the great american road trip.

First up, congrats to Debbie Dee!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway from last Friday and I’ll be getting her prize shipped out just as soon as I get it boxed up and send Mr. Q to the post office 😉

In the meantime, in my post about my mom’s patio makeover, I mentioned that she downsized her home at the end of 2020.  As a result, she was clearing out and getting rid of things.

She phoned me one day while she was in the midst of that process and happened to mention that she had thrown away the scrapbook that her mother made of a family road trip they took out west in 1953.  I believe my response was “You did what?!!”

Of all the things she could have thrown out, she chose that scrapbook because ‘it was falling apart.’

Seriously, does my mother not know me at all?  Have I ever been know to shy away from something simply because it was falling apart?  Do I not have a huge stash of the old black and white family photos that no one else wanted, even though we aren’t even sure who the people are in them?

Fortunately, she had literally just thrown it out, so I asked her to please go back out to the garage, dig it back out of the trash can, and save it for me.

In my mind, this scrapbook chronicles not only an amazing piece of family history but also a classic story of the great American road trip.

My mom was a surprise baby that came along a bit late in life for my grandparents.  My grandmother was 42 and my grandpa was 48 when my mom was born.  She had two older siblings but by 1953 they were married and out of the house and she was effectively an only child.

That summer my grandparents loaded up the car and the three of them headed to South Dakota to pick up my grandmother’s brother and his wife, Uncle Knute and Aunt Alma, and then the five of them headed off for adventure at 5 a.m. the next day.

My grandmother documented the entire trip in this scrapbook starting with a map of their route.

There wasn’t an explanation for the two different routes shown, but it was noted that they followed the one shown in purple crayon.  The red crayon route must have been rejected for some reason, or perhaps it was plan B.

It seems that their goal was to not only see America, but also dip into both Canada and Mexico.  It must have been the trip of a lifetime for the adults (I can’t say the same for my mom, she went on to travel the world!).  They drove 7,000 miles and it took 22 days.  They saw snow deeper than their car in the Beartooth Mountains and temperatures of 105 degrees in the Mojave Desert.

But my mom still says that one of the things she remembers the most about this trip was having to sit in the back seat of the car in between Knute and Alma for all of those 7,000 miles.

I was surprised to learn that that between them my grandparents and my great aunt & uncle had relatives spread across the country all the way to California.  Out of 22 nights on the road, they spent 10 of them at the homes of various family members including a night at Aunt Nettie’s house in Long Beach, CA.

I once posted here about Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner.  I’d found a photo of her and her daughter in another old scrapbook and the photo was labeled “Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner and her daughter Flossie”.  It took me a second, but then I realized that made the daughter’s full name Flossie Fleaner.  You can’t help but laugh out loud at that one.

I also had to chuckle over my grandma’s caption for this next rather blurry photo.

Apparently several of her relatives lived in ‘modern homes’.  I suppose in 1953 that house was the height of modernity!

They seem to have hit all of the classic stops for a road trip out west including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Mount Hood, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Redwoods, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and even Las Vegas …

I believe I may have inherited my feelings about Vegas from my grandmother with her comment that it was ‘mostly gambling places & motels’.  She doesn’t sound impressed, does she?

My mom said that Aunt Alma put $3 in a slot machine and my grandma was absolutely scandalized and called it sinful.  Hmmm.  In this case, the apple fell very far from the tree indeed.  I wonder what grandma would think of the fact that her daughter now lives near Vegas and I suspect she puts a little more than $3 into those machines.

For some reason I find it fascinating to think about how different Vegas must have looked in 1953.  Here’s a photo that I found online.

While searching around for that photo, I also learned that the U.S. government was testing atomic bombs in Nevada in 1953.  In some cases the mushrooms clouds could be seen from the strip.  And apparently it became a tourist attraction (check out this quick YouTube video if you don’t believe me).  Can you imagine?

I asked my mom about that and she didn’t remember seeing any mushroom clouds on their trip.

My grandmother kept track of the entire cost of the trip, which added up to a whopping $278.63, which I imagine was a fair amount of money in 1953.

I also thought it was interesting to note that my grandpa had to take an extra week of vacation without pay.  I assume he only got two weeks of vacation per year, and they were gone for three weeks.  I wish they’d noted how much a week’s pay was for him.  My grandpa worked in a bakery, so I don’t think that they were wealthy by any means.  According to the US Census Bureau the average family income in 1953 was around $80 per week.  So if you consider that, this trip, including the lost week of wages, cost about the equivalent of a month’s pay.

I wish I knew more about what inspired my grandparents to make this road trip.  I did a little online research and discovered that the popularity of road trips really took off in the 1950’s due to the rapid growth of ownership of automobiles by American families.  That made me wonder if the car they drove was their first family car, so I asked my mom about that.  Unfortunately she wasn’t really sure, but she does remember her dad taking the bus to work when she was younger so it is possible that they didn’t have a car prior to this time.

I also wonder if this trip is what inspired my mom’s love of travel.  She took us kids on roads trips nearly ever summer when we were young.  We drove to Florida once, and to California multiple times.  Of course, that is what inspired my own love of travel as well.  Speaking of, we just learned that the European cruise we had booked for September has been officially canceled.  This is cancellation number two, we were originally supposed to go in September 2020.  We’ve rebooked once again, now for September 2022.  Let’s hope that the third time will be the charm.  By the time it rolls around it will have been 4 years since our last trip to Europe and that just seems plain old crazy.

So tell me, do any of you have good stories to share about taking the great American road trip?  Or maybe you’ve taken road trips in other parts of the world?  I’d love to hear about your favorite places to visit, or trips taken, in the comments!

41 thoughts on “the great american road trip.

  1. Oh my goodness! That scrapbook is worth its weight in gold for all of those precious memories it preserves! I used to be a Creative Memories consultant and I must say that your grandmother knew how journaling makes the memories photos come alive. I’m so glad it was rescued from the trash!!

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  2. So so happy you made your mom dig through the trash! What a gem! I remember driving to FL in July from St. Louis on a family road trip. 5 kids, with no AC in the car and both parents smoking non stop. Still remember playing slug bug with my siblings, and all sorts of games. Kids today have it made. We treasure the memories though! Still laughing about it. Thanks for sparking some good thoughts about family and travel today Miss Q! That’s what I love about your blog. It always leaves me smiling.

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  3. What a wonderful piece of your families history. Glad that you were able to connect with your mom to dig this piece out of the trash! Great information and memories for you and your mom! Thank you for sharing 😊

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  4. Thank you for this wonderful post! My dad was the adventurous one and we took many road trips, with the camping gear on top of the car. This brought back wonderful memories. Great share!

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  5. I love this story. Documenting trips and just scrapbooking and journaling in general is a gift to pass down to the family to be treasured. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Congrats to Debbie! Loved the post about the road trip, especially including the expenses! My dad always did that – not for road trips, because we didn’t take any, but each and every item for the weddings of each child!

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  7. My father was in the Navy, so I grew up traveling. When stateside, my mother drove us on many long trips, usually three, later four, kids and the dog. Once, all of us stuffed into my great uncle’s new red ’65 VW Beetle for a trip from Virginia Beach to Kansas City. I loved the sound of the repetitive bumps of the bridge joints on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for our many trips from Virginia to Brooklyn, New York in the 60’s. My twenty-five year old son just drove his twenty-five year old truck from North Carolina to Idaho, Utah, and California for work. Fun times. At least he has plenty of options for stops, no jar-in-the-car. 😉

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  8. Love this story! So glad your mom rescued the scrapbook from the trash can for you! Perhaps they took the old commercial with Dinah Shore singing, “See the USA in your Chevrolet” to heart and took off on their road trip.

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  9. What a fun post! The photos, the journaling, and the list of expenses – this album is an absolute treasure! Thanks for sharing with us, Linda. 😀

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  10. Hi Linda, so sorry to hear about your cruise been cancelled again. Well if it takes place in September 2022 be sure I will offer you an extra large coffee when you get to Hamburg. And regarding road trips I did a road trip with a friend of mine almost 25 years ago. We drove from the East to the West Coast of the United States for about 10 weeks and it was the trip of our lives… we loved the canyons in Arizona the best.
    Regards from Hamburg! Daggi

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    1. I’m determined to get to Hamburg in 2022! And your road trip sounds amazing! Most of those who live here in the U.S. rarely actually drive from coast to coast. I bet you saw all kinds of things along the way.

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  11. What a great scrapbook and memories! I have fond memories of the one road trip from my childhood at age 12. Our family never traveled, but an aunt and uncle took road trips every summer. In 1966 I was lucky to travel with them out west to the Rocky Mts, Grand Canyon and into Nevada along with my cousin, mother, brother and 83 year old grandfather. They had a pop-up camper and my aunt was an expert at packing cooking gear etc into those big cardboard beer boxes. Every evening she cooked our dinner and breakfast in the morning at a campsite and packed sandwiches for lunch on the road. I do not remember ever eating a meal in a restaurant those two weeks. We may have had an ice cream cone somewhere along the way! (I love your posts. I like painting furniture and smalls also!)

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    1. My mom said that they didn’t eat in restaurants much on their road trip either. They had groceries and cookware and often stayed in cabins that had kitchenettes so that they could make their own meals. Those poor women back in the day, even while on vacation they had to do all of that cooking (can you tell I don’t like to cook?)!

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  12. I remember a three-week road trip vacation when I was a kid. We drove a station wagon pulling a camper trailer and stayed at KOA campgrounds along the way. Pennsylvania to Texas to Colorado to Arizona then back home. We met up with my cousins and I remember one of them sleepwalking into the desert! She woke up when she ran into a fence. Her bare feet were filled with prickers and cactus thorns. It was scary! Other than that is was fun and memorable!

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  13. Great post! Reminded me of when my parents put all 7 kids and the cat into a station wagon and drove from Massachusetts to Minnesota in 1962. I remember pulling up to a Howard Johnsons, where we all had to line up and get our hands and faces washed before we could go into the restaurant. At that time just going into a restaurant was a big deal! Loved the stories (Flossie’s name tickled my funny bone too) and your Mom’s scrapbook.❤

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  14. What a great story Linda! I was born in USSR and spent my childhood in Crimea by Black sea. Your pics reminded me of our family car – based on the design, i suspect Russia just copied whatever was originally built in America. The backseat was the size of the couch, no seat belts whatsoever – it was our own paradise! Thanks for sharing! I’m glad your Mom didnt actually get rid of the book!

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  15. Well, I love this post Miss Quandie…….and I especially loved Olga’s comment for two reasons!: Number one: while we here in America believed that all Russians woke up every morning wanting to nuke us, Olga was making memories in her family car! Number two: her speaking English like it’s her maternal tongue, a stunning achievement! Your post also took me down memory lane: every summer my mom would load us four kids up in the car to drive to my grandmother’s for a week’s visit. Before taking off, each of us had to swallow a spoonful of Dramamine…….yellow and yucky! And always a few roadside stops for one of us to throw up! I still get carsick if I sit in the back seat! Hahahaha

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    1. LOL … why do I suspect that your mom was drugging all of you before the long road trip. Dramamine used to knock me right out! And I totally agree with your comments about Olga, I am in awe of anyone who can speak more than one language fluidly because I am pathetic with languages.

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    2. Thank you Constance, so nice of you to mention me in your comment! Those road trips were in-between us Russians thinking that America will nuke _us_ 🙂 Nothing really changed, the propaganda machine works at the same speed even these days. Anyway, i’m so glad my family was able to immigrate and start from scratch.
      And thank you Linda – this post brought back so many good memories!

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  16. This post was a treasure about a treasure! Thank goodness the scrapbook was rescued! If only our mothers made detailed scrapbooks like this one about our childhood road trips. Maybe someday we could compare photos from our joint trip to CA in ’76. I remember being so impressed that our moms handled the routes, the driving, and all us kids without our dads!

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    1. Do you remember the picture of all of us standing in front of a snow bank alongside the road that looks just like the one in the picture of my grandparent’s car? It’s you, Debbie and her friend Donna in front of the snow bank, and then Kurt and Bob on top of it. I guess some things never get old, like taking travel photos in front of giant snow banks!

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  17. I kept a childhood scrapbook and I am positive it was from the same company because it fell apart in the same way! Since it fell apart, I made it over into a new one archival and all, a year ago so it’s good for another 50!

    I’m so glad for family members who scrapbook their events, save the monentos and WRITE ON THEIR PICTURES!! Aren’t you?

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    1. Yes! I wish I could ‘re-do’ this one to save it, but the pages are written on both front and back. Plus they are oversized (12″ x 16″). I would need to find some sort of sleeves to fit them into maybe.

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  18. Loved reading and seeing the pics about your grandparents and mother’s road trip back in the day. Our road trip with 3 children (one still in diapers) in 1962 took us from south Florida driving a station wagon pulling a trailer with no bathroom facilities west to Texas, up to Colorado, westerly to Nevada stopping long enough to walk the streets of Vegas (I remember them looking much the same as your picture), then over to Disney World in California (that was before Disney came to Florida). Our trip back home included a brief stop at the Grand Canyon. At that point I didn’t care what it looked like…..just take me home! 30 travel days. More fun in retrospect!

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    1. Wowza! That sounds like quite the adventure Faye! I’m fascinated that you lived in southern Florida back in the 60’s, I bet it was an entirely different place back then!

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  19. I love this scrapbook, especially the journaling. My family never traveled when I was a child, but my mom kept a journal all through our childhood and those journals are so treasured.

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