Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Johnson's Welfare Society.


Back before the 1964 flood, before the assassination of Kennedy, before Lyndon Johnson passed all the new welfare rules, there was a work oriented society that lived in Garberville. I know that is hard for you to believe, but we were here, doing just fine.

Previous to Lyndon Johnson you had to have lived at least a year in Humboldt County to get on welfare. Then came Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s idea was that it was discrimination to say that you had to be a resident before you could collect welfare. His thoughts were that the residency requirement would prevent a person from moving to an area that had more jobs. Because, if a job didn’t pan-out, you weren’t eligible for welfare, and you wouldn’t be able to get back on welfare until you were able to establish residency. It was a great Idea, but it didn’t account for how creative some people can get to cheat on the welfare system.

In the late sixties and early seventies hundreds of people moved up here to Humboldt County because we paid one of the highest welfare rates in the country. The people that moved up here were young and they were raised in a sharing society. They shared “free love” they shared their drugs, they passed their joint, and they all lived together in communes. Not all were that way of course, some were honest people that worked together to make ends meet, and get ahead in life, and get out on their own. Johnsons new welfare system worked well to get them back into mainstream society.

They would establish one responsible member as head of the commune, he would own all of the property. The rest would get on welfare and give him all of the money, and they would pool their resources for food and clothing. They could all live quite nicely on their welfare income.

The above statements are true and provable, the following is rumor, but it is too juicy to let pass. Some of the the people that would apply for welfare would share kids, and they would apply for welfare with all of “their kids” with them. They would also apply for welfare in more than one county. Although I don’t know if they were actually able to do that, I know for a fact they would have done that if they could have. They had no sense of guilt for being leaches on society. It was shocking for a lot of us to see. Their lack of regard for other people was hard to take. They would throw their trash on the street. When someone would point out that there was a garbage can down the street, they would look at you like you were crazy. Often they point out that someone would pick it up. They really didn’t seem to get it.

Fortunately the local people were able to run the worst of the low-life heavy drug users off, and we were left with a strange new society of people that seemed to want to work, buy land, and live in the fresh, clean, new place that they had found. Land was cheap and plentiful. Some of the people that moved here had "Family Money" or were smart enough to get a good job in the woods, or one of the local businesses. The communes slowly dissapeared as people paired off and started their own families. They seemed to have gained a sense of pride in themselves.

But, they still loved their music and their Wacky Weed, and they were unwilling to let anyone tell them that it was not okay. The local people began to accept these strange new people, that seemed to have their own sense of pride and honor. But, it was definately two different societies. Johnson's Welfare society slowly found their stride and they are now full members of the ruling class of our town.

Who would have ever guessed?

28 comments:

suzy blah blah said...

This happened way back in 1972 or 73-- before Suzy was born. My mom was living on the ShitFuckPiss road (you know where that is doncha Earnie?) out near Ettersburg --but, and anyway thier was this chick that mom was hanging out wiht that was gettting welfare under two difffeant names LOL ... She had a couple of kids and a couple of fake IDs. One day when mom was wiht her at teh bank the chick being a little stoned singed her real name on a welfare check she was cahsing instaed of the fake one that was writtten on the fronnt - LOL. So teh lady at the bank says --yuo signed the wrong name on here honey --so the chick grabs teh check baack real fast and crosses out the worng name and signs the right (fake) one on there and cashes it-- no prob. LOL ....
And shes still arouond -- youd recoginze her (real) name if i said it but Suzy wuoldnt wanna be teh one to tell a name ;>
oxoxo,
S

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yep Suzy, I know that road, turn north at the river and out the ridge. It’s just past Shitdamnhell road.

The statute of limitations is past, but I still don’t like to use names, those cops get funny don’t they?

You reminded me that back in the late sixties we were sitting at the dinner table one night talking about “those damn welfare cheatin’ hippies”. We were dining on “hillside salmon” as we called it, which was illegal deer meat. We had a couple of salmon in the smoke house that we had scooped out of the creek. Most of the logger families “lived off the land” back then, but it was the beginning of the end. As we were licking our lips, we wondered how they could cheat the system like that.

It occurred to me that Southern Humboldt has always been a hangout for outlaws. It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thank-you for helping to confirm my story. When I tell people that story, they accuse me of being full of bullshit, which is right. But, some of it is the truth! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ern, off the subject here but as you know, every time we go to a different post of yours the counter adds a number. Make it so it only counts one time every time we go to your blog site. I know you can do it. Then I bet you only get 29 hits a day instead of the 70 plus. I always check all the posts when I get on here so I may be the culpert behind all the numbers.
This is such a great place to visit and is becoming addictive as you have such wonderful responses from all who write.

Great site!!!!!


Jim

Robin Shelley said...

I don't know, Jim... you're implying that Ernie doctors the numbers here... & somebody else said they think Suzy works for him... seems suspicious to me!
(;

Ernie Branscomb said...

Jim, just click on the line at the bottom of the post (comment) and it will open the comments without rolling the counter. But the counter tells me that people have been in here sniffing around without leaving comments.

Just like you, I find the comments better than the posts.

The counter don't mean diddly, but it's fun to watch!

Anonymous said...

yup, i read your blog all the time, i run a local blog/website too. http://www.avenuecommunity.com i just started it. Thanks to ernie for posting all the great stories and info, i especialy likes the one about the 1964 flood and the one about fishing with the mexicans out near eel rock. great blog!

ben said...

Ernie, When I first came here in '71, I was making $80 bucks a month at Astrinsky's plus a cabin to live in. I had a beard, a wife, two kids and a Volkswagon bus. We ate quite a few "trout" from the river and I had a neighbor who shot a red headed duck up in a tree and ate it. It was a Pileated Woodpecker and he said it didn't taste too good. I don't recall ever eating roadkill but I knew plenty of folks who did. One of the great days in my life, back then, came when we signed up for Food Stamps. 90 bucks a month and we were supporting the farmers! The program probably saved a lot of steelhead as I was a determined fisherman. Eventually, I lied to the Benbows when they were building thr RV park and told them I was a carpenter. The figured me out pretty quick and had me digging ditches. Pretty soon , I bought a few tools and did become a carpenter. I think I was making $4 an hour. No more food stamps but I can remember seeing respected ranchers and locals use food stamps at Peter Pan Market. Sure surprised me. The first president I ever voted for was Lyndon Johnson and I stand by that vote today. I knew folks up Salmon Creek who bought 40 acres before they were 21 years old! The locals said the land was worthless and that those hippie kids would clear out soon. Instead they started the Health Center, Forest CoOperatives, the Credit Union, the Community Center, a couple of now defunct Food CoOps and about half a dozen or more volunteer fire departments. I know of a logged over 40 in Salmon Creek which now has a house, outbuildings, orchards, and a forest of sixteen thousand Bishop Pines all built and planted by one couple. Easily worth half a million today. On the other hand, I knew one slimy character out at Gopherville who kept a stable of little runaway girls pregnant and collected all their welfare checks. He went to prison when he killed a guy who was after one of his "wives". One night when I was doorman at Astrinsky's, he very nearly killed me. It dawned on me that I needed a different job. When Redwoods Rural got their first State grant back around '76, they became part of Jerry Brown;s Rural Health Corps. All of the other R.H. clinics were Mexican agricultural workers, RRHC convinced the State that hippies were a discriminated minority! And the fact is that we were. When I shaved my beard to go to work at the High School as a janitor (under a CEDA grant, bless you Jerry Brown) I was suddenly greeted with smiles at any local business I entered. It was a revelation. The times have really changed around here and as much as I miss the 70s, some of it has been for the better.

Anonymous said...

And tell me now, how are poor welfare "cheats" any different than the crew in Washington DC and any state capitol? (Or any CEO of any resource-based company, for that matter.)

Fred said...

Ernie; Please fix the typo in the title of this post. SociEty is spelled with an e.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank's Fred. I Guess I just don't see misspellings in the headlines.

Years ago, when the Southern Humboldt Life and Times celebrated their first year, they announced to the world; “OUR FRIST YEAR” across the top of the page. Nobody caught it , and it ended up on the street that way.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben thanks for writing. You are one of the people that I had in mind that showed up here, made good, and became one of our more important and influential people.

The guy from Gopherville is one of the welfare cheats that I was talking about, that we are glad to be rid of.

But, the point in the article that I guess I skipped over too fast, Is that the new people that moved up here thought that they brought us everything. They didn’t. We built the Fireman’s hall in Garberville that they took over. We formed the fire districts. We built the Redway fire hall. There was a functioning society here, intact, and working when the latter-day-Daniel Boones showed up.

The things that we had to adapt to, because of the new-people, were that we could no longer raise sheep because of all of the loose dogs. Theft became rampant. At least in our eyes it did. We never used to worry about things that were left out in our yard. When the new people showed up anything of value would disappear, because their attitude was “If I don’t take it, someone else will”.

I think the hardest thing to swallow was their constant criticism of everything we did, and who we were. They showed no regard for the things that we valued. They re-named everything and were just generally inconsiderate. But we worked it out, and most of the good people are still here, and we have become used to each other. Hell, some of us are even friends.

I have many things to say about the split in the new-settlers community that the reggae rift has caused, but I have friends on both side of that argument, and this is not the time to discuss it. In a few years when the dust of the conflict has blown over the horizon. It will be fun to analyze what happened.

Kym said...

Being born here and then marrying into the newcomers makes for split vision sometime.

I sometimes still feel resentment. Most of my friends are newcomers and sometimes seem to have a "pat me on the head and tell me how my ways are old fashioned" attitude. That rarely happens much anymore but it can be frustrating.

On the whole though, I'm glad the newcomers came and we interbred(;>).

Carol said...

Where is Gopherville?

Anonymous said...

Good Golly Molly. All this talk about politics. If I could nominate the next Supreme Court Justice it would Ann Coulter.

Robin Shelley said...

Go to bed, Jim!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Carol, Gopherville is just past Whitethorn junction, going toward Shelter Cove. Cross the Mattole River, turn left, pass the BLM fire station, and go out the canyon to the end of the road. (I think) Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

Jim, that sounded like you nominating Anne Coulter, I second it. You know, somebody the other day said that see talks too... Did you know that??? I always thought that she was one of those wind-up dolls. But, she did say that she would vote for Hillary before McCain. I guess changing parties is a woman’s prerogative.

Speaking of politics, I went to Fortuna today to listen to Estelle speak at the River Lodge, I ran into my old blogger friend Carol. Yep, the one right above this… Hi up there!

Estelle is a remarkable person. Many people asked her questions that they thought would corner her. She answered each one honestly, and most people agreed with her. She has more than just common sense, she is patiently trying to solve the second districts problems. I hope more people check her out. She has almost universal approval in the southern end of the second district.

Debbie said...

Leeches are the same across the land. When I was dispatching for Santa Cruz PD in the late 70's, we had a similar problem with non-contributing societal blemishes; they mostly lived under the San Lorenzo bridge. I suspect
there were still communes in the hills but they must have just blended when they came to town.

People came to Santa Cruz from across the country because they heard it was easy to get welfare there. For a time, after they were
forbidden to take their backpacks into Albertsons, they would leave
them outside while they "shopped" (often swiping lobster with a five-finger discount). After the County office would no longer replace "lost" food stamps, they would arrange for someone to "steal" their foodstamps out of their unattended packs then they would come in a stream into the PD to file "stolen food stamp" reports. I recall we popped one or two selling foodstamps (no doubt the stolen ones) for cheap so they could by beer to wash down their hot lobster.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Back then store clerks were allowed to give change for food stamps, so they would make a bunch of minimal purchases, and when they got enough change they would buy booze. So they even scammed the food stamp program.

I have to remember that I can’t lump all of the newcomers into the scam artist category. Most of the new people were a real asset to our community, but the scam artists gave them all a bad name. All of the newcomers were strange to us, so it was easy to lump them all together. We later realized how wrong we could be about some people. But, a lot of them were dead on worthless.

Debbie, my wife is from san Jose, so Santa Cruz was her party town back in the sixties. I hope she wasn’t too much bother!

ben said...

Ernie... Gppherille is (or was) a bunch of cabins south of the County line between Whitethorn and Four Corners. It was the site of a sawmill and split camp in the logging boom days. You might say that it has found the low end of the local housing scene.
The newcomer/local interaction is one of the most interesting stories in our recent history. It started as a distinct cultural conflict that produced mistrust on both sides. There is no culture more self-righteous than the back to the land hippies. We can make Southern Baptists seem easygoing. I think the self righteousness is compensation for our landing in a community that "looked down" on us. Most of us were middle class white kids from the city and we were not used to being the underclass. So we created our own culture rather than trying to adapt to the existing local scene. Them and us became the order of the day and we saw the locals as trying to take over our Health Center and our Community Center. Eventually the pressure of the community as a whole began to change all of this. Hippies were allowed (sometimes grudgingly) to join local service organizations and friendships have developed which are changing the tone of the community.
One comment I want to make is that the Garbervile community was really very accepting of the newcomers. Some areas like the Cave Junction/Takelma area in Oregon really tried to drive the hippies out completely. The local community here had a live and let live philosophy that allowed for differences as long as people didn't steal or let their dogs kill sheep. I have to confess that the dog I brought from the city got right into killing sheep and was shot. I think there is less theft, these days. Most of what was stolen were tools and no thief seems to want them anymore. Nevertheless, I lock my truck.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ben, I knew that, I think the place that I was thinking of was called "Hungry Gulch".

I know exactly where Gopherville is now. There used to be an old Military half-track truck parked along the road there. The loggers used to use old surplus half-tracks to get their equipment in and out of the woods in inclement weather.

Was the mill Watson’s mill? Or am I a couple of mills to far with that Name?

Carol said...

Hi blog friend, Ernie! But now I am down here. Ha-ha. This is kinda like Hollywood Squares - we could call Humboldtwood Squares!

Ernie Branscomb said...

We could, except we have some real cool people on here.

Anonymous said...

Ernie Branscomb-March 12th.

I didn't mean the comments are better than the posts. They may be to you but I think I speak for most us that visit here, it is all Great.

Who is Anne Coulter?

Jim

Anonymous said...

One thing sticks in my mind here about the sheep killing. There may have been some dogs responsible, but the back to landers had these ideas it was cruel to trap coyotes so somehow got laws passed to stop trapping within a 1/4 mile of a den. That meant no more dynamiting the dens too. More coyotes=less sheep and less sheep ranchers and more land to develope.

Robin Shelley said...

Anne Coulter? Anne Coulter? Hmmmm.... isn't she the one ex-governor Spitzer was paying $4300 a visit?
LOL!
Go to bed, Jim!

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Tom D said...

I lived in the Gopherville area off and on in 1969-70...off and on because, unlike a lot of people, I worked for a living[CDF firefighter, cannery worker, framer, etc.] instead of living off welfare and food stamps[and, in that inimitably self-righteous way of so many city-bred newcomers, criticizing the long-established locals as "rednecks"]. What did I know? I was only 19. Seemed hypocritical to hang out "living off the land" while relying on handouts and knocking "straight people." But there were a lot of interesting people around, coming and going[anybody remember the late Tony Tuck? A good soul]. This was "pre-Jesus" Gopherville, incidentally...and in the spirit of the late '60's, some definitely loose times were had. Cheers, everybody.