In early 1940, Ralph H. Schubert had good news. He got a job as a census taker. He was assigned to the Homestead Valley enumeration district. He looked forward to meeting the residents of Homestead Valley in May.
Ralph’s job required him to visit every house in Homestead Valley and obtain all the information required to fill out the census form—there were 34 questions. Identifying the location of each house was problematic. He had a map of the streets in Homestead Valley, but houses with numbers were rare. Most houses had instead, a mail box number assigned by the Sausalito post office. But that didn’t identify the location of the house. A few houses were located on unnamed streets. The 1940 census was designed to record a critical period in American history when the country was trying to recover from the Great Depression. It was before its entry into World War II.
Life in Homestead Valley was affected by several factors. The economy was a lot different in 1940 than it was in 1930 when the previous census was conducted. The Great Depression was still a serious problem although there were signs of recovery—the 17.3% unemployment rate of 1939 was projected to decrease to about 15% in 1940. Many residents had attended the successful world’s fair on Treasure Island in 1939—it was going to open in the spring for a second run. The Golden Gate bridge had made San Francisco more accessible. Train service to the Sausalito ferry was scheduled to be replaced by Greyhound buses to San Francisco.
Locust Food Mart at 357 Miller (now Tam Bikes) had prices comparable to those at the downtown markets: Safeway, Green Frog, Mill Valley Food Store and Mill Valley Market. A few examples follow (in parenthesis are the prices converted to today’s dollars): Tillamook cheese 23¢/lb ($3.91); sliced bacon 28¢/lb. ($4.76); leg of lamb 23¢/lb. ($3.91); pork loin roast 23¢/lb. ($3.91); fricassee hens 25¢/lb ($4.25); potatoes 15¢/10 lbs. (25¢/lb); Mazola or Wesson Oil 40¢/qt. ($6.80); bananas 19¢/4 lbs. (81¢/lb); avocados 2 for 9¢ (75¢ each).
During the first three months of 1940, foreign news attracted little attention. On September 1, 1939 Germany had invaded Poland and occupied much of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France had declared war on Germany. The USSR had joined Germany in splitting up Poland. There soon came a lull in the war. The press called it the “Phoney War.” Even though there would be a presidential election in November with the possibility of FDR seeking a third term, the Mill Valley Record had no articles about politics until April when a cartoon indicated that the public was more interested in the opening of the baseball season than it was in politics or the European war.
An analysis of the 1940 census will be presented next month.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.