Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society
AUTO CAMPS & TRANSPORTATION
HOW THEY CAME ABOUT
The automobile changed life everywhere, even in rural Hugo, Oregon, at first for the rich and later for everyone.
The Model T greeted the masses in 1908 and revolutionized American society. With its introduction, automobiles in America became available to most everyone, not just the well-to-do. It gave the people the freedom to roam and had a major role in developing mountain tourism in Southwestern Oregon.
The "Tin Lizzie", with its four-cylinder motor, magneto ignition, and planetary transmission, was a technically advanced automobile efficiently built at a price affordable to the masses. It, along with the developing Pacific Highway, made scenic Oregon and the Rogue River with its famous salmon fishing accessible to sportsmen of the world.
Magically feeding on each other, the Lizzie and the Pacific Highway jointly came on-line full steam in the 1910's and early 1920s.
The automobile altered the land itself, demanding smooth roads where dirt ruts had been the norm. The automobile created a new courtesy which insisted autos not frighten horses, and eventually the populace agreed to locate their autos on the right hand side of the road.
There were several land transportation systems before and after the official Pacific Highway (1913 - 1926) in southwestern Oregon: from Indian trails to pioneer trails and wagon roads following water courses, and during the auto age from dirt and granite roads to narrow paved roads, and finally the four land, and larger, interstate 5 freeway.
The Pacific Highway was a major 1,500 mile north-south transportation route constructed with the advent of automobile travel in the West. It went from Vancouver in the North to San Diego in the south. In Oregon, the route of the Pacific Highway generally follows the path established by the California Stage Company for their line between Sacramento and Portland in 1860.
In 1920, the Pacific Highway was open for year around travel in Oregon. The 345 mile Oregon highway in 1922 is paved or under contract for paving. The completion of this highway in 1922 gives Oregon the distinction of being the first state west of the Mississippi to have a paved highway the entire length of the state. The Pacific Highway was officially dedicated the length of Oregon and Washington in October 1923.
Fragments of the "official" 1913-1926 Pacific Highway are plentiful in Northern Josephine County. These fragment are left-overs not buried beneath later versions of the highway. They are survivors of the grade and pave troops and had been abandoned, reclaimed, and/or renamed.
When the U.S. Highway System was implemented in 1926, the Pacific Highway #1 was given the U.S. Highway 99 designation. (U.S. 99)
In 1912, there were one million registered vehicles but by 1923, there were some 15.2 million cars registered in the United States.
The auto camping fad spanned the years 1915 - 1922. Autos were increasing in the Pacific Northwest and travelling became a favorite past time. People would outfit their cars with camping equipment and just go. These "tourists" viewed themselves as pioneers or auto "gypsies". There was a freedom in auto camping. No reservations had to be made, you could stop anytime you wanted, you didn't need to dress up when you stopped for the evening, it was cheap, and you didn't have to tip. The practical side was in the event that your auto broke down, you could overnight and make repairs.
The Grants Pass Bulletin dated June 9, 1934 reads:
ADVICE GIVEN TO "AUTO NOMADS"
"Heralded by the rustle of road maps, spread out in millions of American homes after the dinner dishes have been exports to the kitchen, the Nomad season has arrived. In this season which is bounded roughly by the vernal equinox on the north and autumnal equinox on the south, the Man in the Street becomes the Man on the Highway.
His yearly orbit may vary, but fundamentally it remains the same. There are cities, beaches, mountains, streams and Aunt Kate's to visit. There are stars to be slept under and new camps to be pitched in purple shadowed canyons.
For the unwise, or novice Nomad, this seasonal elliptic is not without difficulties, which range from simple inconvenience to actual peril.
To eliminate insofar as possible these last, the Oregon State Motor Association has announced a handy list of "Do's" and Don't's" for the vacationing motorist, his heirs and assigns.
The primary rule for all motorists, tourists or otherwise, is to observe safety precautions. Drive sanely. Go slow on curves and on blind hills to keep to the right. Avoid night driving, if possible. Don't try to make miles--enjoy your trip. Start early in the morning and turn in early. This saves nerves and assures you of better accommodations.
Equipment? A small cooking outfit in a light container, if you favor auto camps. Roll your bedding in a waterproof, dustproof "tarp" or oil skin. Tuck a large thermos bottle in your war bag if you trip is through desert country. Next to the thermos bottle put a first-aid kit. Practical kits may be had for little cost. Take no perishable food as most auto camps have a store nearby. Don't forget the auto robe. Field glasses, if you have them. Fishing tackle may be rented if you are going to a national park.
A minimum of clothing is wisest. For women, one good traveling suit --wool knit preferred-- and a wash dress or dark silk for very warm days. Medium weight traveling coat, comfortable shoes, serviceable gloves and simple accessories complete her outfit.
Don't carry the family bankroll in cash or currency. Buy traveler's checks in tens or twenties. They are accepted everywhere. Leave your jewelry at home or in the bank. It's harder to lose in either of the latter places than on the highway.
Don't overlook that vitally important item--your car's health. Give it the benefit of the doubt by having its ignition, lubrication system, brakes, lights, tires and other important parts inspected before you leave. On the road watch your gas, oil and grease carefully.
If you tire of auto camps clean, comfortable hotels will be found in virtually every town.
Secure reliable road information and avoid jousts with detours and bad roads."
On the Pacific Highway from Merlin or Granite Hill north just over Mr. Sexton Pass were the following auto camps to serve the travelling public: Pine Camp, Scotty's Texaco, Willow Springs Gas Station, Camp Joy, Spokane Auto Court, Hamilton's Truck Stop, Flying A, Antlers Service Station, Wildwood Service Station, Oxyoke Service Station, Hick's Auto Camp/Conway Service Station & Store, Mt. Sexton Auto Court, Shady Rest Motor Court, and Leidecker Fish Farm/Tourist Camp.
A number of these were located on what is today known as Monument Drive and others on Oxyoke Rd. (old U.S. 99 / Pacific Highway)
Location and Driving Distance - South to North along Monument Drive
Between 1923 - 1934, attention turned to the cabin. Proprietors of auto camps realized that cabins with a few amenities attracted paying patrons. Soon more than 3/4ths of the areas auto camps contained cabins. There were 714 auto camps in the Pacific Northwest by 1929 with 83 camps located in Jackson & Josephine Counties.
An article in the Grants Pass, Oregon "Southern Oregon Spokesman" dated February 23, 1926 reads:
AUTO CAMP PREPARES FOR THE TOURIST TRAVEL
"Among the auto camps in the vicinity of Grants Pass that are preparing for the coming season's business is the Wildwood auto camp, located about nine miles north on the Pacific highway. This camp has been taken over by Mr. C.E. Carner who is clearing up all of the small brush around his cabins and installing many improvements for the comfort of his guests.
Mr. Carner plans to have ten cabins fully equipped with tables, chairs, running water, and electric lights and very comfortable beds. He maintains a well stocked store and service station on the grounds built out of logs."
The Grants Pass Bulletin, dated Friday May 26, 1933 was mentioned:
"The Pendleton auto camp was sold last week to California parties."
Appendix A: "Historical Auto Camps and Services Stations, Hugo, Oregon Region" for Review and Editing
Oral History Interviews on Auto Camps:
© 2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society