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Following the Crop masthead

Closing the Camp

Officials visiting the camp
Arkansas Employment Security Division officials visiting the labor camp, September 8, 1967. The Springdale News Collection/Charles Bickford, photographer (SN 9-1967 #21)

The number of laborers staying at the camp rose and fell over the summers and through the years. Bumper crops might bring many workers, but crop failures or a slow-down in jobs forced families to move down the road to the next opportunity. By the 1960s a new threat was on the horizon—automated bean pickers. Increased mechanization meant that some crops could be picked more cheaply and effectively by machines than by people. Camp attendance began to drop.

When the City received the camp from the Federal government it promised to run it for 20 years. In July 1968 the decision was made to close the camp at the end of the summer and sell the remaining 160 cabins, only 40 of which were still occupied.

Children at day care
Children at the day care center, September 19, 1967. The Springdale News Collection/Charles Bickford, photographer SN 9-1967 #3

Rather than running a labor camp, the Springdale Housing Authority wanted to build a 170-unit low-income housing development on the camp’s land, using Federal funds to secure the 40-year loan. Groundbreaking on Phillips Plaza, named after Springdale’s mayor, began in the fall of 1969. By May 1971 the first renters were living in the $2-million-dollar project. Today much of the camp exists only in memories and photographs. A few old cabins may still stand as outbuildings in area yards and fields. The camp’s community building, which once held the nursery school for migrant children, was moved to the southern part of the property. It serves as a Head Start school, continuing the structure’s long tradition of sheltering youngsters in need.


“[The migrant ministry workers] …wonder if the scarcity of migrant workers at the Labor Center this year may mean that the workers are beginning to settle into permanent locations. ...They only know that approximately 90 per cent of the 3,000 acres of beans in this area are being picked by machine this year. And they just don’t offer a ministry program to machines.”

Billie Jines, columnist
The Springdale News, July 8, 1963

"[The Housing Authority units would] …relieve some of the pressure for local housing needs, especially for the lower income folks, and provide adequate living conditions when in some cases the housing has been substandard.”

Charles Sanders, editor and columnist
The Springdale News, October 16, 1969

“We picked green beans, tomatoes, was hard...I got too hot sometimes. ...There was times it was really good, we’d come home from picking beans and go get some ice cream [on Emma Avenue]. [The camp was] ...okay. We were satisfied that we had food to eat and a roof over our heads. ...It was an adventure for us kids.”

Glenda Emery Wright, who was 13 years old when she lived in the camp in 1946,
April 2008


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