Joseph: Traveling with dad 1951

A summer vacation trip as an 11-year-old inspired and influenced my husband. That summer his parents loaded their Buick Roadmaster with their five children to take a friend to visit a college in Tennessee. After the college visit, my husband’s dad said, “We are this close to the Smoky Mountains, we may as well go see them.”

They drove to the Smoky Mountains, rented a room and explored the area. As they were walking along, he remembers, “Mom saw a bear cub reaching up to her as if asking for food.” It startled them, especially when it turned to the future college student with its mouth open, still looking for food. “We never saw the mother bear, but it must of been there,” hubby said.

That night his dad said, “I have always wanted to see the Skyline Drive, and it’s close by.” He called the factory where he worked to say, “I can’t make it back today.” 

From Skyline Drive they drove to the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. The crew of eight rode to the top and walked down the stairs to the base. That’s something visitors can’t do anymore. 

Outside again, a man approached them, “For $13 I can take all of you in my cab on a tour of Washington D.C.” In 1951 that equaled at least a couple day’s of work. His dad shelled out the cash.

“We visited the White House, the Capitol, saw them make money, visited the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Smithsonian where my mom wanted to see a specific jewel and the Gutenberg Press,” hubby recalled. With that in mind my husband often says, “A local guide is worth the money to get as much information and sightseeing in as possible.”

That night his dad made another call, “I can’t make it back tomorrow.” The Roadmaster traveled to Philadelphia where they saw the Liberty Bell and nearby Valley Forge. 

Again, his dad professed, “I can’t make it back tomorrow,” and they proceeded to New York City. 

“We went to the Statue of Liberty. I climbed all the way up into the torch. That’s something you can’t do anymore. We went to the top of the Empire State Building. Up there, they had a railing. Dad put David’s legs through that railing.” David, the youngest brother, was four or five at the time. You can’t do that anymore, either. 

Back at street level, hubby remembers, “Dad asked what do you want for breakfast?”


“They said, ‘We don’t have that.’ 

“We said, ‘Waffles.’ They said, ‘We don’t have that.”

“Finally, Dad asked, “What do you have?”

“Eggs. We have eggs.” 

Everyone had eggs for breakfast that day.

The time did come to head the Roadmaster home to Indiana with a stop at Gettysburg where his dad called to say, “I can make it back tomorrow.”

Home again, the friend prepared to attend college, and the family settled into their usual routines. Those memories planted the seed for my husband to have a lifelong love of traveling. In the 70 plus years since then, he has taken innumerable trips across the country with our children and grandchildren, including taking each to Washington D.C. and New York City. 

He urges others to go and see the monuments, the White House, the Capitol and more. He may not get paid $13 a day to be a tour guide for his family, but he does know how to move around D.C. I have never heard him make a phone call saying, “I can’t make it in tomorrow,” but he always says, “We are this close, I want to go have a look.”

About jottingjoan

retired former newspaper writer. Many children and grandchildren. One husband.
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