19 thoughts on “Sullivan’s Gulch, 1941

  1. I wonder exactly where this was taken…which overpass that is? Any educated guesses out there?

  2. Philip Muir:
    Indeed…either the old green steel Grand Avenue bridge…just a wee bit South of the old Sears building (NE Lloyd Blvd)…or the old black steel Union Avenue bridge (right next door, so-to-speak)…one could flip a coin…but I’ll pick the Union Avenue Bridge…just to get the game started!

  3. There existed under the 82nd Street Viaduct, a substantial “Hooverville” in the late Forties, as well as a smaller seasonal one under 72nd street. In addition to the usual assortment of hobo’s there was seasonally a contingent of migrants that came and went with the shifting crop harvests. I have made mention of these “Hoovervilles” in these posts previously and now we have some visual confirmation. By the by when I use the word migrant here I reference the itinerant farm workers who labored on our local farms of which believe it or not, there were a great many. It is not used as a code word for anything else. The railroad box car was their coach.

  4. Fascinating, Rod. I had not heard of those camps. Do you recall when those camps dispersed, or why? I recall in the ’70s there were ‘berry busses’ that picked up itinerant farmworkers and hoboes in skid road, or Burnside as we called it then. I don’t know where else the busses stopped. At the time, there was still an Oregon State Employment Day Labor office in skid road. I suggest that you document your memories where they might be easily found or referenced, if you haven’t already.

  5. jonxwood,

    Some colorful commentary on the “berry busses.” My mother-in-law and her boyfriend grew up in Beaverton and Vancouver, WA, respectively, and also remember working the berry harvests. Was apparently quite the rite of passage for local kids at the time.

  6. I lived in Sullivan’s Gulch from 1945 to 1960, As a boy my friends and I would play along the tracks and in the forestlike atmosphere between about N.E. 33rd west to the Lloyd’s golf course which is now where the Lloyd Cinema is located. The Hooverville shacks were gone by then but there were hobo camps in the trees and we would sit and talk with these men that were down on their luck. Then about 1955 I-84 construction was underway and our playground was no more. Great childhood memories though.

  7. @jonxwood:@Richard King. It is my understanding that those hobo camps had their origination in the agricultural depression that followed the First World war in the 1920s. They grew to some prominence with the Great Depression and when some wit renamed one “Hooverville” in honor of the President presiding over that disaster the name stuck.
    My parents purchased their home on NE 76th in the spring of 1938 and the camp was in place at that time, These places were occupied by people who were further displaced after WW2 by the closing of the defense industries and the resultant lay-offs and further exacerbated by the local lack of affordable housing in the Portland area with housing allocation prioritizing family’s and veterans getting preference over single men. Witness Vanport.
    I completely endorse the testimony of Richard King (see above) and shared the same experience of the Gulch. Many times I recall denizens of the camps knocking at our door seeking a handout. Grandma would point them at the wood pile and hand them a axe. After a half hour or so she would repay their labor with a sandwich and a cold glass of milk. On occasion she would insist that these fellows share their stories with us kids as a cautionary tale
    As an aside I once shared a lunch counter seat with a old gentleman who retired in Del Rio Texas and who upon learning that I was from Portland told me of his fond remembrance of working as a “apple knocker” season after season up here in the berries, cherries, hop and bean fields in this area and sometimes camping in the gulch. He told me he was able to buy a nice house and raise four kids on the income from those picking jobs by sleeping rough and riding side door pullmans. Try that today.

  8. On a different matter about Sullivan’s Gulch… I read somewhere years ago that before the railroad was built up through the gulch (1870’s -80’s), there was a beautiful little stream cascading down from a waterfall and people used to day outings and hike upstream to the waterfall and have outings and picnics! I’m guessing the waterfall was somewhere up past the 33rd St. area. Any info available to confirm this??…

  9. Pat Davison: I’ve seen photos of the stream in Sullivan’s Gulch from 19th century, and if I recall correctly, people picnicing along the creek. I probably saw the photos on either Dead Portland Memories or Portland History and Memories Facebook groups. The PH & M group has some well organized photo albums, and you might find a photo there.

  10. Pat Davison and Garrett G: I just noticed that Vintage Portland included a link to the Sullivan’s Gulch history below their photo. This article tells of a mural in Northeast Portland that shows the gulch in a more natural state.

  11. I last recall seeing these structures in the ’70s. I was a child then and remember riding down the Banfield and being fascinated by the structures built of scrap wood under the Grand and Union Avenue overpasses. One day they’d be there, built high up the hill around the support columns, and the next month they’d be gone, only to return a short time later.

    And as a child (under the age of 12) who rode the berry bus in the summer to pick berries at the Fuji farms in East County, I remember the homeless (at that time we called them ‘bums’) men picking berries and the trail of empty, but still strong smelling, Thunderbird bottles they left behind.

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