I love antique photos. You can learn so much about how things have changed, and again how little has. We inherited 3 trunks of photos from the late 1800's to the 1940s and 50's. Most came from an enigmatic, extremely hard working but photo-loving woman named Lena, an ancestor of my husband, born in 1879. She had more contacts, more postcards (several hundreds) and more photos of herself taken than anyone who is not a well know celebrity. She seems to have collected antique photos from all around her. She unfortunately didn't identify many, only writing "Lena" on many given to her. I think she assumed she would remember, and of course after that it wouldn't matter!

We are still sorting through all the stuff trying to piece together Lena's fascinating and sometimes tragic life. Meanwhile, here are a variety of photos, including some of the highest (and lowest!) fashion.

I have also included the very old family photos I have from my mom's side of the family.

I hope you enjoy, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, July 12, 2010

TheThe Hard 1930's; One Family's Experience, photos and letter

The times from the 1920's to the beginning of WW 2 had major impacts on most people in the U.S., and indeed, because of the world-wide Depression, 1928 through 1930, in most countries in world. In the states hundreds of thousands of small farmers and people from all walks of life lost their jobs and became migrants. The great majority went west, where they often didn't find anything better.  John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath" offers perhaps the best known picture of migrant life at that time. (In an interesting aside, before 20th Century Fox hired detectives to check the accuracy of Steinbeck's portrayal of life in the migrant camps,  The report: conditions were even worse than Steinbeck had suggested.)

  My husband's grandparents (on his mom's side), Pearl and Earle Yorton, were living in Fairfield, California, where Earl(grandfather) was a butcher. But life was already getting harder, and they had 3 young kids.  They headed up to Climax, Oregon due to a job offer of work in a small lumber mill from Pearl's sister. Earle's brother, Glenn was with them. The trip must have been long and hard. There were no freeways; the truck broke down frequently; no AAA's to call to fix things  nor any phones available for that matter. Three young kids to feed and keep entertained.No money to stop at inns along the way.

    Climax was, and is even now, a tiny extremely isolated community in Southern Oregon. At that time there may have been 10 to 15 families; no electricity ; hand pumped water.  Roads impassable in winter for trucks and for the horse teams used for timber work. Even today the road up to Climax is long, winding, partially  unpaved, and impassable in bad weather.

They traveled in an old truck, pulling a cart full of belongings. Timing was terrible; when they arrived in Climax it was winter and the mill was closed. Pearl and the kids and Glenn stayed in Climax , and Earle went down into the valley, Eagle Point, to work on a ranch there.
This is when things got really bad.  Pearl and Glenn and the kids lived in a small previously abandoned house on a dry hill plentiful with rattlesnakes.The story was passed down to Craig of how she killed a huge rattlesnake with a shovel, left all but the head on a stump; came back in a couple of days and all that was left was the skin, the rest having been consumed by insects.  She was terrified one of the kids would be bitten by a snake.
    In the following letter, from Pearl to Earle( who was stuck working down on the ranch,) Pearl talks about the severe poverty and conditions she was experiencing.

     Same Old Hole
        Jan 22&28
Daddy Dear:-
    I'll write you so that Glenn can take it down for Sam to mail tomorrow.  He was here for a while today but didn't stay long enough for me to get all my business stuff fixed up for mail day, so his coming back tomorrow for my letters. He brought us a piece of bacon and a half gallon of milk. Sure was welcome addition to the grub situation.  Floyd came and took the cow away Friday, so little Ted has had poor "pickings" lately.  We cooked our last mess of beans for dinner today.  Glenn put in a slice of bacon in 'em for seasoning; and I fried some more and made gravy and he had dinner with us.
    Well the check from the tanning company came at last and it was for $11.16!! Gee I sure was surprised. They had the weight of the 3 sacks as being  279 lb.  It was no wonder you had a time carrying them over when they averaged 93 lbs apiece!!  Well we will have a dollar or two left over after the car license is paid for and the postage is taken out.  Glen came first and didn’t have the letter a few minutes after he got here, here came the three C. boys with the Albany letter and a note from the B. saying she had overlooked the Albany letter last night and hoped we had got a good price for the grape root as she wanted the money right away--$4.28.  We, Glenn and I, saw where the letter had been opened and sealed up again. So that old gag of “overlooking” don’t go.  Well I am going to have Sam give her the postage Tuesday and then we will be  quit forever.  This crooked work is the last straw.Well, honey, what are you doing!  I hope you aren’t working too hard.  I did quite a big washing yesterday as the wind was blowing in the morning and I took it would dry.  But darned if it didn’t begin snowing about 2:0’clock and snowed over an inch last night.  Well anyway I got your shirt all washed and ironed and ready to send down to you.  Oh! Honey! I miss you so and the kiddies are always talking about you and wishing you were here.  You will hurry up and get us away from here soon, won’t you dear?  Glen said Sam said you could use his team any time you want to move.  Isn’t that fine?  It can’t be too soon to suit me.  It wasn’t quite so bad when you were here, but since you are gone, and the snow and no sun for the children to play in it just is unbearable.  Well I know you’ll do your best so that is enough of that.
 Glenn had a letter from Leone Thurs, and she enclosed a note to Marine.  She wants to write to her.  She said that Howard King had joined the Navy and that Helen are living in Dell’s house in the orchard.  She says that Merlyn is playing for dances with the Harmony Four.  She says that she & George are going to leave there the middle of March.  I wonder, ha ha. I’m baking bread today. Got over a loaf left, but was afraid that it wouldn’t last ‘til I  could get some baked tomorrow.
 Say Daddy, where did you say you set that other big trap?  I can’t remember and I wanted to go get it so as I could give it to Glenn if we leave soon.  I had a rabbit’s foot in a trap this morning and a fat rat Fri., which the cat liked fine, ha! Ha!Well, sweetheart, I hope we will be eating“crunchies” together again soon.

Lots of love and xxx.  Sis is writing too.

post script:  Pearl and the kids were not able to leave Climax for  2 years after this letter was written.

pps, Craig, my husband, is Lena's great nephew. please see earlier blogs about Lena.


  1. Intresting read. My grandma grew up in Climax and was born in 1921, Ruth Clarabell Charley. I was wondering if the reference to the "C boys" could have been some fo the Charley boys, my Grandma's brothers. My Grandma lives in Central Point and is turning 90 years old March 19, 2011. I stumbled across this site looking for old photos of Climax, Oregon to go on her cake.

    Renae Heineck

  2. Your great grandmother Bertha Charley is my husband's grandmother's sister, Katie Pearl Bryan Yorton. My husband has photos, here is his email address if you'd like to contact him: