Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Federal Transient Bureau

In 1934 my uncle at 18 years of age and who was born in the Delmar-Laurel area decided to join the thousands of other unemployed young men and hit the road in search of a job and a little adventure.  As he traveled south thru Tennessee to New Orleans he mentioned he would register with the Federal Transient Bureau in those towns on the route to New Orleans.

The Federal Transient Bureau was a program that was part of the Federal Emergency Recovery Act (Roosevelt Administration).  Leading up to 1934 the nation had thousands of wandering young men and families seeking work.  The local governments and local relief organizations were over whelmed and begin to implement residency requirements before people could apply for help from them.  This left thousands unable to apply because they had left their homes in another state and were traveling thru that area.  Enter the federal government and their Federal Transient Bureau.  The Bureaus had at least one office/camp in every state.  The more agricultural states and states that required men power had many of them.  The Bureau had no residency requirement so those who could not get local relief could find help from the Bureau.  They had camps and frequently worked with the YMCA to house men (we are talking 200 to 800 men at a camp). 

The men would work 24 hours a week and were paid a small sum but got housing and meals. They had to live by the bureau's philosophy: "Give no handouts, they all have to work."  They were also offer help in joining the CCC.  They acted as a job clearing house for local jobs and they also acted as an early uber taxi service setting up rides with people traveling to different places that could give some else a lift there.

Because they were transient not all were honest and even the honest ones carried weapons to protect themselves from the others.  Numerous newspapers items appear in that time period of unauthorized police raids on the camps and arrest of criminals. The movie "Grapes of Wrath" portrayed the Transient Bureau program when the Joad family, on their last legs, come upon a camp which is shown as an island of safety in a hostile environment. Local law enforcement was allowed entry only with warrants and this tension becomes a very clearly drawn part of the plot, as local officers are portrayed as creatures of the local power dynamics (city, county, business owners) with the federal camps protecting the downtrodden.

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