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As It Was: Drive to Oregon South Coast in 1923 Requires Stamina

An automobile trip along the Oregon South Coast required stamina and optimism in the early days.  Wes Hartman of Jacksonville remembered driving to the coast with his father, Jason, in late June 1923 in their Chevy touring car, camping and fishing along the way.

They battled rough and muddy roads along much of the coast and were hauled by a team of horses on the way from Coos Bay to Bandon.  The road south toward Brookings was so muddy they wrapped rope around the car’s back wheels to gain traction.  They found gas at a combination garage and blacksmith shop in Gold Beach.  On the home stretch from Crescent City back into Oregon, they dragged a tree tied to the back of the car to help brake while driving down a steep mountain road.

Despite difficult driving conditions, Wes and his father managed to enjoy the sights. They saw logs floating down the Coquille River headed to coastal sawmills in Coos Bay and watched ships coming and going in Bandon harbor.  On the home stretch they camped at the Oregon Caves and admired the stalactites and stalagmites by the light of a miner’s lamp.

Sources: Works cited: Hamilton, Eva. "Valley Resident Recalls First Trip to Oregon Coast." Medford Mail Tribune, 23 May 1974.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.