What follows is my diary of my trip around the USA and part of Canada in the summer of 1947. I was 16 years old when I took off from my home in Manasquan, New Jersey and was ‘years older’ when I got back almost three months later. What is not in the diary is the extensive reading I did before leaving. I wrote to the tourism office of every state that I intended to visit and read scores of books from our local library of traveling in the ‘old west.’
I attached my gear to a pack board that I got as army surplus after the war (WW II). To it I attached the knapsack and the sleeping bag. The sleeping bag also was army surplus which the US Army made available to Boy Scout troops for a pittance. I began the trip by taking a bus to Denver, Colorado and, for the most part, hitch hiked the rest of the way.
HITCH HIKE TRIP 1947
May 10, 1947
Getting the urge to travel and see things that many young fellows don’t get to see, I decided to do something about it. I shall take a hitch-hike tour of the United States.
My parents approved of my plans and I think that I shall leave for the west as soon as school lets out. This will be the summer between my Junior and Senior year in Manasquan High School.
Got a ride from Manasquan to Newark, NJ with Mr. Jarvis. Slept at Aunt Ann’s house.
I got to the Public Service Bus Depot at 7 a.m. My bus was due to arrive at 7:20. I waited for more than a half hour and the bus still didn’t arrive. At last I saw it come. It went right on past without as much as a blow of his horn and left me to wait for the next bus at 9:20. When it arrived I got on and got a window seat. We took the Pennsylvania Turnpike through most of its course. It was a beautiful ride.
We arrived in Pittsburg at 8:08 p.m. Ozzies (my mother’s brother and wife) were at the station waiting for me. Nancy wasn’t there as she went to an opera. We had something at a soda fountain. I taught the waitress how to make a vanilla frosted float. My bus for St. Louis pulled in and I said good-by and jumped in. The bus was a local and made every stop between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. There was very little sleep for anyone that night. A lady and her daughter (Mrs. L.H. Beverly and daughter) were sitting across from me. We got to talking and found out that she had attended the conference of some Temperance group in Asbury Park. I gave her a lot of information for a radio script she was writing. She gave me one dollar for postage on minerals to send home from various states gone through.
I arrived in St. Louis at 3:45 p.m. The bus for Kansas City left at 5:15. I took it and rode all night
I arrived in Kansas City at 12:19 p.m. Here we had to jump in line to get reservations for Denver. I got mine in the first bus. I got the seat directly behind the driver and next to a soldier who was going to Washington State for his discharge. His name and address is Gerrit Van Wieringen, Rt. 1, Box 131, Bow, Washington. [466-3517 – La Conner. Is this him?]
We now started to cross the great plains of Kansas. Our driver, after 5 a.m. was Francis Schorling. A load of newspapers was put on the bus when we left Kansas City to be left off in various towns along the way. At 5:30 the bus driver started blasting his horn for some unknown reason. There wasn’t another vehicle in sight nor a person on the road. I asked him why he blew the horn and he explained that it was to wake up the farmer in the farmhouse we were passing so he could milk his cows. It seems that all drivers passing on this rout at this time wake up the farmer in the same manner. Francis told me that he visited the farmer once on his day off and had returned home with a gallon of milk, some butter and many fresh vegetables.
We are now passing through Wilson, Kansas. It is a Czech town. It looks the same as any other Kansas town gone through. It has the grain elevators next to the tracks, a church, a few stores on the highway and a few houses along the highway. All around were immense fields of wheat. This area was part of the Piedmont Plateau and was called the bread basket of the nation and now of the world. A strange thing that I noticed about this area was the fence posts. Tjhey were of rock. The farmers quarried limestone and cut the pieces to about 6” x 6” x 5’ in size and used them for posts. There were miles and miles of them.
We were now passing through the oil ridge section of Kansas. Oil wells were all over the place. Barley could be seen growing along the road. We changed drivers again and road on and on, finally arriving in Denver at 6:20 p.m. I got off the bus, looked up the address of the YMCA and went right to it. I got a bed for the night in a dormitory and had dinner in their cafeteria. I got to bed by 9:30 and fell right asleep.
I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning with the phone ringing loudly. It sounded more like a burglar alarm. The desk was calling to wake up bed number five. Instead it woke up everybody else. From then on about every half hour the phone rang so there wasn’t much more sleep for me. I finally got up at 8 a.m. and went down to get something to eat. I left my pack in the pool room and went out to find a store where I could purchase an Explorer Scout shirt. I eventually arranged with a shop to order one from Chicago and have it mailed to La Junta General Delivery by June 27.
While in the May Company store I struck up a conversation with a scout and his mother who were purchasing scout equipment there. I arranged to meet them in the Barnum School out on West 1st and Hooker at the Wes District Court of Honor. I asked the clerk if he knew of a place where I could stay for the night. He arranged for me to stay at the Harris Hotel for $1.50 per night. I figured it was worth it if I could get some sleep. I got to the hotel at 1:30 and checked in. I then got my pack from the YMCA and brought it up to my room. I threw everything out on the bed and looked the things over.
My sleeping bag needed some sewing done on it so I took it to a tailor nearby and he fixed it for 35 cents. I then went back to my room and did some writing and fixing equipment. After supper I went to the Court of Honor. It took me ½ hour to get out there as no one knew how to direct me. Finally I took a number 75 trolley and arrived there at 8:30 p.m. the Court of Honor was similar to ones we have in New Jersey. The audience was exactly the same. The awards were presented by various troop leaders and all awards of the same kind were given out at the same time, i.e., all Life Scout awards were given at one time regardless of troop.
Following the presentation of awards a man set up an easil and a drawing board and drew with charcoal anything that was asked of him. He had scouts come up and write their names and from them he drew pictures which were very clever and humerous. The court was closed with a prayer by Jim Tincomb who kinda forgot the words. I was introduced to Jim by James Russell whom I had met in town that morning. Jim is a Life Scout and seems like a very nice chap. He asked me if I cared to go on an overnight camping trip for the purpose of collecting rocks and minerals. I, of course, agreed readily. That was what I had come for, to see if I could get in on any such trip. Jim introduced me to his scoutmaster who said that whether I could go or not depended on whether he could get enough transportation.
He said he would let me know by Friday evening whether he would have room or not. I then went over to James’ house to see if his mother had been able to locate somebody to go go to Genisse and Lookout Mt. on Friday. She said that she hadn’t but that James might go. She arranged to call me at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. and let me know. I then left and caught the next trolley back to the center of the city and to my hotel and to sleep.
I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and turned over and went right back to sleep. It was no hour for decent people to get up, not me anyway. I finally got up at 7:30 and was all ready to leave at 8:00. I sat on my bed waiting for the phone call from Mrs. Russel until 8:30 and finally called her. She had decided not to let Jim go with me for various reasons but asked me out to their place to start on my trip to Lookout Mt. Mrs. Russel fixed up a very nice lunch for me and took me up the highway for a few miles. I then stuck out my thumb and soon got a ride. I was let off on the highway when the man I was riding with turned into his home. I then walked about 3 miles when I was picked up by a man going clear across the mountains. He took me right to the road leading to Lookout Mountain. I walked the three miles into Buffalo Bills grave and museum.
There wasn’t anything very spectacular about the grave. All it is is a fenced in area with a monument in it. The museum is more interesting. In it are many relics of his. Here is found his guns, saddles, clothing, pictures of his and many of his Wild West Show posters. The museum is located on the top of Lookout Mountain. From the top of the mountain you can see for over 100 miles.
Instead of coming back from Bill Cody;s grave on Lookout Mountain by road I cut down the mountain side and across the fields toward Golden. This, I believe, is the most beautiful time of the year. The grass on the hill sides was green and soft under foot. I followed a small stream (Bear Creek) for awhile as it wound down the hill, sometimes passing through wooded sections that were damp and wet with many ferns, Solomon Seals, shooting stars and buttercups thriving in the richness of the loamy soil. The stream would then cut across the open field and bounce down the rock slopes of a sudden incline, passing beautiful wild cactuses in full bloom with their waxy yellow blossom atop a thorny base. The wild blue lupines, yellow columbines and the white Mariposa lily all were blooming in profusion, lending their beauty to the scene, making this one of the most pleasant of walks on a warm summer’s day.
I got a ride from Golden to Denver and I went right to Mrs. Russell’s house. I helped her pick strawberries and then set up a pup tent with Jim in the back yard. After supper at the Russell’s I went to Jim Tincomb’s patrol meeting. They were getting ready for their overnight camping trip to Selida where they were going to hunt for rocks and minerals. Each patrol in their troop has one troop committeeman looking after it. It is he who goes with the boys when they go camping and on various hikes. After the patrol meeting I went back to the Russel’s home. Jim and I went to sleep in the tent. It rained all night long. I didn’t get the least bit wet but Jim did because his ground cloth protruded out from under the tent and the water came right in on it. My sleeping bag cover is no good. It sweats. My sleeping bag was wet from the moisture inside of the cover. Jim Tincomb told me at the patrol meeting that they hadn’t been able to get enough transportation to take me along on the trip so tomorrow I’ll start for Pueblo.
I took a bus from Barnum to Santa Fe highway and started hitch hiking. Pueblo is 114 miles away and I hope to get there by evening. I got a ride to Littleton which is about 12 miles from Denver. From there I got a ride straight to Colorado Springs. From there I got a ride that let me off about 25 miles from Pueblo. Then it started to rain. And it did rain. No one would pick me up so I finally took a bus the rest of the way. I got into Pueblo about 4:30 and went right away to look up Ida Mayer whom Mrs. Hancock (of Manasquan) suggested that I see. When I got there I found her ill in bed. She had just come home from the hospital after having had a heart attack. I had supper there and then got a bed at the YMCA.
I woke up about 8:30, washed, packed my equipment and left the YMCA. I had breakfast and then walked as far as Vineland. It took me 2 hr and 15 minutes to get there. It is only ten miles from Pueblo. The Courtesy Patrol (police) stopped me and told me to walk facing traffic, i.e., on the left side of the road. I did. When I saw or heard a car coming I crossed the highway and walked toward it while hitch hiking the other direction. Finally I got to Vineland. Vineland is a Mexican village consisting of two coffee shops and a gas station. I had a bottle of “pop” in one of the cafes and then sat on my pack a short way past the gas station and put out my thumb. A bunch of Mexican boys sat on the café steps a short way down the other side of the block and watched me. They were continually shooting firecrackers.
I finally got a ride to Avondale which was about 10 miles further down the road. From there I got a ride for about 3 miles further. I was left off by a bend in the highway where there was one gas station. I sat out there for 2-1/2 hours without getting a ride. I finally went into the gas station and talked awhile with the attendant. As soon as I got out to the road again a new Chevrolet panel body truck stopped and picked me up. It had only gone 85 miles since coming from the factory. Well he took me straight into La Junta. I had something to eat and then took a room in the Colorado Hotel for $1.50 for the night. It had hot and cold running water which I wanted to do my wash. I did my laundry and then went to sleep.
I awoke at 8:30 a.m. and packed up. I went to the Fred Harvey restaurant for breakfast. There were two men sitting a few seats away from me who were talking about the Koshare Indian Dancers. They were discussing where the chiefs were to be placed and about makeup they bought. From their talk I imagined them to be leaders in the troop but I didn’t say anything to them. After they left I asked the waitress who they were. She told me that the heavy set man was Buck Burshears who is the scoutmaster of Troop 230, better known as the Koshare Indians.
The waitress told me that the scouts had a clubhouse on 8th Ave. so I went up there to look at it. It was quite a nice building. It was closed when I was there so I couldn’t see much of the inside. I went back to town and bought a community strip for my badge collection. While there I asked the man who was waiting on me if the boys were going to put on the same performance both nights. He didn’t know but he went outside and called in a fellow who was washing the windows and asked him. This boy was one of the braves.
We got to talking and we arranged to meet at about 7 p.m. and go to Buck’s house together. After lunch I did some writing, paid for my room for 3 more nights at a cost of 3 dollars and then went to Bent’s Fort Museum. There I saw the Horace Greely Stage Coach, many ancient fire arms, Indian relics and minerals of the locality. The lady in charge was very kind and courteous and gave me some post cards, a Koshare Indian Dancers Book and a Koshare sticker.
After I left there I went to a book store where there were a lot of photographs on exhibit of the Koshares. The young man who owned the store is the Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 230, Bill Cash. I introduced myself and we got to talking. I looked over the photographs he had for sale and asked him if I could order them in September when I got home. He said I could and gave me a photograph as a gift.
After supper I went to Bob Hurt’s house. He took me to Buck Burshears house and introduced me to Buck. Buck took me down into the cellar where he has his den. In the first part of the basement was a workshop and model railroad. His railroad has been shown in Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Railroading and numerous other magazines.
You step through a doorway and you are in another world. You are in the world of the American Indian. Buck has furnished this room with Indian paintings, rugs, pottery, costumes, arrowheads, stone implements and household articles. The couches are covered with Indian blankets. There are numerous trunks around the wall that are full of Indian costumes, jewelry and hand work. When I first came in I was introduced to Wade Williams, an artist from Taos and a friend of his, Charles Reynolds, who is also from Taos.
Many of the Koshare Indians were introduced to me. I met the head chief of the Koshare Tribe. There were no less than 15 scouts coming in to visit or work in Buck’s shop and den during the evening. This, I found out, goes on every night. Wade brought in his trunk full of Indian costumes which he had brought for the dance. He had two pair of beautiful beaded moccasins, a beaded vest, two pair of beaded buckskin gloves, 2 pair of beaded leggings, a loin cloth, 2 bone necklaces, a pipe bag, headdress and various other pieces of costume.
After all the scouts had left I started to leave and Buck offered me a ride downtown as he was taking his mother and guests down for ice cream. I went with him and he asked me to join thin in having a dish of ice cream. After finishing I said good-night and went to my room and fell asleep.
Helped set up teepees in field.
Attended Koshare show. Tonight I have seen one of the most impressive shows I think that I ever shall see. The show was the annual Koshare dance performance given by the scouts of troop 230, LaJunta, Colorado to an audience of over 3,000 persons from many parts of the mid west and further (including this guy from New Jersey.)
I arose about 7:30 a.m. and washed in the wash room under the stadium. Then I went to one of the scout’s houses for breakfast. After breakfast I went to the highway leading to Trinidad and put out my thumb. I finally got tired of waiting and decided to walk. I walked for hours and wasn’t able to get a ride all the while. I ate some ration bars and drank some water for lunch. I got to a town marked on my map as being 10 miles from La Junta. It consisted of one building and a water pump. I walked on and on, finally getting to a town which consisted of two gas stations, a general store, two houses and a railroad station.
I asked a driver that pulled up at the gas station if he would give me a ride to Trinidad. He was from California and was traveling with his wife. He consented to give me a ride that far. When I got to Trinidad I got a hotel room and after having supper went to sleep.
After breakfast I got out on the road and got a ride right away to Raton, New Mexico. From Raton I got a ride from a man making recordings of various types of Spanish spoken in New Mexico for the University of New Mexico. He let me off in Cimarron from where I got a ride to Philmont Scout Ranch in a car owned by one of the ranch staff.
At ranch headquarters I asked “Doc” if it were possible for me to stay there for a few days. He said that I would have to see Mr. Bullock who was camping director. Mr. Bullock allowed me to stay on the ranch for a cost of 50 cents per meal. I had supper in the mess hall after which I went with a wagon train of boys from Iowa to the meeting room where a Navajo Indian gave us a short talk on how an Indian trained to become a Chief.
I returned to the Rocky Mountain shelter to go to sleep. Mr. Johnson was talking to some boys at the far end of the shelter, so I went over to see what was going on. He was telling them some Indian legends. He finally told the Indian story of the creation of the world and how things got the way they are now, i.e., the stars, sun, moon in the sky, the flying fish, the birds, beasts, etc. He spoke for about three hours and his soft musical voice almost put me to sleep. It was very interesting to listen to and very kind of Mr. Johnson to tell it to us.
Mr. Johnson was born in southern Alaska and raised under the old customs. He is now living on a reservation in New Mexico because it is easier to live there than in Alaska.
I awoke with the sun in my eyes. Some of the fellows were already up, trying to get a picture of some elk on the ridge behind the shelter. The boys from Iowa and I piled into a truck after breakfast and went to Camp Ponil. At Ponil I met Tex Owen, Assistant Camp Director and also Camp Naturalist. We gabbed of old times.
I was given a bunk in the long house and spread out my junk there. I heard a shot behind the camp director’s house and went out to investigate. I found that the director’s wife had just shot a rattlesnake. One of her small children had come into the house and said they heard a noise in the bushes. Mrs. Johnson grabbed a shot gun and shot the rattler she found there. With her permission I took the rattles which I sent home. There were seven rattles and a button. Jim Smith gave me a haircut. He used barber’s clippers and a large pair of shears. He almost got my ear once. I think he did a darn good job for a quarter. A hot bath and then to bed.
Jim lit the kerosene stove before breakfast so as to have hot water for a shower afterward. At breakfast one of the fellows from over in the Wagon Train encampment came over and said the long house was on fire. Zoom! Everybody was outside in no time flat. The fire was rapidly put out and the only damage incurred was a pretty well burnt up bathroom.
The priest came at about 11:00 a.m. and said mass for 3 boys. After dinner I went back to headquarters with him. I couldn’t locate my notebook when I left so I asked Bob Owen to find it and mail it to me. When back at headquarters I washed my clothes. Tex showed up at the shelter soon after to be treated by the camp doctor for a foot ailment.
I left Philmont Ranch headquarters soon after breakfast. My cost for the stay on the ranch came to $5.00. I got a ride in a dilapidated hearse from Cimarron through the Cimarron Canyon to Eagle Nest. Eagle Nest is a small village in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. It is on the edge of a lake and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
The community school house was made of logs and perfectly fitted the atmosphere of the area. I got a ride out of Eagle Nest on the back of a logging truck. They took me to Taos. On the way we went through Carson National Forest. It was a very scenic ride and I believe I saw it from the best possible position. When I arrived in Taos I went immediately to Charles Reynolds Gift Shop. There I contacted Charles Junior and we visited Kit Carson’s house in Taos. After lunch we went out to the Taos Pueblo. We wandered around the pueblo for a while. I came to the conclusion that the Indians who lived there were a filthy lot and were too commercialized to gain any respect from me as being authentic American Indians. Charles and I found a few pieces of pottery in the ruins of the old mission.
After some supper down town on the plaza I took my pack and went up in the mountains to camp for the night. The following I wrote while waiting for the sun to go down: I have just climbed to the top of the first ridge of mountains to the north east of Taos. It was a tough climb over rock ground. There is only lodge pole pine, sage brush and cactus growing on these slopes. The sun is now setting behind the ridge of mountains on the other side of Taos from me. The Taos Indian pueblo can be seen to the right at the foot of the same range of mountains I am on. I am trespassing on Indian property.
There is just an orange glow left over the mountains across from me and the moon has risen to about 15 degrees behind me. A strong westerly wind is blowing and it is quite cool. Ants are bothering me so I guess I will have to use that insect repellent lotion. My bed roll will have to be laid out on rocky ground.