In 1928 Cecil caught whooping cough. The doctor advised we move to a warmer climate and this was the reason we planned the 2,766 mile journey from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, California. When we set off in August I was two months pregnant with Richard and Jim was not yet six years old.
The day before we left we received a letter from Leonard (who was to meet us in Los Angeles) saying he and his friend George were leaving for San Antonio, Texas and would meet them there. That really upset us, so much that we called the shipping agency to book the first available trip home to Southampton from New York. But our goods were already crated for road travel to LA and would have to be packed differently for sea travel in order to be checked by Customs officials. It was, therefore, too late to change our plans and we just had to go on our way to Los Angeles. Our aim was to follow Highway 30 which we did except for a small detour of just two miles near Council Bluffs.
The day before leaving Swissvale, Pittsburgh, The neighbours and friends arranged a “corn roast” for us. The men built a fire in the alley at the end of our homes on which they cooked the corn. Mrs Evans, a neighbour, set up tables in her big garden and we had a jolly time eating, after which we danced to the Victrola. We did not get much sleep!
We did not know what living in California would be like except for the fact that the weather would be warmer; the sun shines all the year round there. Nevertheless we were sorry to leave Swissvale and all our many friends.
The next morning we left Swissvale, Pittsburgh in an old Dodge Coupe. Two car loads of friends, including Gertie and Edgar, accompanied us for the first 242 miles to Toledo, Ohio – a pretty state- where we all camped the night in a field.
In the morning our friends set off for home while we continued on our journey to Chicago, Illinois.
After travelling 256 miles we reached Chicago and stopped at the home of Grace (a distant cousin), her mother and stepfather. They made us most welcome and wanted us to remain there. John, the stepfather, and Cecil visited the stockyards where all the animals, brought in from the South were slaughtered. Although work was available there Cecil just hated the idea of it all and really, Chicago did not appeal to either of us. Whilst there we saw the Mayflower and went down Michlong Boulevard.
A further 208 miles saw us at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where we spent our first night-stop at an accommodation camp for travellers like us – some going East and some going West. The camp consisted of a bunch of shacks way out of town, each with a double bed and mattress. There were outside toilets and washing facilities but nothing to cook on. We all had our portable cooking plates though and while Cecil checked the car I cooked the chops. We had coffee, tea and canned food and on our way bought fresh food daily. We met people who had been on the road for months working their way across the States before the onset of winter.
We reached Council Bluffs, a small town outside of Omaha, after travelling 242 miles through acres and acres of corn. Generally we avoided town centres. However, when we stopped to buy some food for the coming evening Cecil did not park the car slantwise as others had done (he should have known better). The Sheriff came up – oh yes he had his big hat and shirt medal – and asked whether we were moving on or staying. Cecil said “Just passing through”. The Sheriff believed him and said “all I ask is that you park like the other fellers do the next time you pass this way”.
Today we had a long, hard journey of 304 miles following the River Platte to North Platte, Nebraska. As August is so hot by noon, it is not the best month for travelling especially by car with no air conditioning as they have today. So we left at 6.00 am to get in a few hours travelling before it got too hot.
Going along hereabouts a boy suddenly jumped on the running board demanding a lift (Jim was sleeping in the back seat). We did not stop, the boy hung on for a while before dropping off. Later he passed us on a motorbike, probably stolen.
We were very thankful to find accommodation: we had a list of likely places to stop at (there were no motels in those days) and the farther west we went the more primitive the accommodation became but we met some interesting people. They were all very friendly, kind and helpful to one another. It would have been nice to have had a camera and a modern day tape recorder to have recorded it all.
Our next stop was Cheyenne, Wyoming (240 miles).
Whilst travelling to Rawlings – 169 miles – we passed through Medicine Bow Mountains which were more pleasant, we even saw a bluebird. Unfortunately Jim was running a temperature and we had to stop to find a doctor who gave him some tablets to get the temperature down.
After a good night’s sleep Jim was much better. Four miles away was Wassutter there was the welcome sight of a petrol station. Our journey took us through Bitter Creek to Rock Springs where we stayed the night.
Our travels to Salt Lake City was unbelievable. Miles before we reached the city it was so barren and eerie. For two days we could be travelling, maybe an hour, and not meet or pass another car; it really was a relief to reach Salt Lake City, Utah.
After leaving Sat Lake City we passed through the small town of Nephi where the good road ended. We did not stop there but carried on to St George, 228 miles from Sat Lake City. Accommodation was poor here.
We left St George early and found the going difficult because of trouble with the car, but thankfully made it safely to Las Vegas. At that time Las Vegas was just a small place in the desert; population 4,000, two hotels, one garage, a bit of green and a couple of palm trees. Here we met a family man with his wife and mother who were heading for Los Angeles. He had a shovel in the back of his Franklin car in case of a “wash out”; he explained that the sandy track over which we travelled could be washed away in a sudden storm.
As it was too hot and too dangerous to travel through the Mojave Desert during the day, we left with him in the evening following the lights of his car – that is all we could see. After 148 miles we reached Yermo at 3.00 am where there was just a shack and water available to top up the radiator. The Franklin was a car which had undergone testing on the highways.
Having left Yermo without delay we stopped at Victorville which was just a service station of which we took advantage. The police were there because the station man a short time before had been held up and shot.
The last 148 miles were really pleasant passing through the San Bernadino mountains and Pasadena with Ioshire trees, ostrich farms, acres of grapes and no hedges. Signs warned us of heavy fines if we were caught picking grapes.
We had reached Florida Avenue, Los Angeles, which was lined with magnolia trees – a very pretty sight. Len was in lodgings there (he had not gone to San Antonio, Texas after all) and he directed us the 16 miles to Hawthorn, another suburb of Los Angeles which was Uncle Bill’s Californian home.
With the exception of the Mojave Desert, at all the night stops when we talked to other fellow travellers not once did we join up with another car to travel together the next part of the journey. We would leave early in the morning and stop “when the sun was hitting the windscreen too hard” which turned to most times when we neared our next scheduled stop, usually about 5.00 p.m.