Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Early Days of American Roadtrips: Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of my dear mother-in-law, Rose Marie's, reminiscence about her childhood roadtrips starting in 1946, be sure to go back and read it HERE. Now, for the rest of her guest post...

Traveling with my Father

As with most journeys, the companions who share it contribute to all aspects, especially the pleasure; therefore, some background information follows.
My father, Edwin, was the epitome of a good man. Mother frequently would say, “Your daddy is the best man God ever made!” He was an alliteration of virtues – reliable, reasonable, responsible, respectful and reserved. He was also both smart and wise, very witty, a good storyteller and conversationalist. He took care of everything that was his – family, home, car, bayhouse, himself – everything. He had experienced the death of a beloved father at fourteen, lost a good job as a cotton classer in the Depression, settled for and was grateful for a dull job as a postal clerk and enriched his life with reading, gardening, painting and traveling.
My mother, Marie, was a gentlewoman, kind, good, patient, thoughtful, quiet and somewhat shy. She saw God in everyone, often saying that no one was responsible for the situation of their birth. She treated everyone with respect. Content in her world, she was a wife and a mother and was good at both. She tried to teach us modesty in behavior and dress, often reminding us, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Her great affection for her sisters was a role model for her daughters.
Norma, my sister, was nearly three years older than I and had been the first grandchild in both our parents’ families. Not only did we share parents and ancestors, we shared a bedroom, bed, clothes, toys, books, time – our lives. Mother said that we complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Norma led the way in many of the stages of my life, supporting my every effort and applauding every success. Every day was better and more fun when she was there.

1951 - Visiting the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Grandma Josie, Rose Marie and Norma
Grandma Josie, Daddy’s mother, joined us after our initial trip. She was in her early 60’s, small, her once bright red hair faded and tinged with white. Widowed at 33 with three sons to support, she became a lunchroom cook at the school across the street from her home. She was very frugal and eventually owned three rent houses in her neighborhood. She was capable and very independent, but Daddy was always there when needed, making a short visit to her house every day. She was a pleasant lady with a good sense of humor. We loved hearing her stories.
(After Norma married, Aunts Agatha and Louise joined me in the car’s back seat for the remainder of my trips.)
Aunt Agatha was our everything aunt. She was beautiful, intelligent, classy, cheerful, energetic, generous and fiercely loyal to her family. She was a doer and a go-getter. I loved being with her. Never married, she worked as office manager for the Circulation Department of The Houston Post and was given tickets to plays, movies, horse shows, etc. Norma and I accompanied her whenever asked. She took us to her Nature Club outings and to the summer outdoor symphony concerts. She taught us etiquette and party planning for holiday dinners and social club gatherings. Mother tried to make us good, and Aunt Agatha tried to make us polished.
Aunt Louise was our cooking aunt. She had taken care of Grandmother Basilia and the old home place whose lovely, large yard connected to the backyard of our home. Norma and I welcomed an interruption in our playtime when Aunt Louise would offer treats of fruit preserves on buttered bread, cookies, candies, donuts, creampuffs, etc. Being an accomplished cook and baker, she made every holiday special. She also kept in touch with our extended family by calling and remembering everyone’s birthday with cards, letters or flowers.

The first trip [covered in Part 1] was such a success that Daddy immediately began planning a trip to Florida. New Orleans was the first stop; then we drove along the beautiful Gulf Coast reaching Florida with its white sand beaches, palm trees and pastel colored houses. We made all the tourist stops including a water skiing show in Silver Springs and the long drive to Key West. After Florida, we headed up the Atlantic coast with memorable stops in Savannah and Charleston with all their charming old houses.
Trip three was to Mexico, not just over the border, but to Monterrey, Mexico City, Xochimilco, Cuernavaca, Taxco, Puebla, Veracruz, Tampico, etc. Besides the natural beauty of the country, we saw the remarkable fresco paintings of Diego Rivera, Our Lady of the Guadalupe Cathedral where people were making the long aisle to the altar on their knees, the Chapultepec Castle and Park, a bull fight where we left early since it was too difficult for us to watch and the beautiful Floating Gardens and the Pyramid to the Sun where Daddy bought me a black jade and silver ring. Norma remembers being serenaded at our charming Spanish style motel.
The destination of trip four was Yellowstone National Park. We drove to Colorado and loved it. The air was cool. We drove to Pikes Peak where snowflakes fell on Daddy’s new camera; saw the state capitol in Denver; were charmed  by Central City, Leadville and Estes Park.
At last, wonderful Wyoming and the awesome Yellowstone National Park where it snowed on us on the the 4th of July. We loved staying in the park cabins, seeing all the natural wonders and the bears. We enjoyed the beautiful Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole.
1950 - Pile of antlers, Norma and Rose Marie
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
In Utah, we floated in the great Salt Lake where the salty water stung my windburned face; visited the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle in Salt Lake City; drove through more beautiful national parks, Zion and Bryce. We stopped at the marker where the four states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado meet and drive through Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings in Colorado on our way back home.
Our fifth trip was in Daddy’s new two-toned Chevrolet. Norma and I were exhilarated to be going to California and Hollywood in our stylish new car. We sewed ourselves a matching outfit of green blouse and striped skirts, adding a billed white cap to wear.
What a fascinating trip it was! There were so many interesting things to see and experience along the route: Carlsbad Caverns with a Park Ranger guide in New Mexico, a frightening dust storm outside of Albuquerque, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and truly awesome Grand Canyon in Arizona; then on to beautiful California.
Traveling up the Pacific coast from San Diego, we took a wonderful boatride to Avalon on Catalina Island; visited the mission of San Juan Capistrano where doves surrounded us; Los Angeles and Hollywood seeing the movie stars’ homes and going to another radio show, “The Lux Theater Hour". We saw the Redwood forest, rode the trolley in San Francisco, visited Chinatown with its fascinating shops, visited two great national parks – Sequoia and Yosemite.

1950 - Rose Marie and Norma at Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California
[Ed. note: The bottom of the sign reads "C C Thomson" which is coincidentally the initials and surname of my oldest boy.]
Onto Nevada, we visited Las Vegas with its abundance of night lights and the massive Hoover Dam. Back into Arizona where Daddy wanted to see the sunrise on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was worth the effort!
Trip six was to the East. We drove through Memphis, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smokey Mountains National park seeing small black bears and beautiful rhododendrons in bloom. We saw the major attractions in Virginia – Monticello, which was copied for our neighborhood Carnegie Branch Library building; Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, etc.

We toured the impressive monuments in Washington, D.C. and spent hours in the Smithsonian Institute. New York City was overwhelming with so many people walking so fast and so much traffic on the streets. We went to an automat for lunch then tried to do all the things tourists do in that great city. On to Boston with its history and Cape Cod; Maine with so many trees, lakes and wonderful lobster rolls.

1950 - The General Grant, Sequoia National Park, California

Crossing into Canada, we went first to historical Quebec; then on to the Bay of Fundy since Daddy had read about the remarkable variance in the tides; Niagara Falls, both Canadian and U.S. views where Mother and Daddy had spent their honeymoon in 1928. This was our last trip with Norma and Grandma Josie.
Trips seven to eleven included Aunt Agatha and Louis. Since they and Mother had a brother living in Sheridan, Wyoming, two of our next trips went through that city and beyond. On trip seven after seeing a rodeo in Cody, we drove to Glacier National Park in Montana on the border between the U.S. and Canada. We crossed the Continental Divide that runs through the park’s center. Trip eight was to beautiful Lake Louis in Canada where we walked on a glacier; Vancouver and my first taste of gingerbeer; Victoria with all the lovely flowers in British Columbia; in Washington, we enjoyed Seattle and Mount Rainier National Park; we saw beautiful roses in Oregon; Sun Valley in Idaho.
Trip nine made a very important stop in Manhattan, Kansas to see new bride, Norma, and her husband, Don, who was serving his two years stint in the army following both of their college graduations. We chatted in the small kitchen of their apartment over coffee and warm cinnamon rolls. Then, we traveled to the beautiful Dells of Wisconsin.

1950 - Rose Marie, Norma and Grandma Josie with the famous swallows of Mission San Juan Capistrano, California 

Trip ten was planned when Daddy wanted to drive from Galveston to Winnipeg, Canada all on the same highway from its start to its finish. Trip eleven was a short one to our beautiful neighbor state of Arkansas to see Lake Catherine, Eureka Springs and Hot Springs. Returning home by way of a stop in one of Daddy’s favorite cities, New Orleans.
In May [1956], just before trip eleven, I had graduated from college and was ready to start working. By the next summer, I married and my trips with Mother and Daddy were over; but they and the aunts kept traveling for as long as Daddy could drive.

- Rose Marie

Rose Marie's beautiful handwritten story

Once again, many thanks to Rose Marie for sharing her story with her family, her grandchildren and with the readers of Malaysian Meanders. All photo credits go to Rose Marie's father, Edwin, who would develop the film in his own little darkroom.

Have you parents ever wondered what impact travel has on your children and will they remember it? Take heart that these trips took place over fifty years ago, and the memory of them still brings so much pleasure to Rose Marie and her sister, Norma, who road in the back seat of their Daddy's car.

Related Post:
Part 1 of The Early Days of American Roadtrips
International Air Travel in 1958

This post is part of "Travel Photo Thursday" on Budget Travelers Sandbox, "Oh the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper and on the weekly linkup on Pret-a-Vivre. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. I'm enjoying seeing these old photos.

  2. Oh, I was so sad when the post came to end:( This is the best guest post ever!
    I enjoyed every word of it and every place and all the people - who were all seemed so genuine and beautiful and sweet.
    What a beautiful life and memory Rose Marie had. And what great legacy she is leaving to you kids.

  3. wow, what a tour of the US and I love the shots also!

  4. Oh what wonderful road trip memories here! Loved the photos and their story.

  5. I have so loved these last two blogs - and the breadth of the trips taken is astounding. It sounds like you're part of a warm, loving, curious wonderful family. Lucky you!!

  6. The photos and story are a treasure to cherish for generations to come. Congratulations and thank you for sharing them :). Have a great weekend!

  7. I loved reading these as much as the first one. They knew how to take those trips and pack them in. It was fun to see some recognizable sights in these pictures. What wonderful memories and precious photos. I sure hope my kids remember the road trips to come in details as she has. Thanks for sharing her stories.

  8. They certainly covered a lot of ground on those road trips! What a beautiful memories from your mother-in-law, and how fortunate you are that she chose to share them with you. And thank you for sharing with us. :)

  9. I will be returning to re-read this story as it touches my heart in so many ways. We have a huge framed map of the world, that has colored push pins to designate which family member has visited what place. I'm surprised that the swallows at Capistrano are so huge. Or are there pigeons intermixed? Loved the stories.


I read each and every comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Comment moderation is on, so your comment may not appear immediately.

Web Analytics