Dad’s Tour of the West Coast During the Great Depression

Back in January 2013, I made my first ever blog entry entitled Riding the Rails During the Great Depression. It was primarily excerpts from a short travel diary my father kept in 1931, during the depression, when he and a number of his buddies rode the rails from Ashland, KY to Washington State. If you have an interest in checking out the first part, you can click on the italicized title above and you should be taken there for a quick review. In this diary, he makes references to pictures taken with his camera. I’m afraid I don’t have any of those which is a major disappointment.

When I last left off, the train had entered Portland, Oregon and he was talking about how beautiful everything was.

I checked my things at the Y and caught a street car over to Vancouver. I met Mr. and Mrs. James and also got a square meal. I came back over to Portland that afternoon and ate at the Y then I got a room in the Byron Hotel. I signed up for a week.

I don’t know who Mr. and Mrs. James were. Probably family of some friends back in Ashland who were being hospitable to the out-of-towner. I read a little about the YMCA in Portland during that time period. The little bit I read, it seems that the Y didn’t have such a good reputation at that time and maybe that’s why he moved on to the Hotel.

Portland YMCA

Portland YMCA

Hotel Byron

We took in the sights that nite and then got a good nite’s sleep. Six of us went to the Baptist Church the next morning to Sunday school.

That evening Mr. O’Neal from Medford hunted us up and took Tussey, Elsworth, and myself for a ride. We also played a round of Golf.

The Oregon O’Neals were related to an O’Neal family in Ashland that Dad and his friends knew and they had agreed to host them. I never knew that Dad had ever had any interest in golf, let alone that he played the game when he was young.

Sunday nite was spent taking in the sights again.

Monday was also spent in seeing the sights and we left Portland at 6:00 o’clock Monday p.m. headed south.

We ate a swell supper in Salem (the State capital). That nite we stayed in a tourist cabin. We were on the road again at 5:00 headed for a little place called Detroit. The fellow told us that he would have plenty of work for us if we would wait 10 days. We didn’t want to wait. Left at Mill City a Mr. Allen showed us through a big lumber mill, it sure was a big one too. I believe I’d rather work in the steel mill.

As I read through his diary and noted references to little bits and pieces of information, it seems that his trip out West was not just a “vacation” and to see the sights. It is becoming more apparent to me that he and his buddies went West looking for work. Perhaps the only kind of work available during the depression in Kentucky and the surrounding area might have been at one of the steel mills. I can’t imagine how hard that kind of work would have been. It sounds like he maybe checked out the steel mills before heading West and the lumber mills were giving him a new perspective!

Mill City was on the Santiam River. I snapped a couple of pictures of the river. 

Santiam River

Santiam River

Our next stop was at a lumber camp on Lost Creek a branch of the Williamette[sic] about 100 miles from Mill City. I got a few pictures of the logs there.

Mill operations on Lost Creek, tributary to Middle Fork Willamette River

Mill operations on Lost Creek, tributary to Middle Fork Willamette River

I wish I had the pictures he had taken…

We then came back to Eugene. The site of the Univ. of Ore. I stayed that nite at a ranch at Creswell, 12 miles from Eugene. We shot the bow & arrow and I accidently won it. I hit the bullseye out of my first 6 shots.

The next morning we went to a construction camp on the Williamette[sic] River, about 80 miles from the Camp. I snapped a few pictures there too.

That afternoon we played a game of Golf in Eugene then we saw the Univ. of Ore. Beat the Univ. of Idaho 17 to 0 in a baseball game. 

Oregon State College 1931

Oregon 1931

Mr. O’Neal asked us if we wanted the car to go to the dance that night. Of course we did so we shaved, washed and cleaned up and were off. I had to talk a long time before he would let us in free.

They don’t dance like we do back home so we didn’t have much fun. I tried to dance with some dame that said her name was Sybil Cornutt but it was a flop. After the dance we passed them walking down the street. They were plenty willing to take a ride and so were we. And did we have fun. We arrived home at 3 bells.

Dame? He said dame? It must have been the times. Maybe they got that from all the movies or gangster quotes like from Al Capone! You know, the Al Capone they couldn’t find listed in the phone directory when their train stopped in Chicago! Anyway, I was curious about this Sybil Cornutt. Other than Dad’s buddies, it was the only name he wrote. So, curious cat that I am, I did some Googling. I had hoped to find a picture or something to make her come more to life. I did find her on a couple of genealogy sites and suffice it to say that Sybil Cornutt was born in Oregon on September 16, 1910.  Same year Dad was born! It fits.

After a 3 hour rest we were on the road to Medford. We picked up Paul Vaughan and Chas. Ball, 2 of the gang. They said they were going to Tulsa, Okla.

Sam and I stayed that nite at Mr. O’Neal’s in Medford and again we got the car.

The next day we took a trip to the Ore. Caves, 4500 ft upon a mountain. It sure was a beautiful trip.

Oregon Caves NPS.gov

Cliff Nature Trail to Oregon Caves
NPS.gov

Cliff Nature Trail2 - NPS.gov

View from Cliff Nature Trail
NPS.gov

Sam and I went to a show to-nite. We saw Joe E. Brown in “Maybe It’s Love” and it sure was good.

Maybe It's Love 1930 Source: Wikepedia

Maybe It’s Love 1930
Source: Wikepedia

This morning, Sat. May 2, we were up bright and early and off for a trip to Crater Lake. The sun is shining bright in the Valley, but there’s clouds around the top of the mts. As we go up the Mt. we run into rain and it begins to get cooler. As we continue to climb, we hit patches of snow and then nothing but snow. As we near the top of the Mt. where the lake is, the rain turns into snow and it sure is cold. There is about 10 ft. of snow on top of the Mt. and the lake sure is beautiful. It’s cloudy though and I’m afraid my pictures won’t be very good. The lake is about 20 miles across but it doesn’t look 2.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island NPS.com

Crater Lake and Wizard Island
NPS.com

As we come back down the Mt. the snow turns to rain and then into sunshine and back into warm weather again. It hasn’t even rained a drop in the Valley.

Sun. morning we took a fishing trip up in the Canyons of the Rogue River. I turned out to be a poor fisherman but I did hold my own with the rifle.

I wonder what he meant by a “poor fisherman”? Because, as he got older and was looking forward to retirement (before he lost his health), he used to always say he wanted to spend his retirement fishing. So, maybe he just meant that he was a poor fisherman that day because he didn’t catch anything.

Rogue National Wild and Scenic River BLM.com

Rogue National Wild and Scenic River
BLM.com

We had ice cream and cake for supper.

Mmm, sounds like my kind of eatin’!!

This morning, Mon. 4th, I walked about a mile to a gasoline station to see about a job but I was too late. He had just hired a fellow.

Well at 2 o’clock this afternoon I took a notion I wanted to go to Santa Barbara, Calif. So I shipped 2 shirts, my bathing suit and some toilet articles on ahead and lit out with only my camera.

My first ride was with a fellow in a Star Coupe. He said he was going 75 miles down the trail. I only rode 13 with him cause I didn’t like his looks. I got out in a place called Ashland. They had the State Normal School there and plenty of fun women. My next ride was in a Paige Coupe for about 200 miles to a place called Redding, it is in Calif. It is so damn hot here that I’m about to croak.

1929 Graham  Paige Coupe

1929 Graham Paige Coupe

1926 Star Coupe

1926 Star Coupe

The bed is clean but as hard as a rock. So good nite until tomorrow.

Well, that’s the end of Dad’s writings about his trip. Sigh… It’s not the end of his trip, though. I do know he had an uncle living in Santa Barbara. I have bits and pieces of information from here and there about his summer in the West. I thought at first this was just a trip to the west coast to do some sightseeing and then return home again. Suffice it to say, I’ve been surprised. I haven’t calculated how much time was spent but with travel and various jobs, it was definitely months! So I’ve got my work cut out to try and put it all together. So, on that note, in my Dad’s words, good nite until tomorrow (the next time)!

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10 comments on “Dad’s Tour of the West Coast During the Great Depression

  1. gpcox says:

    An excellent look back. Wish I had had your help when I was putting together my guest post for Judy over at “Greatest Generation Lessons.”

  2. So interesting! I love other people’s diaries, thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks, Jackie! I do wish I had more than 17 penciled pages in a small pocket notebook! I have found some old postcards that were written but not mailed so I’m hoping I can piece together a bit more of his travels.

  3. What a great trip journal! Love it! 🙂

  4. Sheryl says:

    It’s interesting how he combined his search for work with a fun trip.

    • I’ve thought about trying to retrace some of his steps although obviously nothing would be the same! But I could still visit the national parks — Oregon Caves, Crater Lake, etc.!

  5. Mustang.Koji says:

    When the bug to “dig” bites, you are unable to stop – like the car they drove in to get to the top of Crater Lake! In those years – and even if the automobile was in excellent shape – maneuvering in snow or slick mountain roads was nail-biting time. Even tire manufacturing was relatively new; Firestone was founded just 31 years before! I’ve been to Redding for business… Having allergies, it was horrible as all the nut trees were in bloom.

    • One of these days I would love to try to follow his trail as best as I can after all these years! I’ve never been to Washington or Oregon but would love to visit. Hmm, never thought about the allergies! 🙂

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