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Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles

In July of 1932, the ninth modern-day Summer Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles, with 27 nations represented. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had been built in 1923, was enlarged for the occasion. At that time the Olympics had not yet become so important or well-attended that there was need for multiple locations; the athletes were housed in the Crenshaw district of the city and nearly every event took place at the Coliseum. When the Olympics would return to the city in 1984, the events would instead have to be spread throughout the city and its suburbs. The 1932 Olympics were a rousing success for the city, bringing it international attention and an influx of money as well as bringing the United States a number of gold medals. Throughout the decades, Californians have won nearly as many gold medals as the rest of the American athletes combined.

Novelist and social activist Upton Sinclair nearly became governor

In 1934, the famous novelist and social activist Upton Sinclair nearly became the governor of California. Sinclair moved to Pasadena in 1917. He began crusading for reform in the 1920s, when he ran for political office as a Socialist candidate. In 1934, he launched his strongest campaign for governor by seeking the support of the Democratic party, which was desperate to break the Republican control of the state. Sinclair ran on the EPIC, or End Poverty In California, slogan. He proposed a program which included a monthly pension for widows, the elderly, and the disabled. He also advocated inheritance and income taxes, a tax on land which was left idle, and money to be invested in creating jobs. Although his plan had much in common with President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was just then being put into action, he did not get the President’s support. After Sinclair won the Democratic nomination, a bitter campaign followed. Sinclair was defeated by Republican Frank F. Merriam.

Sinclair, already world-famous for his novel The Jungle, returned to his writing, churning out over 10 more novels in just over a decade. His ideals did not die with his campaign, as radical writers and speakers throughout California suggested a variety of methods to cure its ills, all taking their inspiration from Sinclair and his EPIC plan.

Dust Bowl refugees began migrating to California from Oklahoma and surrounding areas

The "Dust Bowl" migrations to California from the Midwest began in 1935, and continued for about four years. Some 350,000 farmers, forced off their lands by the drought and unable to find jobs locally because of the Great Depression, made the journey west to California. They trekked overland in wagons and jalopies, with all their belongings in or tied to their vehicles and their entire families packed inside.

These farmers, generally known as "Okies" or "Arkies" since they came from Oklahoma and Arkansas, found that California was also hard-hit by the Depression and jobs were hard to find. Many Californians resented their arrival. The migrants often ended up working as farmhands for very low wages. Unions tried to organize the pear pickers of Marysville, the meat packers of Bakersfield, and the fish cannery workers of Monterey, but had no luck. Laws were passed to close the state borders to poor families. These laws remained in effect until 1941, when they were declared unconstitutional. Author John Steinbeck described the problems of the migrants in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, and folk singer Woody Guthrie sang about them in "Talking Dust Bowl" and "This Land is Your Land."

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge were opened

In 1936 and 1937, the two great bridges of San Francisco, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, were opened. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is one of the world’s longest steel bridges, extending 8¼ miles from San Francisco to Oakland across San Francisco Bay, using Yerba Buena Island as a midpoint. Building on the bridge was begun in 1933 and it opened to traffic on November 15, 1936.

The Golden Gate Bridge, world famous as a symbol of San Francisco, opened on May 27, 1937, to great acclaim. The next day, over 200,000 people walked across it. It extends from Fort Point in San Francisco to the shore of Marin County, a distance of over a mile across the channel at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Built under the direction of Joseph B. Strauss, its two 746-foot-high towers hold up the cables that support the second longest steel suspension bridge in North America. From February to October 1939, the Golden Gate Exposition was held on a man-made island beneath the Oakland Bay Bridge in celebration of the opening of these two spans.


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