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Memories of The Depression

Pete Springer/OPB

Do you remember The Great Depression? How did your family survive?

Glen Wardlaw was a young boy when his family moved to Oregon from Arkansas at the height of The Great Depression. He remembers the journey to his family’s new home in Ontario Heights, near the Idaho border, as dusty and hot.

The Wardlaw family, pictured here in 1939 at their kitchen table by the iconic photographer Dorothea Lange, survived that journey and dug their roots into Oregon soil. Lange’s notes accompanying this photograph reveal that Wardlaw was copying out a recipe for his mother.

Anne Whiston Spirn, a professor of landscape architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tracked down Wardlaw, now 78, in Nampa, Idaho while researching a book on Lange.

In that book, Daring to Look, Spirn explores Lange’s journeys to several parts of the country, including the Pacific Northwest. We’ll talk with Wardlaw about his memories of those times, and to Spirn about how Lange filtered his family’s experience and the experiences of many others who came to this region through her camera lens.

We’re looking for Depressions-era stories, for tales that will illustrate how people coped with the worst of times. Did you grow up in the Depression? What day-to-day memories do you still have of those times? Did your parents or grandparents tell you stories about how they survived? And how did those tough times shape where we live today?

Photo credit: Library of Congress

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