By Angie Roberts Harris
When I was growing up in the 70s if you were going on vacation that meant you were taking a road trip. Oh, there were airplanes but that was for emergencies, business and rich people. I remember the time my dad and his brother flew to California to see my sick uncle.
There was a lot of conversation in our family about the trip, how expensive the ticket was, the lay over and the fact that they “ran on the runway” to catch their connecting flight in time.
Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower was stationed in Germany during WWII and was impressed with a network of roadways known as Reichsautohbahen. When he became president he championed the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”. The roads up to this point were primarily made of concrete and packed dirt and one in every 18,000 Americans had a car. The reasoning at that time was to eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy” safe transcontinental travel. Other highway advocates felt we needed the roads “in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net would permit quick evacuation of target areas.” It was “essential to the national interest”. This road system began in 1956 and took until 1991, a mere 35 years to finish the original portion.
By 1970 something the roads were starting to get better and they opened up an entirely new industry. Tourism!
Though the roads were improving the facilities were still few and far between. You would get gas and check the oil at a Gulf or Texaco Station and borrow the key that was attached to a large block of wood to go use the outside restroom. They usually had a cold bottle of Coca Cola and some peanuts to put in it but you had to get there before they closed at 5 pm.
The first day of the road trip and sometimes the second day we had sandwiches and food from home. It was in a styrofoam ice chest that was full of ice that dad got from the ice house downtown. The ice came in a large block about one foot square and he took an ice pick to chop it up so it would fit in the cooler. The sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper and got soggy really quick but the potato salad was in a cool whip container and was good until the ice melted. There were tons of road side picnic tables where you would stop to eat and stretch your legs.
Most of the time your route took you right down main street where you would find the local cafe. You could get a burger basket or a blue plate special. Blue plate specials usually included a dinner salad, bread, meat, veggies and a cobbler or piece of pie with coffee or tea. They were only open during “meal times”. This was usually about an hour for lunch, then they would close up to “reset” for the dinner hour. Sometimes you would find truck stops for fuel and you could find a decent meal.
Eventually chains started popping up and we looked forward to finding those along the way because they were open longer than the local shops. Stuckeys had candy makers that you could watch pull taffy, pecan logs and indoor potties. My favorite was the foot long flat pieces of taffy that came in different flavors.
If you found a Dairy Queen on a road trip that meant you got a burger basket and a dilly bar. Their soda pop came in wax paper cups with Dennis the Menace on them and you drank that through paper straws. If you bit the end of the straw it was toast.
When we went to see my uncles in California we traveled interstate 40 and it was covered with road side signs that made for great entertainment. These signs would have a word or two on them and then in a few hundred feet or so would be the next word of the message. I am convinced that this person was a marketing genius to have come up with something that I would still remember 40 years later.
If you needed a place to sleep on the way you could find a Howard Johnson or a Holiday Inn every few hundred miles. There were also the small mom and pop accommodations that usually had the name Court in the title and always advertised if they had a color TV. I don't remember staying in a hotel because most of the time my adults would just take turns driving and we stopped once we got to our destination.
The cars when I was young had no seat belts and large back dashes next to the back window. I would lay up in the window right next to the little bobbin dog because I could see better, then daddy would hit the brakes and I would go flying into the back of his seat. That was more fun than the ferris wheel and since we didn’t have game systems, ipads, cell phones or laptops entertainment was found in the simple things. Like counting cars, reading books, singing songs and asking the ever famous question, “are we there yet?”
The Best Road Trip Story of All Time!
My favorite traveling story is not my own but belongs to my cousin. Her family took road trips for several weeks each summer. There were four children in their station wagon and each day her parents would give them each a roll of nickels. $2 back in the day was HUGE money for a kid. As they traveled each day if the kids got out of hand they had to pay their mom a nickel. At the end of the day they could spend what they had “earned”. One day in particular, one of the little girls was exceptionally annoying to her big sister Karkie. So, Karkie tapped her mother on the shoulder and just handed her the entire roll of nickels. When her mother asked what this was for she turned around and smacked her sister good. To this day she still says it was worth every nickel.
Angie Roberts Harris, wife and mother of five, has been working with food storage and emergency preparedness principles for over 30 years. She now is a Thrive Life Consultant and has integrated their products into her home.