Childhood Travels, 1946-1954

Growing up as the oldest of six children meant that we didn’t have a lot of money. Dad was a traveling salesman, gone about five weeks out of six for most of those years.  He drove a company car and was only permitted to use it for business purposes. Mom had never learned to drive, and we certainly never had money for a second car anyway. That meant that when Dad was gone we relied on public transportation or the kindness of friends, either ours or Mom’s, usually hers.

I don’t remember moving from California to Arizona when I was 3 1/2, but I do remember trips back when I was 6 and 8.  When I was 7 I spent two weeks with my paternal grandmother in Long Beach, mostly reading the Book of Knowledge (a multi volume encyclopedia). I rode with dad in his Ford sedan both ways. Since there was no air conditioning, and it was summer, people always traveled the 400 miles of two lane road across the desert at night, as straight through as possible. I remember stopping in several small town gas stations on the way, the kind that now appear on classic pictures in souvenir shops. We, of course, had a canvas water bag that hung on the front bumper so that it would be cooler, whether for us or for the radiator if needed.

Then a year later my grandmother died, and we went to California on the train to her funeral. I don’t remember the funeral, which I may not have attended, but do remember the train ride. Later that summer we took our one and only “family vacation”. Mom, Dad, and the four kids went for two nights to Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona. We stayed in a cabin near the creek, and spent time playing in the cool water under green trees. That was a real revelation to those of us who had always lived in the desert

When I was 10, in the summer of 1953, I went on the train to California to visit my Uncle Melvin and Aunt Rita, for what was scheduled to be a two week trip.  I went on the train alone, and though I was checked on by the porter, I had no problems.  The adventures while there are another future posting, but to finish the travel part, I got sick there and was sent home on another train, in a roomette. I was really pretty out of it much of the trip, but I do remember the porter bringing me food and water and regularly checking on me.

The following summer, August 1954, we moved to Iowa. Mom and the other five children flew, but I rode with Dad on the trip in the car. We were in a 1953 Ford sedan, and we headed east on US 60 through Globe to Socorro NM, and then north. The first night it rained as we headed north towards Colorado, and we stopped in Raton NM for the night.  There were few motels then, so we usually stayed in hotels. They were in the middle of small towns, usually three or four stories. The next day we went on into Colorado where Dad had calls to make in Colorado Springs and Denver. When he was making sales calls to downtown camera stores, making sure they had the chance to stock the latest Graflex cameras, I would walk around town and visit stores. If he had appointments that were going to take a while, he’d give me money to go to a movie. Most downtown theaters had matinees every day.

We did take some side trips so I was able to see Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs, and was able to spend a lot of time in a large model railroad store in Denver. Dad bought some more kits. When we were in motels in the evening, we could listen to the radio or play with model trains. He always had some with him on the road. No TVs in hotel/motel rooms then, though in some cases there was one in the lobby. It took several days to cross Kansas, as there were many small towns with camera stores for Dad to call on. Eventually we got to Kansas City where we were a couple days, and then on to Des Moines where we met the plane that had Mom and my five siblings on it.  Much more on Des Moines later.

I had no more trips more than a few miles from where we lived until I went away to college in 1960.



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