Oral History:
Carlton Woodard Recalls the Great Depression

Carlton Woodard was interviewed in Cottage Grove by Katy Barber in 1999.

Woodard: I started school in London, 1929. I was quite young. I don't know why my mother started me early. I don't know if she wanted to get me out of the house or thought I was smarter than the other kids because I wasn't six until March. Anyway, I went to school there for two years. Then the Depression came along and we shut the mill down. My father took a job down the Columbia River and I moved there. London school was a three room school house and when I moved to a place called Bradwood about forty miles upriver from Astoria we had a one room school house with 14 students. I was the only third grader. After a couple of years when things got a little better, we came back to Cottage Grove, and I returned to London school for a while.

Barber: Did your whole family move?

W: There was only three of us, my mother, father, and myself. There was only three of us so we moved. And it was pretty primitive you know. We didn't have any money but nobody else did either. We were never hungry. The first summer there my aunt and uncle and cousin and my mother and father had a couple of box cars we lived in through the summer till we got organized. Depression days you young people don't really realize or understand. But I wasn't unhappy. I was never hungry and privations aren't hard on you at that age.

B: Was it hot in the box cars?

W: Well, no, not on the Columbia River. It doesn't get too hot there really. It was only forty miles from the ocean. It was just a temporary situation. We eventually built a little house that we lived in. It kind of disrupted our lives. I'm sure my parents were more disrupted about it than I was but things were kind of different then. I remember talking to the different people who were working in the mills. Most of them had a little piece of land and probably no mortgage and they didn't have credit cards and no debt so they kind of tended whatever animals they might have and their gardens and got their fences repaired. They didn't work for a year or two but you could live off the land basically. It was kind of a different situation, different than now.

B: What did your dad do on the Columbia River?

W: Well, people named Bradley owned some timber. They were from Michigan and wanted him to harvest this timber and deliver it into the river and then ship it to Japan. He went down there and got the railroad going up the hill and got his crew and so forth and a contract to fall and buck and haul these logs to the river where they were rafted and taken to Japan. He did that for two or three years, I guess, until he came back to his own operation here. They named the little community Bradwood; it was the Bradley-Woodard Lumber Company . But that was a temporary situation and then we came back here and soon after that was when they got the idea of building the dams. Of course, Cottage Grove dam was started and completed before World War II but Dorena Dam wasn't completed until after the war. You probably know that already. They stopped construction on it and finished it after the war. But Cottage Grove used to flood terribly before they had those dams.