The Day Our Family Took to the Road

Evelyn Palmour (left) and her sister, Doreene McCoy, were recorded in Jackson, Miss.

Evelyn Palmour (left) and her sister, Doreene McCoy, were recorded in Jackson, Miss. hide caption

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Sisters Evelyn Palmour and Doreene McCoy were just children when the Depression hit their Nebraska community. Recently, the sisters remembered how their family packed up, took to the road, and started a new life.

The economic upheaval led the girls' family to flee Norfolk, Neb., for the safety of their grandfather's farm in Oklahoma.

But first, the family store — Nelson's "A Good Place to Trade" — had to be sold, and long-running debts had to be collected.

The store, recalls Doreene, "did a credit business, they let people charge groceries. And the Crash came about that time, and the people were out of work. They were honest people, but they just didn't have money to pay their bills."

Their father sold the store, and their mother made a tour of the town, says Evelyn, "and told all the people that owed us money, 'We are moving to Oklahoma, and we're not coming back, and in lieu of money, we'll take personal property.'"

Their customers took them up on the offer.

"Mom and dad drove that Model T truck loaded to the hilt with stuff," recalls Doreene, who was 11 at the time.

The girls followed with their uncle, who was pulling a trailer behind his car.

Some 535 miles after leaving with a car and a truck teetering with belongings, the Nelson family arrived in Chelsea, Okla., on March 5, 1935.

"When we got to Oklahoma and unpacked the truck," says Evelyn, who was 13 at the time of the move, "I was amazed at all the stuff. Some of it, I had never seen before.

"But it was what the people had forfeited for their grocery bill that they owed our parents."

Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.

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