Road Trip circa 1952 – Part 1
Recently I came across a batch of cassette tapes that I had recorded in the early 1990s. There are several of my Granddaddy telling stories about his life. As I’m getting these priceless treasures digitized I thought it would be fun to share some of the stories here.
One story Granddaddy told was of a 26-day road trip they took in 1952. They traveled from their home in Eldorado, Oklahoma to a church campmeeting in Wilmore, Kentucky and then took a circuitous route home. Granddaddy and Grandmother had 6 children at that time. The younger 4 had not yet been born. My mother was 10 years old. Interestingly, I also have a cassette tape of her telling her memories of the same trip. I plan to share that in the next installment.
A note about the dates and places: I have a scrap of a wall calendar that shows Granddaddy’s schedule for the trip. The dates marked on the calendar don’t line up exactly with what he (and my mother) told 40 years later. For example, they both remember my Uncle Ray having his first birthday on the trip, but according to the calendar, they left home around July 21. Uncle Ray’s birthday is July 9. Also, the route Granddaddy described doesn’t line up exactly either. So I don’t know if he meshed together more than one trip in his memory, or if he just didn’t remember the exact sequence of events. Either scenario is entirely likely.
I have transcribed his telling in his “voice” as much as possible, with just light editing for ease of reading.
As told by Gordon Easley in 1992
How It Came About
In 1952 we had an evangelist come to our church from Wilmore, Kentucky. His name was Frank Jones. He was really an old fashioned Methodist type preacher. During the time of his stay in the community he spoke to us of a campmeeting in Wilmore, Kentucky. Mother and I decided we wanted to try to go to that campmeeting that summer.
We had a good crop of alfalfa seed that year. I remember they totalled me $750 cash. Boy, that was about the best crop that I had ever harvested! That made us all happy. That came just a few weeks before we was ready to make our trip to the campmeeting in Kentucky.
So we made our preparation. We had traded for the ‘49 model Chevrolet and it was going to be our means of conveyance on that trip.
I made a top carrier to fit on it with some vacuum cups and a bar laying across it in two places, and then a box with 6-inch deep side rails around it and a solid bottom in it. In that box we put our tent for camping, our cooking equipment, our bedrolls and quilts, and pulled a small rainproof tarp over all that and buckled it down good and tight. Of course the trunk was loaded.
Ray was coming up on his first birthday. In fact, after we got on the road was his first birthday, the 9th of July.
Headed to Kentucky
We left Eldorado and went by a cousin’s down in east Oklahoma and spent the first night.
We drove the next day up by the Methodist Orphan’s Home at Tahlequah and visited there for awhile. I wanted to pay the tithe out of that alfalfa crop to that orphan’s home. So we did that.
Then we went on to my uncle’s who lived in Gravette, Arkansas and we spent a night with them.
From there we started on up through Joplin and Springfield and out to St. Louis and crossed the river into Illinois just as the sun was going down on the third day. I remember how gloomy the whole family was. We were tired and weary and it seemed like there was such an evil spirit until we could sense the children all felt haunted as we crossed the Mississippi River into the lowlands of the Illinois side.
Of course the Interstates weren’t developed in those days and we followed the federal highway. Somewhere over in Indiana we endeavored to take out for awhile to sleep. We had driven since crossing the river about sundown. We were sleepy and we pulled off the side of the highway into a construction area. Evidently it was where they were working on a section of the Interstate system. There was a lot of excavation and heavy dirt moving equipment pulled around close.
We pulled into that vacant quiet area and spread out our bedrolls to try to get some rest. We had the children all bedded down. Mother and I had just stretched out when she whispered to me, “I see somebody walking.” She pointed in the direction. Well, a car went down the highway and as the light of that car passed I could see this person’s head bobbing up and down as it moved in our direction about 50 or 75 steps away from us.
We jumped up, rolled our bedroll, throwed it in trunk, hustled the children into the automobile, throwed their bedroll in, and about as quick as I’ve told you this we had the car started and was driving back onto the highway to go on our way. So that broke up our nap.
We drove on until about the break of day. We stopped to make our breakfast. The children had tried to sleep as they rode. I guess I slept and drove all at the same time, I don’t remember. About breakfast time we stopped and cooked on an open fire by the side of the road—scrambled eggs—and eat our breakfast, and then was on our way.
We arrived into Wilmore campground about, oh, 3:00 or 4:00, I think, in the afternoon. We were kindly received. They announced to us right away that we wouldn’t be privileged to put up our tent because of the possibility of fire hazard on the grassy lawn. That subdued us, for we hadn’t gone prepared to buy our way into the dormitories.
I guess they could recognize by the number of children and our depleted countenance that we weren’t fixed for that kind of situation. So they offered us the privilege of camping in an old vacant cabin that hadn’t been used for years. It was some older couple’s that had passed on and nobody had maintained their cabin. It was decaying away. The camp board offered for our family to go into that cabin if we wanted to, without any charge. So we accepted the offer and moved our camping things into the cabin.
We became the talk of the camp as we began to move around among strangers and make our acquaintance and take part in the camp. Ray, of course, had just had his first birthday as we crossed Indiana the day before. Keith was about two and a half. Those two little toddlers were a real attraction.
That campmeeting was a great experience. The main singer of the camp was Brother Underwood. He was a wonderful singer and a man of God. Dr. E.R. Oberle, an elderly man, was one evangelist. A younger fella, Morton Dorcy, was the second evangelist. Both of these men, in their style and their own way, were mightily used of the Lord in bringing messages of truth.
I remember one afternoon I was in the throes of trying to decide my calling and I went to the cabin where old Dr. Oberle was camped. He was sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair just resting that afternoon. I asked him if he’d give me a few minutes that I’d like to talk with him. So I discussed with him about my feeling of a special work to do. I couldn’t decide. I felt like the Lord wanted me to be a singer. Old Dr. Oberle said to me, “Well, in the beginning of my time, I felt like the Lord wanted me to sing.” That’s about all the encouragement he gave me. So I went my way still wondering, “Am I to be a singer? Or does the Lord want me to be a preacher?”
I think anybody would rather be a singer than a preacher. I see people who I feel like the Lord is calling them to commit themselves in full abandonment to His will, and they get the idea that He’s wanting them to sing or missionary-ize or something. They mistake their calling for their calling to commitment and surrender.
It’s wonderful to have a settled relationship with the Lord and be able to get on with a life of victory and blessing. I look back to the years that I’ve tried to describe with great joy. I shudder to think what if our spirit and soul hadn’t responded and obediently followed the leadings the Spirit was making, where we would be, what our family would be. All of it I have to tribute to the praise of God for leading us by his providence into ways of peace and victory and blessing and help. It’s been a wonderful life.
We went on with that tour. From Wilmore, Kentucky we came back across southern part of Kentucky through the Cumberland Mountains and then dropped down into Nashville, Tennessee, and came on across to Memphis.
There we pulled into the city zoo to let the children and ourselves enjoy the zoo. We spent several hours in the zoo at Memphis observing and enjoying the animals and the scenery—the beautiful flowers and shrubbery of the landscape of the zoo in Memphis.
After that we drove on across the southern part of Arkansas, through Pine Bluff and on out through Eldorado and then into Texarkana and then on into Texas parallel with the Red River, on west.
I had an uncle near Sherman, Texas and we purposed to go by their place. We did finally locate them out in the rural area not far from Sherman, a little place called Howell. There we spent a night or two visiting with them and attending their church service. Uncle Virgil pastored a church out in the country near Red River in Texas.
Leaving there we went onto our family reunion in Comanche County, Texas and visited there among some of the kinfolks.
After the reunion closed we went to Graham, Texas where some of my cousins lived. Their immediate family was having an outing. I remember Carlton and I went along with the fellas. We camped on the creek. I remember what a terrible experience I had of indigestion that night. I just felt like I’d nearly die with indigestion.
The next day we went out to a farm pond with a fish net. I remember one of my cousins and myself was pulling the brail pole on one end of the seine, and two other cousins was pulling the brail pole on the opposite end of the seine, and we surrounded a clump of cattails that was growing in the upper end of this pond. We supposed that there was a lot of fish around that clump of cattails. And there was, but the trouble was the water was deeper than we could wade.
As each couple of us would try to stay on water where we could touch the bottom we’d pull the seine and hauled in the mud with our toes trying to hold our end of the load. The fellas on the other end was pulling and that would try to drag us off our footing and into the deeper water. We’d tug one way and then the other way. The seine wasn’t long enough to completely envelope that bunch of cattails and still reach the shallow water on each side. Gradually the other line overpowered me and my buddy, and they dragged us off of footing and we began to have problems.
It wasn’t solid enough to hold our weight up. There was too much fiber and rubbish sticking up for us to be able to swim. We was caught up in that unable to keep ourselves buoyant and unable to find basis on which to stand. We turned loose of the brail pole and let go of the seine and was trying to spare our own lives by fighting at that water.
Someone finally noticed our plight and reached out, two or three relays from the shallow water, and got ahold of us and give us a boost and pulled us back.
It’s about the nearest that I can remember that I ever come to experiencing a drowning possibility. It was scary at the moment but we survived.
We caught, I don’t remember, but enough fish. We had a good fish fry.
From that occasion, the next day, we drove on to Ryan, Oklahoma. There we visited with our friends, Percy Ryan and his family, for a day or two.
Then on back to our place and home, Eldorado. We’d been away from home, I believe it was 26 days. We had camped along the roadside or visiting with kinfolks, cooking our meals out.
I started out with $225 of money. We made all that trip, some 3300 miles. We fueled the automobile and bought the food and necessities along the way. I gave some offering to the campmeeting and bought some songbooks while I was at the campmeeting. We got home with a little bit of money. I’m not sure now but $20 or $30 worth of money.
In this day and time it would be amazing to think how a family of 6 children and man and wife could make that tour and be on the road for 26 days and do it on about $200 money. You do well now to stay away from home a day for anything less than $100.
So we had a lot of good times, a lot of fun, and blessings galore. It was enriching to us spiritually.
Very interesting Karla, The last picture, of the house, was probably taken in the fall of 1950. The trailer of lumber was for the new house. This house was torn down and a new house was built. We were living in the new house when we took that trip.
Karla Ezell Cook
Oh, okay! I wasn’t sure. I’ll change the picture. Thanks, Mother!
What a treasure Karla! I have found memories when I was a kid of listening to my grandmother tell me stories from her youth.
Thank you for sharing this treasure with all of this! I loved reading your grandfather’s story.
I absolutely love the old photos. So many stories to recall ❤️ I can’t imagine taking a highway nap like that. Half expecting a ghost to pop up haha.
Ooo I love this so much! What sweet memories to have documented.
And he mentions traveling through Texarkana…That’s where I am from!
This is really interesting. Such a wonderful treasure to have and share with future generations.
I loved reading this account of a bygone time!