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Remember: Roadtripping

Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange captured images of travelers in Kern County during the 1930s camped out behind a billboard along U.S. 99 suggesting that travelers should “next time, try the train.” This is similar to a sign Maxine Clark’s family saw as they experienced car problems on one family road trip.

In November of 1938, part of our family (Daddy, Mama, Willard, and I) drove from Los Angeles to Grants Pass, Oregon, to spend Thanksgiving with my parent’s best friends.

Daddy had had our ’36 Ford V8 engine checked, tires were okay, oil changed and new rings put in. We were set for a great, happy trip.

Ted (in high school), and Bob (in junior high) stayed with Grandma, and continued to go to school. Willard and I were excused. The next-door neighbor would look in on Grandma while the boys were in school.

Daddy drove, and Mama was in charge of the food box.

We waved good-bye and started on our trip. Mama played Alphabet Game with us, and handed out sandwiches.

Our first stop was a hotel in Fresno. It was hard to sleep. We heard trains hitching and unhitching railroad cars. Front Street was Highway 99.

In the morning we were on the road again, but in the dark evening, our car engine clanked and clanked. The town behind us was five miles away. The next town in front of us was also five miles away. Daddy decided to clank along at five miles an hour to the next town.

On the way a large billboard, with bright lights shining on it, pictured the inside of a beautiful passenger car of a train. The people in the picture were relaxed and happy.

The caption read: “Next time try the train.”

(Part two next week)

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