While I was growing up, I never went anywhere. My parents had lived in several different states and in Central America, so they weren’t too interested in “unnecessary” travel – and besides, the Depression was in full swing, so they couldn’t afford it anyway. I rode a school bus three miles each way to elementary school. Several times a week our family drove to church in town, eight miles away. A lot of my parents’ relatives lived near Los Angeles and we visited them a few times each year.
When I was so young I can hardly remember, my father had taken us to Visalia to look at some land he was thinking of buying. When I was twelve I had ridden in my aunt’s car to the World’s Fair at San Francisco. And right after I graduated from high school at age sixteen and a half, my sister and I had visited Aunt Ruth in San Diego and we had gone to Tijuana, and for the first time I had been outside California – by about two miles. But with these few exceptions, I’d never gone anywhere before 1946, the summer after my seventeenth birthday.
I’d heard a lot about New York city, Washington DC, and the Mississippi River, and dreamed of visiting these places, especially of going the top of the Empire State Building and of seeing the Statue of Liberty. When I was about twelve, I decided that if by my twenty-first birthday I had not seen the USA, I would do so then.
In the fall of 1945 I entered Chaffey College at Ontario. After about the first day, I discovered there was a young man in almost all my classes. I soon found out that his name was Bruce Kerr. Our interests were very much alike and a close friendship grew between us, especially since Bruce had a sister. They lived in La Verne, which is the site of a Brethren college, although the Kerrs were Methodists.
The chain of events leading directly to my trip began in February, 1946. My mother heard a radio announcement which was to affect me greatly. On the “Baptist Brothers” radio program, an announcement was made of the heifer project of the Brethren church. An address was given where further information could be secured. My mother, thinking it would be an interesting item to send to Kate Smith, wrote to the address. A few days later, a letter came telling about the project and including a paragraph concerning the need for young men to accompany the cattle. When my mother showed me the letter, it seemed the answer to all my dreams. But I could hardly believe I was eligible. yes, it said the age limit was sixteen. “Men” in good health with some farm background were wanted. I had lived in the country all my life, and had some experience with farm animals. I wrote in and after a few weeks I got a reply – with an application. I filled it out and sent it in. About a month later I received word that I had been approved. This I confided to my friend, Bruce Kerr. He at once got the idea that he should go too. He had heard of the project, so he sent in his application. From then on, the first thing we would mention when we met before school every morning would be something about the trip.
In the Church of God paper, the Gospel Trumpet, we noticed an article about the same thing. It stated, besides, that the Church of God was trying to get groups of their men together on ships, accompanied by a minister or teacher. So Bruce and I decided to apply for that, and were accepted.
Our principal obstacle now was transportation. We would have to make our own way to Baltimore and back, they told us. But the Church of God camp meeting in Anderson, Indiana, would be about the first of June. That was about the time we expected to be called. So we planned to leave just as soon as school was out, to attend the Anderson camp meeting, and to go on from there later. I wanted to leave on Monday, June 11, my last day of finals, but Bruce had to stay till June 15 to sing for graduation: otherwise he would be required to write an essay of about 5000 words. So we stayed. Bruce and I went to an army surplus store in Redlands where I bought a suitcase and some clothing, and each of us bought a camera and about 4 rolls of film.
Wed 12 Jun 1946: Bruce and I went with our sisters to San Pedro so we could get “Seaman’s Papers,” but were unable to secure them. Since we had no other prospect of transportation, we were planning to hitch-hike. But on our way back from San Pedro we stopped at my aunt’s in North Long Beach and I called Aunt Jessie, who lives in Highland Park, to ask her to mail my razor and a shirt I had left there during Easter vacation. She asked how I was going, and she told me of Mrs Cline from her church who was leaving Friday for Anderson. I thought it was a poor idea to go with her, so thought little about it at the time. But when I got home that evening, my father said I should try to ride with her.
Thu 13 Jun 1946: An eventful day. We worked for Mr Simpson in the morning. Mr Puentes, the father of the three children who were boarding with us, came to visit them. Carmen, the oldest of the three, had been planning to leave the Sunday before to go to Anderson with Dentons (Pastors, Corona Church of God), but had been unable to contact her father in order to obtain his permission. But he got her letter and finally came Thursday and said it would be OK. I called Mrs Cline. She said she would take us for twenty-five dollars each and give Bruce and me each a five dollar discount if we helped drive.
That evening Mary Jean Daum and I went to Bruce’s. We took along my suitcase. We told Bruce all about everything we had found out. Bruce and I tried to phone Mrs Cline but were unable to contact her. Bruce had heard of a couple of fellows who were planning to drive a ‘41 Buick back east somewhere, so he had telegraphed them. We drove to the railroad station there in La Verne to see if it had been answered. It had not. We made arrangements to talk on the phone at two o’clock the next day to see about further developments. In the meantime I was to find out: what kind of car Mrs Cline had; arrangements for our luggage; number of other passengers; and “was she planning to stop much on the way?”
Fri 14 Jun 1946: I phoned Mrs Cline at one-thirty and found out she had a 35 De Soto, plenty of room and no other passengers, and she planned to stop about twice. Bruce called me and I gave him the ‘dope” and arranged to meet him after the graduation in front of Chaffey auditorium, the same place I had arranged with Mrs Cline. We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and packing. Carmen had gone to Los Angeles Thursday with her father and was to meet Mrs Cline at Aunt Jessie’s at eight.
It was about eight thirty when we left home. It was a clear moonlit night. When we got to Chaffey, the graduation was finished and the Kerrs’ Ford was alone out in front. We got our baggage arranged and waited for Mrs Cline. Bruce and I took a walk around the school grounds and up the steps at the back of the auditorium, and sat on the south library steps. We saw a boy on roller skates turning on and off the water on the lawn in the quadrangle, and behind the High School. We had expected Mrs Cline at about ten o’clock. But ten o’clock came and went. So did eleven. Finally, Mr Kerr and my father went to Ontario to phone L.A. They phoned about eleven thirty and found that she had just left Los Angeles, with Carmen.
Sat 15 Jun 1946: It was nearly one thirty am when we heard a roaring, scraping noise coming down Euclid Avenue. It sounded like something was dragging and we didn’t like it too well, but lost little time in securing our baggage on the rack she had fixed on top of the car; and with Bruce and Carmen in the back and she and I in front, we turned and headed for Route 66 in Upland.
Mrs Cline drove through Fontana, across to Devore, and on to the Cajon Pass road. Just after we passed Devore, someone yelled at us about something dragging, so we stopped and found a wire dragging on the ground. We soon fixed that and were off once more, feeling more at ease.
Mrs Cline drove to the summit of the Pass, but just before the summit she had become so sleepy that she stopped and I took over. We drove on and soon descended to the Mojave Desert. Soon we came to Victorville. This is about 110 miles from Los Angeles on Route 66. We stopped at a gas station just before we reached town and got gas. I drove on.
It was starting to become light. I passed through Helendale, where I had been before. Then I was in brand new country. All along the road were cars stopped, their occupants sleeping in trailers or on blankets spread on the ground. About ten miles before we came to Barstow, the sun came up. It was about four thirty. It was a typically beautiful desert sunrise. We were practically facing the sun, so I put on my sun glasses. About five o’clock we got to Barstow. We stopped at a station and checked gas, oil, water, and air. Then we started on, with Bruce driving. He got sleepy so Mrs Cline took over, but started running off the road, so I persuaded her to let me drive. I did. I drove all the way across the desert to Needles. The desert was dry (as usual) and the mountains were of many colors. There is one section of several square miles where the land is black, probably due to coal or some other mineral. [Lava?] We passed through Daggett, where there were a lot of Army buildings. My father worked near there several years ago.
The road stretches on – straight for miles and miles; sometimes paralleling the railroad tracks, sometimes crossing them, occasionally losing sight of them. At times the telegraph poles are the only visible signs of civilization. The country is fairly level, with groups of low mountains fairly close together. Most of the land is bare except for sagebrush. Every ten miles or so, there is a tree, and under this tree is a house. Sometimes there is a gas station nearby, in which case the place is a “town” and its name is on the map. We stopped at one or two of these “towns” to check our water and air. Occasionally there is a “large town” – which means there is also a railroad station where a train stops once a week or so. Just before Needles, the highway goes up into a little group of mountains and through “South Pass” at the extreme elevation of 2750 feet! Then a road comes in from the left, from Boulder Dam.
Route 66 descends rapidly, and right before our eyes (my eyes, actually – everyone else had been asleep for about an hour) is a large river, the Colorado. We turned southward along the river and soon arrived in Needles, the “gateway to the West.” While rounding a sharp turn just outside of town I swung quite a ways over into the other lane and a fellow standing by the road hollered, “Try again.”
It was eight thirty when we got to Needles, and all of us were hungry. We pulled up in front of a sort of hotel – I guess it served the railroad station – and went in and combed our hair and got a drink (it was pretty warm) and bought a post card and I wrote one “6/16/46 Needles, 8:30. Tired but happy.” I was happy – I was on my way to adventure!
We didn’t like the looks of the eating place so we went across the plaza to a little restaurant and got some breakfast. The Bruce and I went around searching (in vain) for film for our cameras. Then we went to a store and bought a piece of canvas to put over our luggage in case of rain. We mailed our post cards at the Post Office, bought gas, and left town heading south along the river. Mrs Cline was driving. Soon we came to the “needles,” a formation of pointed rocks, and Mrs Cline stopped to take a picture.
About ten miles south of Needles we came to the bridge across the river. There was a gas station on the hill above the river. We stopped, for since we had left Needles we had noticed that something was wrong with one of the back tires. The valve was leaking so we put on the spare. They wouldn’t give us any cold water at the station and we were very hot. They weren’t very courteous, so we went on down across the river and stopped at a little station in Arizona. They sold us Cokes and gave us ice water and we filled our radiator and our cooler and went on.
I went to sleep, and when I awoke we were in some dry mountains. It was hot. It was hot. Did I mention that it was hot? The car needed water. We stopped a couple of places with little success. One place wanted to sell water for ten cents a gallon, and another place had a faucet several hundred feet off the road but the water was hot besides which we had no way to carry it.
Finally at Oatman we got water. From there we began a tortuous climb, complicated by the fact that we were behind several slow cars. We finally stopped and waited for them to get ahead, then went on. It was so hot and dry and everything, that my first impression of the rest of the United States was very poor. But still I would not have turned back for anything.
Soon we began our descent by an equally winding road, and finally we reached the bottom and got on a road that stretched straight to Kingman. We pulled in for gas at the first station we saw. It was about one o’clock so we decided to eat the lunch my mother had packed for us. Bruce and I walked to a grocery store for milk, and then we drove around looking for shade. Finally we found some, across the railroad tracks in somebody’s back yard. The lunch was warm but good. A big train went by while we were eating. and then we left.
A short distance out of Kingman we had to stop for inspection. We were behind several other cars and had to wait several minutes, but when our turn finally came they just asked us a question or two, took a general glance at our stuff, peeked in the trunk, and let us go. But while we were waiting we saw a California car whiz by. The cops took after him. They brought him back to get inspected, about the time we left. Not far from Kingman we stopped to get ice for our cooler. Then we passed an army airfield which since the war had become an airplane graveyard. There were airplanes as far as we could see, for several miles.
Finally we were on a straight road leading up through some hills. Then it turned a little, left the dry flats, and entered a greener area with a beautiful little valley down between some hills. When we left that area there was a place with quite a few scattered green trees and bushes. It was quite a change from what we had been seeing ever since we left Cajon Pass. After a while we came to Peach Springs. We bought gas but could not get any cold drinks. I had been driving ever since we stopped for ice just outside Kingman and (like a fool) wanted to drive on to Seligman. My eyes were pretty tired but I went on anyway. I wish now I hadn’t. I was pretty sleepy before we got to Seligman but I barely made it. We stopped at the first station, then went on into town, bought ice cream, and wrote letters at a store where they were very nice to us. (Next time I’m in Seligman, I’m going to stop there.) Carmen stayed in the car. We bought her a comb so she could fix her hair. Seligman is a big town, because there is a railroad only a couple of miles away.
Bruce started driving and I took a nap that lasted almost to Williams. When I awoke, we had stopped for gas. It was evening and we were at a high elevation. There were a lot of evergreen trees most of the way from there to Flagstaff. The man at the gas station warned us that we had better get a room soon if we wanted to stop for the night, but we decided to go on to Flagstaff. We passed the road that turns off to the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful country with trees and all, but it soon got dark, about the time we reached Flagstaff. There we drove into a station to get the tire fixed, the one we had changed just beyond Needles. They told us it would take a couple of hours, so we walked around. We saw a family that Bruce had known in La Verne. We went shopping for souvenirs. There were a lot of fellows in uniform on the street, who looked so young we found out later they were ROTC. In a souvenir shop Carmen bought a drum to send to her brother Joe, and Bruce and I each bought a roll of film, and I bought some sea-sickness pills. Then we went to a little coffee shop and had “supper.” It was late – even later because we had crossed the time zone boundary, but since it was Saturday night most of the stores were still open. We got milk and cokes and hamburgers and noticed the restaurant was Class A – they grade them that way in Arizona.
Soon after we returned to the station, our tire was ready. So we left Flagstaff and I went to sleep. They looked for a room but there was “no vacancy.” I vaguely remember waking up a couple of times when we stopped, but I wasn’t really wide awake till we got to Holbrook, Arizona. Mrs Cline had driven out of Flagstaff but got so sleepy Bruce had to take over and drive on to Holbrook. So she took it over again at Holbrook and Bruce went to sleep. Route 66 heads north out of Holbrook and passes the Painted Desert, which we could not see because it was almost midnight. Mrs Cline kept getting sleepier and sleepier and veering to the wrong side of the road. The banks dropped off a couple of feet on each side and I was afraid she would drive off, so to keep her awake I talked as loud as I could about almost anything I could think of for about fifteen miles. Finally I persuaded her to let me drive.
Sun 16 Jun 1946: We came to a country which (the best I could figure out in the dark) seemed to be covered with sagebrush, and after a while we saw a sort of “general store” with a couple of houses nearby. We had seen lightning and needed gas and were slightly hungry, so we stopped, put on the canvas we had bought at Needles over the suitcases, and got gas. I went on driving, and for a while we were behind a Greyhound bus. I could go a bit faster following its tail light, but then we got separated. I planned to stop driving at the New Mexico border, but when I got there everyone else was asleep and I was feeling good so I drove on to Gallup. My eyes were still bothering me and I had my sun glasses on my nose and pulled them up whenever a car approached. Leaving Gallup, I saw a lot of hitchhikers and was sorta glad I wasn’t one of them. The others in the car were still sleeping, but the first signs of dawn were visible. We came to a detour and I was tired so I pulled over and Bruce took the wheel and I went to sleep.
When I woke up we were going down through a sort of half canyon. The ground was red, with a little green grass here and there. The sun had come up and was shining through the gray clouds in places. It was rather pretty except for the clouds. I started driving again about halfway between Gallup and Albuquerque, and after stopping for gas at a little station where it cost more but had a sign saying it was cheaper than in town, we went on. Along there the road goes up a hill, then down into a valley, then another high hill, another wide valley, and so on.
Finally we came to the Río Grande and crossed into Albuquerque. We hunted around for a cabin but nobody was awake on the west side of town so I drove on. There were funny traffic lights that were hard to get used to, but we went through town and finally found a good place at the Shamrock auto camp. After we settled into the cabin and took showers, Bruce and I went downtown again. I bought Mum deodorant and Murine eye drops, and we bought milk for breakfast. Then we slept most of the day. I went downtown to get some iodine for my athlete’s foot and to try (unsuccessfully) to send a telegram to Grandma Meissner in Oklahoma City. I stopped to get the transmission checked. Mrs Cline had bought some watermelon which we ate. It was raining a little in the afternoon, but we packed everything back up and started out about four o’clock.
Soon after leaving Albuquerque we came to a fairly low mountain range. Mrs Cline was driving and we soon climbed to the top of the last mountains west of Pennsylvania. Leaving the mountains, we entered a great level flat plain where it was dry, then went through some green hills. Route 66 had about two bends in about a hundred miles. We sang for a while and passed “Cline’s Corners,” which we said must be named after some relative of Mrs Cline.
Soon it got dark. Since we had all been so tired at Albuquerque, we decided not to let anyone drive more than a hundred miles at a stretch. So after about one hundred miles we finally persuaded Mrs Cline to let Bruce take over. He drove us down into a valley and across the Little Pecos River, and we stopped to check our gas and lights at Santa Rosa. Then I went to sleep and didn’t wake up till we had passed through Tucumcari and were close to San Jon. That was where I was supposed to take over, so I drove on to Amarillo, Texas, about three hundred miles from Albuquerque.
As soon as we crossed the Texas border we hit better road, so I speeded up to about 50 or 55 along the straight road, slowing down a little for the 35 mph towns. Route 66 follows a railroad, then goes down and around into Amarillo. The streets in Amarillo are brick and pretty rough so I had to take it pretty slow. We stopped for gas and ice water when we first got into town. Then we went on downtown and stopped at the bus station where I again hoped to telegraph my grandmother but the office was closed.
Mon 17 Jun 1946: It was Mrs Cline’s turn to drive again, but she barely got out of town before she became too sleepy so I finished her fifty mile stretch and then let Bruce take over. I went to sleep and Bruce drove into Oklahoma. The sun came up and Mrs Cline drove and I woke up, and soon we got to Clinton, Oklahoma where we stopped for gas. On the other side of Clinton we drank two bottles of milk. Bruce drove again to El Reno and I drove from there to Oklahoma City. It was so beautiful in Oklahoma (at that time of year) that we couldn’t see why so many people were leaving there for California. Bruce kept seeing one-room schoolhouses that reminded him of the one he went to in Nebraska. After we passed some lakes, we got to Oklahoma City (about ten am) and decided to look up Grandma Meissner. I was still driving and I turned down the wrong side of a one-way street, and a guy hollered at me so I got straight again.
Soon I found Grandma’s place but she wasn’t home so I wrote a note and stuck it in a Gospel Trumpet magazine that was in her mailbox, thinking she’d find it soon there. We drove around past some churches and stores and finally downtown. By the time I had parked I was pretty nervous and hot. It was about ten o’clock and plenty hot in town. Where we parked, after we got run off Sears Roebuck’s private lot, a lame old man on the sidewalk was selling a lot of things but we didn’t buy any.
We found a restaurant and went in. It was very well air-conditioned. The waitress brought us each a glass of ice water and a menu. When she came back for our orders (hotcakes) we were out of ice water so she brought a whole pitcher, which we emptied before we left.
Bruce drove us around town a bit more and then up to see if my grandma was back yet, but she wasn’t. [I found out later she had gone to camp meeting at Anderson. She found my note in the Gospel Trumpet several months later.] We went to a Texaco station and added oil to the motor and got a map of the next stretch of Route 66 as far as Illinois. I wanted to stop and get some camphor ice for my lips but Mrs Cline gave me some wrinkle cream which I put on but removed as soon as I could.
It was almost noon when we left Oklahoma City. The highway goes along a streetcar track for a while, then out of town. We stopped several times for cokes, and once to check air; and at Chandler for ice cream and to mail cards. The ice cream cost five cents for a double dip, and malts were ten or fifteen cents. At the store next to the ice cream shop, I got some camphor ice for a dime. We all liked Chandler because ice cream is so cheap – and real good, too! We mailed a lot of things at Chandler, including the drum that Carmen had bought for Joe at Flagstaff.
We went through good farm land, pretty flat and even, for a long way, then through Tulsa. We stopped for a coke and Bruce decided he had parked a little too far out in the road so he backed up and the wheel went in a ditch. A man from a nearby garage pulled us out and charged a dollar. Then when we got to Vinita, just before I took over, Bruce drove too close to a piece of cement and scraped a little paint off the side.
We spent the afternoon telling jokes: a lot of morons, Mr Merchant’s “Element 87,” the Cauliflower and the Catsup, and some knock-knocks including one I made up (irrigate: I irrigate squeaking). Then Carmen said, there was a little German schoolboy whose teacher asked him to give a sentence using “cultivate,” and he said “I went to the bus corner but it was too colt-to-vait so I went home.” But Carmen said “... it was too cold to cultivate ...” Bruce and I made sure Carmen didn’t forget it during the rest of the trip.
We drove from Oklahoma into the corner of Kansas, stopping at Baxter Springs to write letters, and into Missouri. We passed a “wild animal zoo” but didn’t stop. It was almost dark when we reached Joplin but the auto courts were not full so we kept on. Just outside Joplin we stopped and drank some milk. It got dark then, and we were on a road that went straight for a long way and then made a little jog and then went straight some more. At the bends there was always a woods that was full of fireflies. They were beautiful, but at first we didn’t know what they were. We stopped for gas where a lot of big bugs were flying around.
We stopped for the night at an auto court about eleven miles before we got to Springfield. It was about ten o’clock and we were pretty tired. We stopped and asked for a cabin and then drove down and parked. There were two cabins with a garage between. Bruce and I each bought a candy bar and a coke and then went down to the cabin. Mrs Cline had chosen one and gone in, but it had too many bugs so the woman came down and sprayed it with DDT. Mrs Cline decided she didn’t like that and didn’t want to sleep there, so she and Carmen swapped cabins with Bruce and me. We took hot showers and went to bed. The air was hot and humid but we finally got to sleep. The DDT didn’t bother us at all.
Tue 18 Jun 1946: We woke up and went outside, and Bruce and I took some pictures with his camera. The ground sloped back from the road, probably toward a river. There were lots of trees.
We left and soon came to Springfield, but we took the alternate route and didn’t go through town. We stopped for breakfast at a gas station with a cafe. The girl who served us was from Los Angeles.
Soon we came to the Ozark foothills, which are very beautiful with lots of really green trees and some little valleys here and there with meadows in them. Soon Route 66 became a four-lane divided highway, and at one place the roadways separated by almost a half mile and lost sight of each other. Then we came to Rolla, where we bought gas and stopped at the post office. A man came in looking sad, and asked me if I had seen the knife he lost. After we left Rolla it wasn’t so hilly any more and there weren’t so many trees, and soon we came to farmland.
We were riding peacefully along and Bruce was driving when all of a sudden, POW! we had a blowout. We changed the tire and went on to Cuba where we bought a used tire. Soon we got to a more thickly settled area, and it wasn’t long before we were at the city limit of St Louis, where we stopped to get gas and a map. In the city were a lot of brick houses which differed only in their doorways: some round, others square or pointed on top. Every three or four blocks the style changed. Soon there was heavy city traffic, but by following the local map and the highway signs we did OK. Once when Mrs Cline was driving we made a wrong turn and had to go around the block.
We left Route 66 and turned onto Route 40. Thus I crossed the Mississippi, which was a pretty wide river, at the lower bridge for ten cents’ toll. I didn’t see any steamboats. We were in East St Louis, Illinois, where all the houses looked old and dirty, but then we climbed the hill bordering the river and soon came to grain fields as we started across the Midwestern plains. About noon we stopped at St James and got ice cream and malts (at a saloon!) It started to sprinkle and we had seen lightning and pretty soon it was really raining hard. (Compared to which the hardest rain in California is just a drizzle.) We were OK for a long time, following a truck that showed us when we were coming to a puddle. But as we approached Vandalia our car started to stall and when we got into town it stopped. We got out and took off our shirts and pushed it a ways; then a car came and pushed us to a station where we dried out. By that time it was getting dark and the rain was letting up.
I was supposed to drive from Vandalia, but Mrs Cline had a relative or friend who lived near Effingham and worked at a pipeline pumping station, so she drove there because the roads were wet. The friend was glad to see her and I was glad to drive again (for the first time since early that morning.) It was a concrete road and quite narrow, and in places there was no lane divider except for the crack in the concrete. We met a lot of big freight trucks and the driving was not too easy. We stopped at Marshall and Mrs Cline phoned her husband. It was pretty late by then, but we were determined not to stop. We bought some pie and ice cream and hamburgers and went on to Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a bit foggy, and Bruce started driving at Terre Haute and I went to sleep immediately.
Wed 19 Jun 1946: Bruce said it was foggy all the way to Indianapolis. That’s where I woke up, at about 3 o’clock in the morning. We drove part way through town and stopped at a gas station to get directions to the house where Mrs Cline’s husband was staying with his sister. We found the house about four o’clock, and it was starting to get light. After we phoned from Marshall, the sister had prepared a couch for Bruce and me to rest on. They were talking a lot so we didn’t really sleep, but we had a rest.
Mrs Cline was to drop us off at Anderson and return to Indianapolis. We left about five and I quickly fell asleep. We reached Anderson about six thirty, and when I woke up I discovered that my sense of direction had reversed 180 degrees, and it stayed that way for most of the remainder of the trip. We drove through Anderson, where Mrs Cline had attended school, and to the camp ground. We went right to the place where the Early Morning Prayer Meeting had been under way for about a half hour. Bro Childress was there.
Afterward, we went to the Registration Booth. Carmen met her friend and we did not see her again. I phoned Dale Oldham. He said to come on over, so Bruce and I took Mrs Cline’s car and drove over there with our luggage. He took us across the street to his mother’s house [Myrtle Oldham nee Elmore b 1880] where we were to sleep downstairs. After we had stowed our stuff, Bruce went to sleep and I want back to morning service.
We were staying within walking distance of the campground, and the shortest way led past what was once the Old Folks’ Home but is now a dormitory, then through a little cemetery, past some trees (where I heard a bob white), down a little path, and then along seventh street to our quarters. One night as I was returning I saw someone with a flashlight ahead of me on the path so I started whistling a hymn, and I found that it was my cousin Jean Kleeberger.
Thu 20 Jun 1946: Camp meeting. Did laundry.
Fri 21 Jun 1946: Camp meeting. Met a girl named Darlene.
Sat 22 Jun 1946: Camp meeting. Uncle Fred came.
Sun 23 Jun 1946: Last day of Camp meeting. Wedding at 9 am. [Who?]
Mon 24 Jun 1946: Did laundry, loafed. Took train to Silver Lake, Indiana (7:30 - 11 pm), about 75 miles. Uncle Fred brought us to Dale’s cabin at Yellow Creek Lake.
Tue 25 Jun 1946: Cousin Jean showed me how to row.
Wed 26 Jun 1946: Rowed with Beth Batdorf.
Thu 27 Jun 1946: Same. Dale came.
Fri 28 Jun 1946: Bruce and I took a train from Silver Lake to Anderson, picked up our bags, checked with Leslie Decker [the Church of God representative for the Heifer Project], and caught a train for Baltimore.
From Anderson to Richmond, Indiana, we were on Pennsylvania Railroad, traveling through a typical countryside with scattered bunches of trees, and wide fields with occasional rolling hills. After a short wait at Richmond we caught a through train for Baltimore. It grew dark and we saw a few lights of big cities. We slept most of the night.
Sat 29 Jun 1946: We ate breakfast in the dining car in Pennsylvania, with a bunch of fellows who were on their way to join the Navy. We passed a train full of coal early that morning. I wrote a post card before we got to Harrisburg, and a woman who was getting off mailed it for me.
It was quite hilly along there, and corn and other crops were planted a long way down on the steep hills. We went along a highway for a while. After we passed York I went to sleep, and woke up about the time we pulled into Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, about nine o’clock am.
We went upstairs and shaved, checked our bags and went downtown. We wanted to take a streetcar to the bay shore, but we’d left most of our money in our bags. So Bruce hung around town and then went back to the station, while I went out to the bay, dipped the end of a post card in the Atlantic Ocean (tidewater), and returned.
We were supposed to leave on the one thirty train for New Windsor but I got back too late, so by the time we had reclaimed our luggage we just missed the train. We phoned New Windsor and found that there was no reason to be there before Monday, so we decided to go to Wilmington, Delaware to visit Lois Hans, an old friend of my mother who worked for Hercules Powder Plant. We went to the Greyhound depot where, after several attempts, I reached Lois on the telephone. But we missed the bus, so I phoned again and told her we wouldn’t arrive till about eleven pm. She was waiting for us, and took us to her house where we got a good rest.
Sun 30 Jun 1946: We bought some film, ate blueberries for breakfast, and went to the Episcopal church where Lois attends. Everyone read out of books and kneeled etc, and then the preacher gave a short talk. We went back and ate dinner, then caught a bus for the Hercules country club. We passed several beautiful estates on the way out, swam in borrowed bathing suits for a while, then dressed and played ping pong, ate supper and returned in a car of her friend.
It was raining when we got back to Wilmington. We went in her house and talked for a while with the man in the apartment below hers who was from Bakersfield, I think. Then we wrote some letters, and walked around town with Lois. At the church we had attended, we saw a grave of a man born in 1768. We saw the Brandywine river, and a street paved with cobblestones. Two big buildings are the Du Pont and the Nemours. The company owns most of the town including Hercules Powder. We went back and slept.
Mon 01 Jul 1946: We got up and caught a bus at about three am for Baltimore. The train for New Windsor left at eight, so we slept on the benches for a while. But they made us get off at six o’clock, so I took a short walk.
The train arrived at New Windsor at nine forty. We went to the Brethren Service Center, ate dinner, and talked to some of the boys who were waiting to be assigned to boats. Then we left for Baltimore to get seaman’s papers. We hitch-hiked. Our first ride was to Westminster with an old colored lady. One of the boys had told us we needed passport photos, so we tried to get them at Westminster, but it was too late in the day. Bruce and I got separate rides to Baltimore where we met at the YMCA. We took a short swim just before the pool closed, and went to sleep in the dorm where we were assigned.
Tue 02 Jul 1946: We ate breakfast at a restaurant on our way to the photo studio, then went to find the place where seaman’s papers are issued. There was a long line, but the clerk said he would take five applications from “Cattlemen,” as we were called. Bruce and I were included, as well as some others who we had met the day before at New Windsor. We were to return at eight the next morning, so we went back to the YMCA, and spent some time at the library across the street.
The street was some sort of state highway, so just for fun I started hitch-hiking. I got a ride with some negroes on a horse-wagon, for about five blocks. Then, after numerous auto rides, I was out of the city on the road to Frederick. So I made that my objective. As soon as I got there, I went to the Barbara Fritchie house, where an old man showed me around. It was getting late and I was only twenty miles from New Windsor, so I decided to go back there for the night (free lodging). I ended up walking a good fraction of the twenty miles, stopping twice to sleep under haystacks. I got to New Windsor about three o’clock in the morning, and slept for a couple of hours.
Wed 03 Jul 1946: I got up very early and hitch-hiked (with much better luck) back to Baltimore. I met Bruce there at eight o’clock, and we were called in at eleven. The interview lasted only a few minutes, so we went to lunch and came back for our cards. Bruce decided to return to New Windsor and I started for Washington – but we met at the YMCA in Washington. That afternoon I visited the Library of Congress and both houses of Congress.
Thu 04 Jul 1946: Independence Day at Washington DC! Bruce and I climbed Washington Monument (up the stairs – more than 500 feet, then down the elevator), saw Lincoln Memorial, went to Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery, and watched the fireworks from the foot of Washington Monument.
Fri 05 Jul 1946: I went to Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot. Bruce stayed at Washington but I went back to New Windsor and changed clothes, then started hitch-hiking to New England. I passed through Gettysburg and Harrisburg and slept at Norristown.
Sat 06 Jul 1946: I went to Philadelphia and then up the New Jersey border. At Doylestown I went to a hotel for lunch, but I guess I wasn’t dressed right so the doorman showed me a souvenir shop where I could get ice cream. Then I went to Patterson where I stayed for the night.
Sun 07 Jul 1946: I got up early and hitch-hiked to Pompton Lakes, where I wanted to visit Sunnybank, the home of A.P. Terhune and the Collie dogs including Lad who featured in his stories. The author had died and “The Mistress” still lived there. The old gate keeper (who is mentioned in the books) told me she couldn’t be disturbed, but he showed me around the grounds, including Lad’s grave, and introduced me to some of the dogs. Then I hitch-hiked to New York City, where I arrived about noon via the Holland Tunnel, which is actually two parallel tunnels. Each tunnel has only one lane open at a time, to simplify matters in case of emergency.
Then I went to the Empire State Building. I had only a dollar in cash, and the elevator cost $1.20 for age 17 or older but only 45 cents for age 16 and under. I had celebrated my seventeenth birthday in November 1945, but I explained the situation to the ticket clerk who said, “Well, I’m not a very good judge of ages” and charged me 45 cents. I took a subway to Battery, then a ferry to Staten Island with a close view of the Statue of Liberty as an immigrant or returning traveler might see it. After another ferry ride to Brooklyn I hitch-hiked across Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan, rode the Elevated as far north as I could, and started hitch-hiking toward Boston.
It was the Sunday of the Fourth of July four-day holiday, so hardly anybody was leaving town that evening, and those who were didn’t want to give me a ride. So I walked about four miles to a main highway, which I reached just as it was starting to get dark. The highway was well lighted, so I stood under a light so the motorists could see me better. I was tired after my four-mile walk, so I decided to sleep under a clump of trees, but there were too many mosquitoes and the ground was cold and hard, even after I put socks on my arms and covered my head. I tried hitch-hiking some more, and finally two kids from Brooklyn picked me up. They wanted to go to Brewster and thought I might be able to give them directions. I showed them on my map, and they took me to White Plains where I stayed all night at the YMCA.
Mon 08 Jul 1946: I got up late (nine o’clock), but by nightfall I had passed through a large part of New England. I was in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. In the evening at Dover, New Hampshire, I went into a movie theater and saw “Smoky.” At Rochester I decided to head for Concord Massachusetts and back to Baltimore, but some boys who picked me up found they were on the wrong road – the wanted to go to Maine, so I decided to go with them. I fell asleep in the car right away.
Tue 09 Jul 1946: By morning we had reached Augusta, Maine, where I got out. I went on north to Skowhegan, then turned west to Rumford. This part of the road wound through heavy woods that were very beautiful, and the economy of Rumford seemed to be based on logging and paper making. I rode from Rumford to Bethel with a man and a boy, whose car was loaded with camping equipment and who were heading home to Massachusetts. We stopped on the way and they bought my lunch. I had a hard time getting a ride from Bethel. A man who was a highway superintendent took me for a ways, stopping to talk with a highway worker who had a mowing machine, and then going farther till we came to some men working on the highway, close to the Maine-New Hampshire border.
An old man with a dog and a young lady who might have been his daughter took me in a sort of truck to Gorham, stopping on the way so I could take a photo of the white birches. They persuaded me that I must not miss the White Mountains. So I took a picture of the church at Gorham to finish my roll of film, and started on. A woman who gave me a ride was on her way to a camp in the White Mountains. They are not very high – we didn’t climb much – but snow still covered the high peaks. It was so foggy I never got to see Mount Washington or any of the other famous high peaks. I walked a mile from the camp where she let me off, to Glen Ellen falls, about 30 feet high, just off the road. I took some pictures but they (and some others) were still in my camera when I left it in a car in New York the next day. While I was at the falls it started to rain, so after I tried to hitch-hike for a while I got an idea. There was a little tunnel leading to the falls from a parking lot across the road, so I stayed in the tunnel and asked people leaving the falls for a ride to the next town. After a succession of short rides I ended up on the main highway, miles from nowhere. I walked two or three miles with gnats [black flies?] buzzing around my head, and then finally hailed a bus that took me to Lancaster, New Hampshire, on the Vermont border. The driver of the bus was friendly toward me and showed me some points of interest that we passed, including a waterfall (which was dry just then) and Bretton Woods mansion where a peace conference had been held recently. [United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, held 1-21 Jul 1944, resulted in the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.]
I hitch-hiked on, for it was late in the afternoon, and got a ride (twenty miles) to Concord, Vermont with people who had been hunting and were stopping at Concord. This is a small town with no hotel of any kind, so I walked up a hill and out of town. Then I saw it – as I later wrote home: “At Concord, Vermont, as the sun was setting it shined and it was so beautiful! Indescribable! I looked across the valley to green-treed hills and the air was still misty from the rain and the pink mist – oh!”
I got a ride to St Johnsbury by standing beside a parked car till a man with a bus picked me up, thinking I was having car trouble. I told him I was not, but he took me to town free, anyway. I had a good sleep at the hotel in St Johnsbury.
Wed 10 Jul 1946: I took a bus heading south. The bus detoured into New Hampshire because of a bridge out. I changed buses at Rutland, at White River Junction, and at Bennington, and finally got off at Albany, New York about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and started hitch-hiking again. My first ride was with a salesman who had a little boy who wanted to go swimming. The road follows the Hudson River and past the Catskill Mountains. They appeared as a blue range of hills in the distance.
At Newburgh, a trucker picked me up about dark and took me to his warehouse, which we reached about ten pm. He said I could sleep in the cab of one of the big trucks and he would find a ride to Philadelphia for me. I was very uncomfortable lying on the seat with my legs sticking out the door and my arms under me so I wouldn’t fall off, but I slept till the other trucker was ready to take me.
Thu 11 Jul 1946: We left Newburgh a little after midnight. I had been warned that this trucker wouldn’t like it if I went to sleep while I was riding with him – he had recently taken a fellow who went to sleep on his shoulder, and if I didn’t stay awake he might kick me off. When we stopped to eat, he passed me to another trucker who took me to Philadelphia, where we arrived about four am.
I fooled around for a while, then bought a bus ticket to Baltimore. I spent the last dime I had left (besides a check) for a ride on a streetcar that took me to the road leading to Baltimore. But there it was so early there was no traffic, and a gas-station attendant gave me another dime so I could take the streetcar back to the bus station. I slept most of the way to Baltimore and got there about noon. After lunch I hitch-hiked to New Windsor, where I cleaned up and rested.
Fri 12 Jul 1946: Rested and read.
Sat 13 Jul 1946: Bruce came back.
Sun 14 Jul 1946: Attended Methodist Sunday school. Played chess.
Mon 15 Jul 1946: Laundry; haircut.
Tue 16 Jul 1946: Rested.
Wed 17 Jul 1946: Bruce and I worked on a farm for 7 hours at 50 cents per hour. (Bruce wanted to prove to the Brethren Service Center that he was able to pitch hay although he had been slightly disabled by Polio.)
Thu 18 Jul 1946: We worked on the farm for 4 1/2 hours.
We found that we had been assigned to a ship out of New Orleans (apparently because it was closer to our West Coast home address) but it had already left. I decided to give up on the Heifer project but Bruce wanted to stick it out.
Fri 19 Jul 1946: I left New Windsor in a car with a man from Brethren Service Center named J. Cassell, and some others, who were going to Dayton, Ohio.
Sat 20 Jul 1946: I got off at Springfield, Ohio (very early in the morning), hitch-hiked to Detroit, Michigan. Went across to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, then took a bus to Flint, Michigan to visit cousin Marie.
Sun 21 Jul 1946: Went to visit Marie’s in-laws, the Sislers, and to church, then to Silver Lake, Michigan. Bud came.
Mon 22 Jul 1946: Went to Sislers for milk. Picked up Chuck, and drove around Flint.
Tue 23 Jul 1946: Bobbie’s fifth birthday. Went with Sislers to Charlotte (75 mi, via Lansing). Hitch-hiked to Devereaux via Eaton Rapids. Arrived at Aunt Lillian’s about 8 pm. Went swimming with cousin Paul and a friend.
Wed 24 Jul 1946: Walked to “the pond” with cousins Marjorie, Virginia, and Barbara. Watched Paul playing baseball.
Thu 25 Jul 1946: Did farm work with Paul for 6 hours; had a swim.
Fri 26 Jul 1946: Walked to see the school house; watched Paul help win a baseball game against Springport. Met the Honeywell family at a store on the way home.
Sat 27 Jul 1946: Went to Albion and Springport with Paul.
Sun 28 Jul 1946: Went to Sunday School, then to Swan’s Lake and Parma.
Mon 29 Jul 1946: Rode to Albion with Uncle Earl, then hitch-hiked to Chicago and to Clinton, Iowa, arriving at Uncle Fred’s about 11 pm.
Tue 30 Jul 1946: Slept in.
[...] I stayed with Uncle Fred for a few days, and he showed me some places where my mother had lived when she was young. Then I hitch-hiked to Malcolm, Iowa where I visited Uncle Adolph and Eugene Meissner on their farms. I hitch-hiked to Council Bluffs, Iowa and took a side trip north to Mondamin where I stayed one night with friends who had recently moved there from Eastvale. Then I went to visit my cousin Vivian near Salina, Kansas for several days.
Sat 17 Aug 1946: I left in the morning and hitch-hiked across Kansas. At Hill City, Kansas I got a ride with a man who was going through Denver, Colorado and up into the Rockies. It was evening when he let me out, and I had a series of short rides till after midnight I caught a bus to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sun 18 Aug 1946: When I arrived, it was almost time for the Mormon Tabernacle broadcast, so I went in. Afterward I tried to find a place to stay in Salt Lake City, but I only had a Cashier’s check that my dad had sent me, and nobody would cash it. So I hitch-hiked to Las Vegas, Nevada where I arrived about midnight.
Mon 19 Aug 1946: At Las Vegas I easily cashed my check in a casino and I bought a bus ticket that brought me to San Bernardino, California. From there I hitch-hiked home.