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Oregon or Bust: 1936

Oregon or Bust: 1936

July 1936. "Vernon Evans [interview] and family of Lemmon, South Dakota, near Missoula, Montana. Leaving the grasshopper-ridden and drought-stricken area for a new start in Oregon or Washington. Expects to arrive at Yakima in time for hop picking. Makes about 200 miles a day in Model T Ford. Live in tent." Medium-format nitrate negative by Arthur Rothstein. View full size.


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Love the ladies' pants

Those have to be the most stylish pants I have seen from the depression outside of a movie. What a sense of style she had during those difficult times.

"200 Miles Per Day"

When things were running right and the roads were good, Model T's might be able to average 35 miles per hour. Looking at the road condition in this photo and dropping the average to 25 mph for rest, gas and food stops means the five of them spent 8 hours a day in that little Ford. Sounds like fun!!!

I hope one of them

got a job as a sign painter with the scripted serif-laden destination sign.


Looks like Vernon is channeling Kramer.

Vernon Evans interview

An interview with Vernon Evans (at center in photo) about how this picture came to be taken:

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

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