Part 2 of my Grandfather’s Cross Country Expedition. Made in the summer of 1935, his report covers a trip made from a small town in Minnesota to San Diego, California and back. The trip took 3 1/2 weeks, and covered around 4,700 miles.
For reference, all my comments are in italics, while Grandpa’s words appear in plain text. D/S
The following day we had dinner in Helena and supper in Kalispel, then drove to the entrance of Glacier National Park on the west side where we spent the night.
I’ve traced Grandpa’s trip based strictly on the text description, but these maps reflect current roads, and his actual path may not follow the same choices I made. For example, we know they dined in Helena on July 31. This means they must have taken US highway 287 from Three Forks to Helena (and may have passed the billboard shown above). However after dinner they could have cut over to Garrison, MT on Highway 12 and driven to Kalispell via Missoula. D/S
We entered Glacier Park on Aug.1st and drove through over the skyline drive. We hoped to get up into the clouds and very nearly did, but not quite. This skyline drive thru very rugged mountains is certainly worth the price of the whole tip. The road climbs up a very sheer mountain side allowing a fine view of the canyon below and the surrounding mountains practically all of the time. We saw a few bears and deer here also. We saw too a great deal of timber, which had been ruined by forest fires. Easy to understand why they have to be so strict with fire. It certainly ruins an otherwise beautiful country.
Grandpa refers to Glacier Park’s scenic drive as “the skyline drive.” There is a “Skyline Drive” in Shenandoah National Park, but the scenic drive in Glacier is called “Going to the Sun Road.” Under construction from 1921 to 1932, it was formally dedicated on July 15th, 1933 (two years before this trip). Like Trail Ridge Road in Colorado, snow closes the road for much of the year, with the opening and closing dates determined by Mother Nature. D/S
We came out of the park at the east entrance and went north into Canada to Waterton Lakes. Here we saw the Prince of Wales hotel. This is also a beautiful park. But when we came to buy gas we decided we’d seen enough of Canada. We had paid as high as 25 cents for gas in Yellowstone but 35 cents a gallon even if the gallon is a little longer didn’t appeal to us, so we went north of Waterton and headed south again at the first opportunity, which happened to be New Gate or Gateway. They are so close together they might as well be one town.
Grandpa’s description of Canadian gas prices still applies in contemporary times! For our younger readers, his comment “even if the gallon is a little longer’ refers to the Imperial Gallons which were used in Canada up through the seventies. An Imperial Gallon is 160 ounces (five quarts), so the 35 cent price converts to 28 cents per US gallon, 3 cents higher than that expensive Yellowstone gas. D/S
Here we had trouble with a Canadian Customs officer. The gate was closed since it was after six when we arrived so we had to look them up in their houses. We made the mistake of going to the Immigration officer instead of Customs. He took our card and did not mention that we were doing anything wrong. However the Customs officer stopped us and gave us %&#% and also told us we couldn’t get through the American gate. The American officials were fine however, and we got right thru.
The Newgate border crossing was on the west side of the Kootenay River (also spelled Kootenai), and according to Wikipedia the American office closed in 1933, with the Canadian office closing in 1939. This could explain the mixed messages Grandpa encountered in 1935. A border crossing remains on the east side of the river in Roosville, but I’d hardly call the area heavily trafficked even today. D/S
From Gateway we decided to take a shortcut to the west over a Ranger’s trail. Once fellow warned us against it, but as it meant a saving of a hundred miles or more we decided to take it. It went by a series of switch backs straight over the mountains, and was so narrow that it would have been impossible to have met or passed anyone except in a few places. In fact, we followed a Model T to the top because there wasn’t a chance to get by him.
The west side was worse than the east. Steep canyon walls beside the trail most of the way down. Fortunately we met no one. After we got down we hit very rough, rocky road for several miles. which made it rather slow. We got to see mile after mile of fine timber on this trip. The deuce of it was we were not supposed to smoke there and didn’t, which was hard on Donald and I.
We also saw a couple of deer and badger on our way through. We got thru about midnight and as we had not stopped for supper we had a lunch and made camp just across the line in Idaho.
As I mentioned in the last post, “lunch” refers to a pick up meal on the road rather than the noon meal, and in this case they “had a lunch” a little after midnight. D/S
We had no water where we camped so we drove on tell we came to a nice stream where we made breakfast and spent a little time getting cleaned up. We drove thru Spokane and Wenatchee in the afternoon. We were a little early here as the apples were not ripe yet. We bought some and all had a tummy ache because they were green. We found a dandy place to camp beside a swift mountain stream. We have left the hot weather behind. The girls have the heater on at times.
Saturday we crossed the Cascades and drove into Seattle. Here was a city that appealed immediately to all of us. We went first to Thorgerson’s but none of them were home so we went to Rev. Hilton’s. The Pacific fleet was in the harbor and Hiltons took us out to the fleet and we went aboard the Colorado. Save myself none of us had seen a battleship so it was quite an afternoon.
After the ship we went to look over the Canal and locks and from there to the zoo. In the evening Thorgersons came to Hilton’s where we all had a fine supper and maybe you think we didn’t enjoy it after our camp meals. After supper we all went to a park where we could see the fleet put on a searchlight display. Seventeen naval vessels played their searchlights on the clouds, swinging them in arcs. It was a fine spectacle.
Since Hiltons had company for the night, we stayed at Thorgerson’s. In the morning Martin and Wilford took us to the docks, Hoovertown and the airport.
“Hoovertown” or “Hooverville” would refer to a tent city of itinerant workers, as 1935 was the depths of the depression. Hoover referred (somewhat derisively) to President Hoover, and these areas appeared in many towns across the country. D/S
At the airport there was a new Boeing bomber built for the U.S. Army. It was a four motored ship with a cruising speed of 250 miles per hour. It was a metal ship and certainly a fine looking one.
The Boeing bomber he mentions here could be several different ships, but the Model 299 rolled out for its first test flight just three weeks earlier, and I found a picture of it taken at Boeing Field on August 13th, making it a prime candidate. The model 299 was also called the XB-17 and eventually evolved into the B-17. D/S
We came back to Thorgerson’s by the way of Washington Lake where we saw some very fine homes. We went to Rev. Hilton’s church to a musical service upon our return. After a fine dinner at Thorgerson’s we started on our journey again. We headed south thru Tacoma and Olympia and by the time we had hit open country again it was time for supper which we cooked beside the road. We continued after supper and finally camped not far from the Columbia river.
In the morning we crossed the river into Oregon, then Portland, and pushed on south ‘till we were about straight east from Marshfield (now Coo’s Bay, Oregon- D/S), which is on the coast and was once Marjorie’s home town. We then went to the coast where we took a free ferry across the bay. We located Marjorie’s old home without trouble, though now it looks quite neglected. We went on to Coquille and on through town where we had supper. We drove down the Coast then and spent the night at a state fish hatchery.
In the morning we discovered that if we wanted to see Crater Lake we’d have to go back to Coquille, which we did. We took another short cut in the afternoon, which was not quite as bad as the one we struck in Montana. The road was torn up in places as they are building a highway through the hills.
We got to Crater Lake in the mid-afternoon. It is a beautiful dark blue lake in an extinct volcano crater. The sides of the crater rise steep and sheer from the water for about a thousand feet. There is a wooded island in the lake and the lake is surrounded by a fine stand of timber reaching for miles in every direction.
After the lake we headed south again by the way of Klamath Lake. That evening we entered California into a fine stretch of desert. We pulled out into the sage brush and had supper and also spent the night in the sage.
When we awoke in the morning we discovered Mt. Shasta rearing it’s snowy head to the south. Early in the forenoon we passed the base of Shasta and got into a high enough altitude so that the heat didn’t bother us. We continued that afternoon and evening and reached Vallejo shortly after nightfall. We discovered that to get to San Francisco from Vallejo we’d have to cross a toll bridge to Oakland and also have to cross on the ferry to San Francisco, which would cost us more than we cared to pay so we camped out of Vallejo that night.
In the morning we drove to Sausalito and took the ferry across the Golden Gate to San Francisco. We had a good view of the new Golden Gate bridge, which is in the course of construction. They have the two end piers erected and some of the cable strung across.
It’s hard to fathom Grandpa saw the Golden Gate Bridge prior to completion. While my intellect understands the bridge did not always exist, it’s been in place for my entire lifetime, and the lifetime of my parents. Is this not by definition permanence?
We went by Alcatraz Prison on the ferry and docked close to Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf was the first place of interest we visited in San Francisco. The girls didn’t care about the fish smell and were very certain that they didn’t want to eat any of the fish, which were cooking in large pots on the side of the walk.
From Fisherman’s Wharf we went to Chinatown where the girls bought some gifts and souvenirs. It was really quite cold in San Francisco and we road some of the time with the heater on. We drove completely around San Francisco along the bay and coast. Fog was blowing in off the ocean so we could not see very far out to sea.
From San Francisco we went to San Jose and then to Tracy where we received some mail. From Tracy we headed for Yosemite and got quite deep into the mountains before we stopped for the night. As we were making our beds and old fellow came up the hill and passed us, which made the girls nervous. Zoe and I were awakened in the night by the cries of some animal and I don’t believe Zoe slept much more that night.
I assume “old fellow” refers to another bear visiting the camp site, which would explain my grandmother’s insomnia..
As a side note, I asked my Mother for more information on the Seattle friends they visited on August 3rd and 4th, and she did not recognize their names. However, Grandpa wrote this report for his hometown paper (The Kiester Courier). Since he mentions these folks in a casual and familiar manner, I suspect his friends (Reverend Hilton and the Thorgersen’s) may have started out in Minnesota, and thus were known to the readers.
Post 1- Kiester to Yellowstone
Post 4- Los Angeles to Home