The Beavers: a Teviston success story

In 1961 I met Benjamin and Bertha Mae Beavers, Teviston community leaders and parents to twelve children. Benjamin first came to California from Oklahoma in 1948 and brought Bertha Mae out in 1951. She said she almost went back to Oklahoma within a few days when whites threatened to attack Teviston over a mistaken identity.

Their house looked better than many of Teviston’s homes, but it was small. The parents had one bedroom, the ten children born by 1964 shared the other one.

Benjamin and Bertha Mae worked hard, often taking their family out to work with them in the fields. He also worked as a truck driver and she in a tortilla factory in Tulare. The older kids filled in, taking care of their younger brothers and sisters.

Benjamin and Bertha Mae inspired the Beavers children to get out of low-paying farm labor and find employment in service industries.

I photographed their oldest son, Charles, hauling water for his family and others. His younger sisters and their friends would ride along in the back of the pickup.

Benjamin led work on an American Friends Service Committee project to get Teviston a pump and storage tank so they and others could end the drive to Pixley to collect the water and distribute it.

Later Benjamin led development of a self-help housing project and the Beavers and other families worked together to tear down many shacks and build attractive stucco homes. That was after my long visit in 1964.

The Beavers worked closely with other families in community improvement projects, child-rearing, and enjoyment of life. Their close network of Teviston families shared Benjamin and Bertha Mae’s work ethic and their determination to see their children succeed.

When I revisited Teviston in March and April of 2015 the grown up children I found said they never felt poor back in the day.