Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: A stroll through Hollister’s history

The 1940 census records detail the human history of Hollister's ordinary people.

This community opinion was contributed by Hollister Councilman Marty Richman. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

History is defined as the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. Historically, I find ordinary people interesting; they outnumber extraordinary people, so they really reflect who we were at the time.

Now we can learn a lot about the approximately 3,881 mostly ordinary people who were recorded as living in Hollister during the 1940 census. In 2012 the U.S. National Archives released the detailed 1940 census records. A website allows you full access to the record images in addition to maps and descriptions:

Go to the link, press Get Started, then under location Start Your Search, select California as the state, San Benito as the county, Hollister as the city, and All as the street and hit search again. You’ll be presented with three packages, 116 image pages all together, of 1940’s detailed census data.

This includes names, addresses, where people were born, their age, gender, family relationships, how much formal schooling they had, occupations, number of weeks they worked in 1939, annual income and more.

For example, J. Machado, head of household, was a single white male of 36. He had one year of high school, was born in California, worked 48 hours a week in March as an “Auto Salesman,” was employed all 52 weeks in 1939 and made $1,700 that year. His mother, Teresa, was a widowed white female of 66, born in Portugal, had no formal education, and was not employed.

By the way, the $1,700 a year was big money on that page of the census. Farm laborers were making $480 for 32 weeks of work while an usherette at the local theater made $640 annually, and 12 weeks of work at the cannery earned someone $252.

They came from everywhere nationally and internationally. The older generation had little formal education—lots of zeros indicating none at all. The 20-year-olds had more, every now and then some high school and rarely a tiny bit of college; the youngsters, a generation of California-born offspring, were better educated than their parents.

Digitizing this limited number of records to allow data mining would be a great project for San Benito High School students as a group; after all they come close to outnumbering Hollister’s entire 1940 population and, importantly, it would give them a sense of the ordinary people who made up Hollister’s history.


Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.