This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
One of the best ways to see the vast expanses of America is on a road trip, where you can set your own pace and schedule.
Gladys Jenkins Casimir of Calvert took a road trip in 1933 with her sister and a friend to visit an acquaintance living in New York. This was quite an undertaking for three single females in that time period, as Casimir describes:
"Can you imagine us driving on unpaved roads so many times? Went through Philadelphia and we got stopped by the police there for driving too slow. (laughs) But we were hunting for the home of Betsy Ross. You know, we looked at all—we went through Baltimore and there was the narrowest streets I ever saw. But we got finally to the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel, and my friend in New York City had come over there to meet us and drove us through the tunnel. And we did sightseeing around the city for nearly a week. We rode those double-decker buses. We rode the subway. We went way out to Coney Island one night and rode all the things. Then we went to Albany and then across New York State and went to Niagara Falls. We were planning to go on the Canadian side to Detroit, but we met some people that had come that way, and they advised us not to go on the Canadian side alone since there was no man with us."
So, instead, the girls headed to Chicago, which was hosting the World's Fair that year, named Century of Progress:
"And we stayed there four days and took in all the sites and exhibits and things. And then we came back through St. Louis, and knowing that that‘s where they had the world fair in 1904, we looked the city over. And then we came on back, gradually, home again."
In May 1972, Andrés Sendón retired from Baylor, after teaching Spanish there for more than fifty years. That summer, he and wife Mary traveled up into the eastern part of the United States, and even briefly into Canada, to see the sights, celebrate his retirement, and visit their daughters:
"We didn't take the high road, we took the low roads. (laughs) We would scoot off into the access roads and find some of the most interesting places. We would visit little country stores. One old man that had a country store and he had all sorts of antiques in it. And there was one—another place in Oklahoma that made such delicious candy, but it was only advertised on the road, and we had to find that little old place to get to it. But we found a lot of things that reflected old America, old United States, the old days because they were not on the main road.
"And I always remember going through Arkansas. (laughs) I had never been through Arkansas, and it was a hot day, and there was a tree up ahead of us. And I said, "Ooo, that tree looks good"—the shade, you know. When we got to the tree, I saw two bare feet hanging down from the tree. I said, "Oh, my goodness! There's been a lynching!" (laughs) It was a man in overalls, barefooted, sitting—sitting up in the tree smoking a cob pipe. And I said that was my introduction to Arkansas. It scared the life out of me because I thought there'd been a lynching."
Today, the road trip is as popular as ever in the U.S., with a growing number of people considering it a hobby. Some even think of it as an art. The Internet has made it possible for road trip enthusiasts everywhere to share ideas, tips, and experiences.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For full transcripts of the interviews featured in this segment, or for more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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