begun Volume 3, the final part of this trilogy.

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To be continued…

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