Carpinteria in 1939

A group of children plays marbles outside a cluster of small houses on the west side of Carpinteria in 1939.

In 1939, Reginald Treloar Ogan composed a term paper titled “Mountain-Seashore, at your Door,” in which he wrote about the history of Carpinteria and described in detail the state of the 3,300-person town in the late 1930s. Born and raised in Carpinteria behind a long line of relatives with the same claim, Ogan made keen observations about the growing agricultural town. 

“Mountain-Seashore, at your door” documents the positives and negatives of the day in a straightforward manner that may lack modern political correctness but offers interesting insights into the history of Carpinteria. In the second week of a three-week series, Coastal View News brings readers back to 1939 to examine the neighborhoods of Carpinteria that Ogan referred to as “the better residential area,” “the poorer residential section” and “the Spanish and Mexican living areas.”


Struggling to make ends meet

In 1939, most of the Spanish-speaking families in Carpinteria lived to the west of the main town, in neighborhoods that lacked paved roads and often flooded during heavy rains. According to Ogan, nearly 200 families lived in “the Spanish and Mexican living areas,” where the small wooden houses provided shelter for large families of eight to 10 people and multiple generations. 

The family breadwinners in these poorest sections of town worked for the lowest wages in town, toiling on the local ranches as lemon pickers or in the lemon packing houses. Additionally, Ogan stated, “Some are in business as junk-men, commodity store owners or railroad employees.”

Local elementary schools were segregated throughout the early 1900s, and 150 children of Mexican descent attended Aliso School while white students attended a brand new school on 8th Street (which was later called Main School). 

At the time that Ogan wrote his term paper, sewer lines had not been extended into the poorest neighborhoods of Carpinteria. “For this reason disease is quite prevalent among these families and death from tuberculosis is quite high,” Ogan stated. “Efficient medical service in the school keeps the health of the student nearly up to par, but the adult receives but very little medical attention.”

Ogan argued that Carpinterians should make efforts to improve the deplorable conditions of “the Spanish and Mexican living areas.” He stated, “…it is here where one may do much in bettering the life of another.”



To learn more about Carpinteria history during Covid-19 closure, visit the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History’s website to access more articles on local history. To support the preservation of local history, consider becoming a member of the Carpinteria Historical Society.

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