Saturday, 15 September 2018 04:30

Couples re-enact Great Depression journey in their vintage cars

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Two couples from Medicine Hat made a stop in Swift Current on Sept. 6 during a journey to re-enact a Great Depression trip by a Saskatchewan family. From left to right, Lisa and Bart Campbell with their 1926 Chevrolet, and Teri and Fred Holt with their 1929 Ford Model A. Two couples from Medicine Hat made a stop in Swift Current on Sept. 6 during a journey to re-enact a Great Depression trip by a Saskatchewan family. From left to right, Lisa and Bart Campbell with their 1926 Chevrolet, and Teri and Fred Holt with their 1929 Ford Model A. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

Two couples from Medicine Hat are undertaking a 900 mile trip on Saskatchewan backroads in their vintage cars to re-enact a journey by a family during the Great Depression.

They intentionally started their trip without any money and they have to rely on the generosity of strangers and money earned from odd jobs to get to Hague, a small town north of Saskatoon.
Bart and Lisa Campbell are travelling in their 1926 Chevrolet. They are accompanied by Fred and Teri Holt, who are driving a 1929 four-door Ford Model A.
They left Medicine Hat on Sept. 4 and travelled north to Leader, before turning south to arrive in Swift Current on Sept. 6, where they were treated to a potluck supper at the Mennonite Heritage Village.
Bart was inspired to undertake this journey after he saw a photograph taken during the Great Depression of Abram Fehr with his wife and seven children. The family was standing in front of their 1926 Chevrolet in Edmonton in 1934, when they were travelling back to their home in Hague after an unsuccessful attempt to farm in Peace River, Alberta.
He loves old cars and initially his intention was simply to go on a road trip in a car of similar vintage, but that plan changed dramatically after he met members of the Fehr family, including three of the children in that photograph.
“They did their car trip with no money,” he said. “Now that was a big deal, because I was just going to do a car trip. ... I realized to complete it properly, I have to leave with no money and rely on the kindness of others to succeed.”
They will cover a similar distance than the original trip from Peace River to Hague, but it will be along their own route on backroads.
“We really don't know what path they followed,” he said about the 1934 trip. “I know it wouldn't be this one, but we just decided, we live in Medicine Hat, we would make our own path to Hague.”
Bart's late grandfather, Henry Schmidt, was also an inspiration for this trip. He was born in 1905 and Bart listened to his grandfather's stories about hopping freight trains, driving his Ford Model T and travelling through western Canada to look for work.
“My grandpa and I got along pretty good,” he said. “I really liked his story and so here is my chance and one and only chance to really recreate as close as I'll ever come to his journey.”
Fred was immediately interested when he heard about Bart's idea to re-enact that 1934 journey.
“I was all for it, right from the get go,” Fred said. “We often sat around and talked about our old cars and why we like them and why we drive them, and we made a few comments that we should have maybe lived a hundred years ago or lived during the Depression. We all have family members who were in the Depression.”
They already had some memorable experiences during the first few days of the trip and they benefitted from people's generosity. Even before the start of the journey they received donations of money and food from people in Medicine Hat.
They got their first job on a farm south of Leader, where they cleared trees. Along the way they met people, received money for gas, and offers of food and places to sleep. In Swift Current they worked at different businesses and earned enough gas money for another day on the road.
Fred's car had some engine trouble on the road from Cabri, but during the day he received two offers of head gaskets. A business in Swift Current fixed the speedometer on Bart's car free of charge. The response from people to their journey has been beyond their expectations.
“They just feel it's just something they want to be a part of,” Bart said. “I knew people in Saskatchewan were incredibly generous or awesome, but it's above that.”
People are initially more interested in the cars, but are then curious to hear about their journey.
“There is a bit of surprise, because somebody driving a car like this nowadays isn't usually somebody homeless,” he mentioned. “So there's a bit of a twist and they don't understand it originally until they maybe have a discussion with you and they understand where you're coming from, and so then they change and they realize something special is happening.”
The two couples will meet with the Fehr family after their arrival in Hague. A member of the family, Jim Fehr, travelled to Medicine Hat to be present at the start of the trip and he will also be there at the end.
“The family is finding this really special and they're going to have a little barbecue for us,” Bart said. “They're really looking forward to us re-enacting their personal history.”
The four travellers have continued to experience the generosity of people since they left Swift Current. Details about their journey are posted on the Facebook page My Epic Journey 2018 (@myepicjourney2018).

Read 247 times Last modified on Saturday, 15 September 2018 09:04
Matthew Liebenberg


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