My Epic Journey revisits tough conditions of the depression era
A pair of vintage vehicles have carried two Medicine Hat couples along a journey which recollected the hardships of the Great Depression.
Bart and Lisa Campbell are travelling in a 1926 Chevrolet affectionately called Stella, while Fred and Teri Holt are motoring in a 1929 Ford Model A.
The couples stopped in Swift Current last Thursday during My Epic Journey, a just over 1,000 kilometre journey which is re-tracing a portion of a journey taken by a downtrodden family during the Great Depression. A photo of the Fehr family, who made the harrowing trip in 1934, is featured prominently on the 1920s vehicles which were used for the 10 day trip from Medicine Hat to Hague. The Fehr’s were forced to return to Hague after two disastrous farming years in Peace River, AB, making the trip with seven children, no money, and just stopping to work along the way to continue their trip home.
My Epic Journey followed a similar philosophy, with the travellers doing odd jobs and relying on the generosity of strangers to assist them with fueling the vehicle, finding meals, and locating places to spend the night.
“Originally, I just thought I would take a car trip because I love old cars,” Bart Campbell said during their stop over in Swift Current. “And then I thought, well maybe I should take the car trip they took. And then I thought well maybe I should ask the family some questions just so I have more idea of what they did.”
“And then it spiralled to the fact that I realized they had taken their car trip with no money, in desperate times.”
The couples started their trip on Tuesday, September 4 when they drove from Medicine Hat to Leader. After that initial stop, except for planned daily end locations, they have just figured out ways to get to their next destination with support from people along the way.
“It has figured itself out every single day because Saskatchewan people just step up. We’ve just left it in faith’s hands. They’ve just stepped up and helped us,” he said.
A Facebook page detailing their trip lists story after story of generosity of kindness by complete strangers along with friends and relatives who aided the trek.
“I’m not surprised at all of the generosity and kindness of people. At all. But I’m surprised at the level it’s at. It’s beyond the level I anticipated.”
And while they did have some supports along the way, it was admittedly difficult to be relying on the generosity of others to get from place to place.
“It has not been easy for my wife and I to sit on the side of the road and ask for help. That’s been very challenging, but we’re glad we’re doing it.”
“It’s really overwhelming emotionally for both my wife and I that people just come up, and they realize what we’re trying to do.”
Campbell couldn’t help but think this was a similar outpouring of support which the Fehr’s experienced during their time of need at the height of the depression.
“So if people think its changed since 82 years ago, I feel people are just as awesome as they were then. You just give them a chance.”
Once arriving in Swift Current from Cabri they had some minor car repairs to make, so they received local help to get their vehicles running properly. They also spent a few hours working for meal money and gas money before enjoying a meal served at Mennonite Heritage Village.
The remainder of the trip took them to Moose Jaw and a day at the Sukanen Threshing Bee, before turning north towards Elbow and Outlook. The final two days were scheduled to take them along back roads to Saskatoon, and then the final leg of the journey to Hague yesterday.
Campbell admitted making the trip in a vintage vehicle is considerably different from when they scouted the route in a modern vehicle back in August.
“The speed of our travel. Until you sit in our drivers’ seat, and the heat of the car, and the steering is more difficult, you don’t really realize how exhausting the trip is compared to when I drove it out with a different vehicle.”
Fred Holt added that the pace of their trip is impacted by people who are curious about their effort.
“When you do stop, such as at the gas station, you can’t get out of the gas station because everybody is looking at you and waving at you. Those are all things you’ve got to deal with too. But it’s all good and the people in Saskatchewan are very friendly and very giving. Plus, they seem to be very respectful on the highway.”
“It’s great to have all that interest, but when you’re out on the open road there’s not a better feeling. It’s nice driving down the Saskatchewan highways,” he added.
Bart and Lisa Campbell along with Fred and Teri Holt stopped in Swift Current on September 6 during the first leg of My Epic Journey.