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Oregon Guide Book Poses Questions for Future Generations

The federal government’s Works Progress Administration put millions of the Great Depression’s jobless to work on public projects.  Most were unskilled men, but the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project employed historians, teachers, writers, librarians and other white-collar workers.

The writers produced a series of regional guide books, including one titled “OREGON: The End of the Trail.”  It includes a recommended tour of Southern Oregon. 

State supervisor T.J. Edmonds said in the book’s preface that Oregon was “the most unspoiled and most uncluttered spot in America...", but could be “...changed by the coming of Power, the inrolling [sic] of immigration from the dust bowl, the devastation of timber-cutting and forest fires, and the boosting activities of chambers of commerce.”  

Edmonds wondered if Oregon would be “transformed into a network of highways, clogged with cans and defaced with hotdog stands, the groves littered with tin cans and papers, the hills pockmarked with stumps, and the cities cursed with the slums that seem to accompany industrial progress …”

And Edmonds left another question for today’s generation to ponder. He asked, “Will Oregonians become less appreciative of nature and … more avid and neurotic in the pursuit of wealth?”

Source: Program, WPA Writers'. OREGON End of the Trail. Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1940. vii-x. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. https://archive.org/details/oregonendoftrail00writrich; "Federal Writers' Project." Web Guides. 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Sept. 2016. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.