After filming, we sit in Barbara’s small café/takeaway next to the Bull Dog British Pub on Lighthouse Avenue. She talks about Monterey, how it consisted of 6-7 canneries, sited to exploit the Sardine shoals off the coast. Talks about how waste was dumped straight back into the Bay & could be smelt as far as Salinas, over the headland. At that time the town was rough & didn’t really develop beyond the Sardine canning industry until the collapse of the shoals from the late 1940s onwards, caused by overfishing [the shoals have only recently begun to return]. Steinbeck made Monterey famous when he wrote Cannery Row, a book that effectively documented a vanishing industry & set of social relations.
Affordable housing became available during the 60s & 70s; the Military came in after the Canneries closed & that brought Federal subsidies to the area. Many service personnel stayed when their period of service finished. The area also experienced a property boom as Silicon Valley developed & people began buying 2nd & 3rd homes on the coast.
Barbara moved to Monterey in 1996 when the town had a booming economy until the after effects of 9/11 caused it to collapse. She described how there was more ‘drive-in & less fly-in traffic’ for 1-2 years after 9/11. She talks about how the last 4 years have been ‘terrible’ as the junk loans issue has also impacted on the local economy.
It’s a familiar story; people borrowing to buy 2nd/3rd homes then finding they’re repaying at 20-25% interest instead of the original 10% or lower. But, she tells us, the banks stopped foreclosure proceedings to prevent empty houses being stripped of fittings & scrap materials (as happened in Detroit) so people rented out their 2nd/3rd properties to cover some of their costs, to put money in their pocket, not the banks. But there’s still insecurity in the rental sector; once the banks put the houses up for auction, anyone renting can be given notice to quit, sometimes overnight.