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A 1940 Oregon Coast Tour: An Oregon State Archives Exhibit

Stepping Back to 1940

Setting the mood
The year is 1940, and you are driving with your family to Astoria to begin a trip down the Oregon Coast. Along the way, you listen to the car radio, laughing at the antics of Fibber McGee and Molly, tapping your fingers to the latest Big Band hit, and shaking your head at war news from Europe. You worry that America may need to get involved eventually.

 

 

 

Sunset at Depoe Bay State Park (562).

Sunset at Depoe Bay State Park (562). Enlarge image


As you stop at a roadside restaurant, you pull a newly published book from your bag. Called "Oregon: End of the Trail," it is a detailed and engaging guide to the state's culture, history, and geography. Of immediate interest to your family is the section that traces the very trip you will soon be making: down the Oregon Coast Highway (U.S. 101) from Astoria to the California border.

You've read in the newspapers how the guide was prepared by the Oregon office of the Federal Writer's Project. Established under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal," the project has for several years provided work for writers and other "white-collar" workers suffering the impacts of the Great Depression. Like the Oregon office, state Writer's Project offices around the country have produced (or are hurrying to finish) similar guides.

As you scan the book's pages, you are reminded just how recently the Oregon Coast Highway was completed: eight years ago. According to the guide, the long isolation of the pre-highway era left a legacy in coastal towns: "a certain individuality." You note how that individuality is captured in the guide's accounts of yodelers at Mohler, fish races at Depoe Bay, and Red Head Round-ups at Taft.

You also note that the book includes a wealth of interesting information about industry, agriculture, and tourist attractions along your intended route. But you find yourself especially drawn to the fascinating bits of history and local lore that capture the special character of coastal communities.

You close the guide and return to your car. You are more eager than ever to reach Astoria and begin the adventure!


Contents of the exhibit
As in the imaginary journey described above, text from Oregon: End of the Trail (1940 edition) is ready to point the way as you start your online tour of the Oregon Coast.

Our version of that text includes some revisions in punctuation and spelling, as well as changes designed to assure greater accuracy in historical references.

Harris State Park near Brookings (1793).

Harris State Park near Brookings (1793). Enlarge image

 

 

 

The accompanying photographs are from a collection of the Oregon Department of Transportation, Highway Division, now maintained by the Oregon State Archives. Individual photos in the collection are undated, but they were taken around 1940, and thus depict the Coast as it appeared to writers of Oregon: End of the Trail. When possible, the images have been placed close to associated text.

We hope you enjoy your trip down the Oregon Coast!

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