Shorpy: Oregon Or Bust–And The Story Behind The Picture

SHORPY Oregon or Bust a

Haven’t paid Shorpy a visit in so long; of course, it’s never a short one there; better to stay away. But what really adds to all the old photos are the comments (like here at CC); folks manage to find so much background to the photos. Like this story of these five young folks leaving the drought-ridden fields of South Dakota for a new start in Oregon in 1936 :

Commenter Dave dug up the interview that was taken with Vernon Evans, crouching in the center of the photo:

Well, we was all without jobs here [in South Dakota]. And the jobs was so few and far between at the time we left that you couldn’t even buy a job. We had friends that we knew out in Oregon, and we decided we was going to go out there and see if we could find some work. We had $54 between the five of us when we started out from here to go to Oregon. And when we got to Oregon, I think we had about $16 left. We had absolutely no idea what we was going to do.

We all got in an old Model T and started for Oregon. We started out, and, I don’t know, we got out six miles and broke the crankshaft. This old rancher, he had some old Model T motors laying around. He said we was welcome to a crankshaft if we wanted one. So, we went back and proceeded to tear the motor out of the old Model T and put the crankshaft in. And that night we made Baker, which is a matter of 24 miles from the night before.

Well, then we had pretty good luck all the rest of the way. But we got around Missoula [Montana] and we was having a good time. See somebody along the road or something. And here was this car sitting alongside the road, and a guy sleeping in it. So, we honked and hollered at him, having a good time. Pretty soon, this car was after us. We’d heard they was sending them back [police sending migrants back at state borders], wasn’t letting ’em go on through. So, we thought, “Well, here’s where we go back home.” He motioned for us to pull over to the side of the road.

Anyhow, he come up and introduced himself [as Arthur Rothstein] and said he was with the Resettlement Administration and asked us questions about the conditions here and one thing or another. Where we was headed for. This “Oregon or Bust” on the back end was what took his eye. Then, he asked us if we cared if he took some pictures of us. Oh, we said, “I guess not.” I think he took eight different poses. And then after we was out there [in Oregon] I guess probably it was that fall or winter, why these pictures started showing up in the different magazines and papers. Anyhow, we got out there and I went to work on the railroad.

Source: Transcribed from an audio clip at

SHORPY Oregon or Bust 2a

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