* * * * *
When I was about 7 or 8 years old (1927-28) my dad bought his first Model T that was a touring car with side curtainswhich could be buttoned on to (theoretically) keep out wind, rain etc. We always had a two weeks vacation and this time took our first trip to see our relatives.
We went first to Arkansas -the northwest corner - to see my mother's aunt - Grandmother Jobe's sister, Josephine Webb Cox who with her husband Ben and four or five grown sons lived on a farm near West Fork Arkansas. This is not far from Prairie Grove where my great grandfather David Webb lived. Aunt Jo and her family had a completely self sufficient operation - cows, hogs, chickens, a bountiful supply of food which they grew and a table which was overflowing with good food and fellowship.
Some of the boys were college educated, but never left home to marry. There was a daughter,Laura, who had married and lived some distance away.
The first thing that happened to me was that the old dog, who was not used to children, and particularly not one as rambunctious as I was - bit me on the hand. My dad had to pry his jaws apart with his car keys. Uncle Ben allowed that we could pout some coal oil on the bite and it would heal right up - It did. You can still his took mark on my right hand if you look carefully.
The house, I now realize, was a treasure house of antiques - of course I didn't know it then. There was a real spinning wheel in the parlor, beautiful hand carved furniture, big feather beds and wonderful stuff everywhere. A beautiful Seth Thomas clock, with David Webb's name written on the face, was in the attic and was given to my mom as a memento of our trip.
A couple of years later when we had a better car - a brand new Durant - after much correspondence, we went back picked up Aunt Jo and took her to see my grandmother in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma (clear across the state). These sisters had not seen each other for many decades and the talk flew fast and long.
After the visit, we took Aunt Jo back to her home and the minute she hit the house she was cooking up a storm and issuing orders to the Boys and Uncle Ben.
She and my grandmother looked very much alike, both about 5 feet tall and no doubt less than 90 pounds soaking wet!
When we got back there the first thing Aunt Jo wanted to organize was a trip via horseback across the mountain to see her daughter. The roads were not passable by auto yet. She asked my mom if she could still ride side saddle. Guess what, the next morning we decided to leave suddenly - needed to get home - my mom was NOT going horseback riding.
On this trip or another one to the Ozarks - my dad had a brother-in-law and sister who lived in eastern Oklahoma - we were traveling down a hot dusty road and saw a sign that said ice cream cones. So Dad stopped and we went in and ordered one for each of us - only to be told they had cones but no ice cream. My nose was out of joint all day.
On that same journey we tried to get the Model T to go up a very steep hill and it just stalled out - Uncle Henry Parvin suggested that we all get out - that Daddy back the car up the hill as it probably had a gravity feed carburetor - sure enough it worked - the old Model T going up the hill backwards, Uncle Henry walking alongside guiding my Dad and the rest us timidly following up the hill huffing and puffing.
We took my dad's sister Lil and brother-in-law Harley Moyer with us on that trip and the car was full. Then when we got ready to go home - aunt Etta Parvin decided to go with us. Here is a car meant to hold 4 there are now 5 adults and me (not very large) sandwiched in. My mom, got to ride between the two rather large Adams girls) and me in the front seat between Daddy and Uncle Harley. Mom had her look on for the whole drive. As I recall we took the Moyers to eastern Oklahoma to Parvins - and we left them there and went to western Oklahoma to see the Jobe family. When that visit was over, we went back to pick up the Moyers and got an extra passenger.
I think that was the LAST time we gathered up relatives for a vacation.
Traveling by car in those days was an adventure - there were no amenities - very few hotels - some cabin campsand cafes were not plentiful or particularly fine dining. But when you found a café a chicken dinner might be 50 cents including homemade pie.
We went every summer to see mom's family in western Oklahoma - my grandma was an invalid - having influenza in the World War I epidemic from which she never recovered. She was supposed to be dying every year, but in fact did not die till 1939 - the year I was a senior in High School.
I was the only child who ever came around that household and was not looked upon as anything but someone who let screen doors slam (hurt Grandma's head) and talked too loudly or did any number of things that did not please the matriarch.
Two people stood out in my childhood - my uncle Sherman Thompson - married to my mother's older sister, Susie, and my aunt Lela Kendall Jobe married to my mother's youngest brother, Hugh. Both Aunt Lela and Uncle Sherman took it upon themselves to entertain me and recognize that kids will be kids.
Aunt Lela had a degree in home ec from Oklahoma State and was a wonderful cook. She taught school much of her life and was a treasure. Uncle Sherman was manager of a coop mill and elevator in Hammon, Oklahoma - and when I was 14 years old used to take me along when he went out to see customers. He decided that was old enough to learn to drive - my dad had been teaching me - but it was not like driving on sand hill back roads. One adventure was a place where a gully (quite wide and deep) was crossed by driving on two planks laid from edge to edge. He said all I had to do was keep the wheels on the planks. After that I thought I could drive anywhere!
My dad and I went to Strong City where Grandpa lived - about 20 miles away and when we got ready to come home - there was a lightning storm like I have never seen since. The lightning ran along the barbed wire fences- lit up the whole sky and just popped and cracked. I was deathly afraid of lightning and thunder. My dad said as long as we were in the car - the rubber wheels would insulate us. I dont know if it was scientific or not - but we were not struck by lightning - and I was never as afraid of storms again.
One night late driving across the sand hills on narrow hilly roads - two men stepped out in front of the car - carrying violin cases - (in the movies the gangsters carried their machine guns in violin cases) and my dad said - well were going to be robbed. Turned out they were two old country boys on their way home from fiddling at a dance and they needed a ride. I can still see those men (looked like they were ten feet tall) standing in front of the car - the road wasn't wide enough to go around them.
The main highways were narrow enough - they were 75 and 81 running north and south and 66 running across Oklahoma. If you got off these - taking what appeared to be a shorter route - the roads were two ruts through the sand - and if it rained - good luck.
There was a place between Auburn and Dawson, Nebraska that was not paved and invariably at the end of August on the way home - the rain would hit there if no where else. The Model T would stay in the tracks but the big cars - Buicks, Dodges Studebakers would all slide off in the ditch - if they slid all the way off you could still go along side them, but sometimes all the men would get out and push them off. There was a farmer - in Oklahoma,. I think it was who regularly kept the mud hole in front of his farm wet down with an old hose - so he could charge the city folks to pull them through.
Most roads in that part of the country did not have bridges at the bottom of hills, but the water just ran across the road - and a lot of rain made a real problem. One time we were caught in eastern Oklahoma - near a town called Locust Grove where the water was so deep that it took 14 hours for it to go down and nothing to do but sit there and wait - till it drained down to where one could drive through it. We could drive back into Locust Grove to get food - but there were not accommodations, so it was just sit and wait it out. Tempers were very short - and frustration high. Todays interstate travel is a far cry from those pioneer days of motoring. When a tire went flat which they often did - it was take it off the wheel scratch the inner tube with a special rough gadget and then glue a patch on and pump it up by hand put it back in the tire - remount the wheel and go on your way. I can see my dad sitting beside the road - patching away at an inner tube, waiting for the glue to dry. No AAA in those days to come and rescue one.
We seldom saw a car from Nebraska - and folks in filling stations would say NEEBRASKKA - where's that??
When I was 14, we became really adventurous - it was 1934 and while we still went to see Grandma - we first took off west to see the Rockies.
The first night we stayed in a motel at North Platte, forgetting the Union Pacific ran right beside the highway, so every 20 minutes a train whistle - my dad was not happy - the second night we were in Big Thompson Canyon and stayed at The Dam Store - It's still there, but much larger - after the big flood - My mom loved telling everyone we stayed at the "dam" store.
We drove around in the mountains and ended up at Colorado Springs where we decided to drive up Pike's Peak. Had a new l934 Plymouth - after we passed timber line - the car just stopped - we flatlanders did not know what to do - a Nebraska, Omaha to be exact, car stopped and the man said "You have a vapor lock" poured cold water on the carburetor and away she went! Turned out he ran a garage a half block south of 30th and Newport where we went to church.
Then we proceeded south to Raton Pass - across 66 to Oklahoma and visited in Hammon, OK where mom's family lived. Had a lot to tell about getting stuck on Pike's Peak.
* * * * *