Last week I wrote about the reasons why, in 1964, my five sons and I moved from Pennsylvania. Looking back, I wonder how I missed doing some things I should have done then, and how we ever got any further than Ohio. Let me explain.
Just one month before we were to leave, I found out that I needed major “woman” surgery. There wasn’t any choice. In 1964 this operation was done much differently than today. Back then there were major incisions, today there aren’t. This meant that I couldn’t drive a car, but Don Jr. at 19 and Doug at 17 had their licenses, and so I had others who could drive.
We left in early July in our VW bus, full of hope and dreams about our new life out West. However, within an hour, Doug was in a lot of pain from a toothache. I couldn’t believe my ears. When we arrived in Harrisburg and checked into a hotel. I asked the girl at the counter if she knew of a dentist. Luckily, there was one close by. Doug had an impacted molar removed.
While this happened, the other boys and I shopped in a nearby mall. “We’re headed for the Pacific Ocean,” I thought. “Never mind that it’s 3,000 miles away,” I bought a new swimsuit. Then we all headed back to the motel. We needed a cot to be added to the room, so while I waited for it to be delivered the boys went to a movie.
With nothing else to do, I tried on my new purchase. Just then somebody knocked at the door. It was a motel employee delivering that fold up bed. That man looked at me like I was a crazy woman standing there in a swimsuit since they had no pool. He just shook his head. I guess he had no idea about my future plan for a dip in the Pacific?
When leaving Harrisburg the next day Doug said he felt much better from the “tooth” problem. Then we noticed that one of our tires was halfway flat. Of course we needed to find a place that sold tires. While checking all four, we soon realized we needed two new tires. We should have checked things ahead of time.
All we thought about then was getting the heck out of Pennsylvania. We had one of those Trip-Tickets from AAA directing our route. Arriving in Ohio, when it was time to settle in the next night, we decided to find a campground instead of a motel. Of course we needed supplies and stopped at one of those “we have everything” type stores.
Knowing the three younger boys could sleep across the seats inside the bus; we bought air mattresses and some tarps for the older boys and I to sleep outside. We purchased canned beef stew, a sterno can cook stove, some bread and milk, and all of the paper paraphernalia needed to have dinner. Then it was time to find a campground.
On advice from somebody in the store we headed south a few miles and found what we needed.
Setting up camp beside a family with children, I began opening the stew, lighting the sterno stove, and doing all of the things needed to have something to eat. Half way through the chores, I looked over and there not two feet from the edge of our campsite were five or six of the children from next door. They just sat there staring, during the entire time we ate.
Paper plates back then were very thin and flimsy. Danny, my youngest son, complained that the stew gravy had disappeared into the plate. “Well, just eat the plate too.” I said. For a moment nothing happened, and then we all burst out laughing.
The boys puffed up the mattresses we’d purchased. Waking in the middle of the night I heard Don Jr. blowing madly, trying to fix his when it got a hole from rock on the ground. We didn’t get much sleep, especially when it began to sprinkle rain.
All of us were glad to leave that campground and headed out early in the morning. A little lost since we hadn’t followed the Trip-ticket directions exactly, we came to the end of a road with only two ways to go, right or left. But the decision was easy. There, on a fence post was a sign. It was simply WEST.
The decision was easy.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.