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“Flood!” and Other Interesting Finds from Humboldt Cooperative Extension Office

Mon, September 25, 2017 9:30 AM

I visited the Humboldt Cooperative Extension County Office in June and will preview a few items of interest I found. Thanks to the staff at Humboldt for all of their help in identifying where the historical material was located and providing some context for the material. We had numerous phone calls in which we discussed the project and how they use historical materials in the office. With their help, I was able to successfully meet my goal of creating an inventory and shipping about 35 linear feet of historical materials back to UC Merced. We will start processing this collection by the end of the summer and hope to have a finding aid posted by the end of 2017.


Remembering the 1964 Flood

After such a wet winter, looking through the Humboldt Cooperative Extension office material relating to the 1964 flood reminded me that even after years of drought it is easily possible for California to experience catastrophic flooding. The weather patterns we experienced in the past year are the same weather patterns that caused the Christmas flood of 1964. This flood impacted a large part of the western coast and hit Humboldt County extremely hard, causing 47 deaths and leaving thousands homeless. According to the California Department of Water Resources bulletin “Flood!: December 1964-January 1965,” the flood caused the following estimated damages in Humboldt County:

  • $13,850,000 in damages to homes, farm dwellings, and trailer homes
  • $26,500,000 in damages to total state highways, county roads, and bridges
  • $57,500,000 in total private and public damages

Among Humboldt’s materials, there are photographs that document the extent of the flood. Narrative reports from the Farm Advisors and Home Demonstration agents record the devastation they saw and their efforts to help the community recover. Emergency bulletins and radio transcripts detail the best way to salvage from the flood. This information is still a useful reference and an important reminder of the need to be prepared for flooding today.


A Snapshot of the Work of Home Demonstration Agents

In the 1920s, Cooperative Extension, at the time called Agricultural Extension Service, started holding “ traveling conferences.” Farm advisors across the state would meet and travel hundreds of miles to a series of stops where they viewed farms and other demonstrations on the work performed in that county. On April 28-30, 1930, Agricultural Extension Service held the first Home Demonstration Agents Traveling Conference, a conference solely for women with an attendance of 132 women from 39 different counties across California. Below is an excerpt from a report on the conference written by Loleta Van Duzer, Home Demonstration Agent in Humboldt County:

Our First stop was in Napa County… at 9:30 we arrived at the home of Mrs. F. Cuthbertson, who lives in a house built seventy years ago. This has been remodeled quite a bit to make the work easier but the old fireplace still stands, which was the first one built in Napa County. This lady with the aid of a pedometer found she was walking as many as fourteen miles a day to do her Saturday work. After the rearrangement of her kitchen and dining room the same amount of work could be accomplished by traveling two miles.

At the Salvador School, Mr. Baade, the farm advisor, explained how the landscaping was planned and the different ornamental shrubs selected and why planted in the different locations. He said we must not plant tall shrubs against our building but the small ones will have a place there and the larger ones away from the buildings. All were invited in the auditorium where we saw and listened to several demonstrations. The first was a demonstration of color applied to clothing. Each color was demonstrated by some article of dress worn by their members.

The health shoe demonstration was given by four girls in the 4-H club and was wonderfully carried out. Several pieces of homemade equipment were exhibited by the different ladies and the cost of each given. Service table on wheels which cut the preparation and serving time in half cost complete $2.25. High stool for ironing and many other uses which cost $1.35…

Just before lunch time we hopped from Napa into Solano County… Wonderful demonstration of good growth and development were put on by the children in the 4-H club. A color demonstration of eight years in the clothing project was also given in the hall…

[W]e were off again to the home of Mrs. L.C. Scarlett. This was a beautiful farm home but had been remodeled and with the aid of the Agricultural Extension Service as a guide had help select new furnishing and furniture. Another very old farm home was that of Mrs. C.E. Roberts where we heard the plans of changing and later all went through and saw the great improvement made. By this time the afternoon was well spent so we started back to Berkeley.


Quick Progress Updates

Merced County:  We will have a Collection Guide, also known as a finding aid, posted by the end of the September.

Ventura County:  In April, I packed and shipped to UC Merced 40 linear feet of material and we have started to process and identify items for digitization.