Autobiography of One Old Ford


John N. Lewis


Part One

1. North to Alaska
2. University of Alaska, Fairbanks
3. Mississippi State
4. Home for Christmas--by Canoe
5. Adventures In North Mississippi
6. Getting Involved
7. Back to Alaska--and Back
8. Thanksgiving Bride
9. Married Student Days

Part Two

10. California Honeymoon
11. Icelandic Interlude
12. Return to England
13. Continental Holiday
14. Farewell to England
15. California Here I Come--Again
16. Michigan Meander

Part Three

17. Home at Last
18. Journeys Missed by Being Second
19. Texas Tour

Part Four

20. Wyoming Via North Carolina
21. Return of the Vagabonds
22. From King Tut to Kansas City

20. Wyoming Via North Carolina

I was glad to see fall come. At registration in September John was able to schedule all the courses he required for the completion of his MBA degree. I required nothing to get ready for school except gas and oil. With the steady driving to and from Monroe for four years, my mileage had kept creeping up until I had finally hit twenty-five miles per gallon on a tank or two, and was averaging twenty-three right along. As winter came on, and the nights fell below freezing, my five-year-old battery became a little week. Some nights I needed a little nudge to get away from Northeast after classes. Finally, John broke down and got me a new battery, but that was my only expense other than gas and oil. When 1972 arrived, the Fairlane showed 77,292 miles, and I about 215,000.

Winter graduation was January 19, 1972, at night. Finals were over, and John had passed his oral exams. The University required attendance at the graduation exercises for candidates to receive their degrees. As preparations were being made to go to Monroe, Rita brought up the question of which car the family should go in. That never was a question for John. He may have been a little blunt with his sweet, little wife; but he told her that after twenty-two years of carrying him to school, I wasn't about to be left home on graduation night. She was free to go however she pleased, or not go at all, but going with him meant going with me. She, Don, Alison, Todd and John's mother all piled in with him on a cold, dark, rainy night as we set out one last time for Monroe.

My fuel gauge was already on empty when we passed through Delhi, and John didn't remember that it had already been there for quite a while. I usually made it to Monroe, empty or not. However, I embarrassed us both that night. LaFourche Swamp is a desolate, uninhabited stretch of wilderness a few miles east of Monroe. We passed through the swamp to the west edge before my fuel was completely gone. By this time there was a cold drizzle of rain. Rita tried hard to keep from saying, "I told you so."

Anyway, a taxidermist had built a shop and home right there in the edge of the swamp. It was a simple matter to disturb this gentleman, who readily brought me a gallon of gas back with my slightly damp driver. We were at the new field house at Northeast in plenty of time for the first graduation ever held in that facility. Sitting down in the floor of the arena, John looked up in the stands and saw that his family had been joined by his Uncle Terrell and his son, Doug Lewis. They had made the trip from Waverly on such a miserable night to see him receive his Masters of Business Administration--at 42 years young. I was more than half that old myself.

When I returned with my family to Tendal that night, I knew that the time for my retirement had come. The little boy that I had carried to California as a three year old, and to Delhi through his years in Dixie Youth baseball, was now a strapping high school junior. Even Todd, who was not born until I was ten years old, was a seventh grader. Pop and Fanny Hall had both passed away as had so many others I had known. Even Tootsie Moody, at Ruston, had not awakened Christmas morning of 1971. A week later John and Rita had gathered with hundreds of friends and relatives for the funeral of this fine man whom John had known for over thirty years.

Every day brings a change, however imperceptible. In the course of my twenty-one years of service, the collective changes in the country had been enormous. I had seen the term, patriotism, pass from the accepted norm to one of considerable ridicule as each successive military action became less acceptable to the people as their objectives became more obscure. Many of the people that I used to visit were no more. The coast-to-coast traffic that rolled through Waverly for decades on U.S. 80 now roared by a mile south on Interstate 20. (John and I continued to use old 80. We knew it so well and had it practically to ourselves.) Even the old country store with the water pump by the front porch, that had been the community center for seventy-five years, had burned in the sixties, officially signaling the end of an era that had already passed. The old wooden school house where I had my very first wash had been replaced by a modern brick school a half mile away that had itself fallen victim of a destructive force that people called integration.

Not only had a way of life vanished with the dissolution of the community, but inflation was putting a severe crimp in John's way of living. The company for which he worked had taken very little notice of his first degree and none whatsoever of his second. The president of the company had told him to be patient that he had something in mind for him; but for four more years had not broached the subject again. How patient is one supposed to be? But thanks to friends (one in particular), word had spread that, perhaps, John had outgrown his position and would be receptive to new opportunities. Thus it was that two months after we had finished school, a call came at noon one day inviting John to fly far away to interview for a new venture. On March 31, the family picked up their pastor in Delhi and traveled to the airport in Monroe. Brother Clarke was leaving for a convention as John headed west to Dallas to catch a plane to Omaha. Rita and the kids drove on to Texas in the Fairlane after depositing the men at Selman Field.

A private plane met John at Omaha and carried him over to the Sandhills, where he met friendly, hard-working people with whom he felt comfortable and readily compatible. Long years of struggle seemed to be worth while at last. Before leaving home, Rita (coldly calculating only when the occasion demands) had assessed their situation and told John not to accept an offer below a certain amount. Miraculously, the salary offered matched Rita's figure exactly. Money was very secondary to John, however; but he was impressed with the consideration which his prospective employer showed towards employees as people, and not just another factor of production. After agreeing to meet in Raleigh, North Carolina the following weekend to investigate the proposed venture, John retraced his route as far as Dallas.

Rita and the kids had spent the night with her sister in Texas, and were anxiously awaiting John when he stepped off the 727 at Love Field. They were thrilled at the news of the successful interview, but just a little apprehensive when they learned that Rita would be going with her husband the very next weekend to decide whether to accept the new challenge. No one knew at that happy reunion just what a real challenge lay in store.

The following weekend Rita and John left the Fairlane in the parking lot at Jackson, Mississippi, while they flew to a very cold rendezvous in North Carolina. That state was in the grip of a late freeze, in stark contrast to a warm Louisiana where the giant oak trees at Tendal were in full leaf and the grass had already been mowed more than once. Rita had not dressed for the low temperatures, but was charming nevertheless as they dined sumptuously at the invitation of their prospective boss that bitterly cold Friday night.

Saturday was one long, apprehensive trip east by rental car. Each change in scenery seemed to be for the worse. Tobacco barns marred the rural landscape until finally even the tobacco belt had been passed. In mid afternoon the three travelers passed beyond the edge of permanent settlements to the nearest habitation to the wilderness which they had come so far to see. Had it not been for the graciousness of the hospitality shown by Dick and Blanche Spurlock, John would have gladly spent the night journeying straight back to Louisiana. He had seen nothing to tempt him to move his little family from the banks of Tensas River. It was not the fine meal that evening that kept him awake all night. It is one thing for a man to go into a dismal wilderness to vie with nature for dominance of the land, but quite another to contemplate dragging his wife and three school-age children beyond the boundaries of civilization. The land which John was asked to develop was so far into the swamp that Rita didn't get to see the near side of it, and the interior and far side were too remote for access by anyone without a helicopter.

On Sunday morning, after a fitful night of no sleep, John announced that they had better not spend any more time looking at wood-infested, deep-peat, dismal swamp because, unless he saw some fit place for Rita and the kids to live, he would not be concerned with developing the land. Luckily the sun had returned to usually-sunny, eastern North Carolina, and a hasty cruise around the town of Plymouth showed that it contained the essentials of small town existence: schools, churches, stores, etc. The most significant feature that convinced John that they could adjust to the strange area was the new Pettigrew Regional Library. Subconsciously, I suppose, he must have reasoned that a community with a new library must have something else going for it also.

The trip home was not totally uneventful. Rather than returning through Raleigh-Durham, the trio had gone to Norfolk, Virginia, to go home by separate routes. Charles' flight was loading when they reached the airport. John checked his luggage for him while Charles got his ticket, then turned in the rental car after that flight had gone. When John and Rita finally boarded their flight, and the 737 had taxied to the end of the runway, the pilot was ordered back to the ramp. The passengers were unloaded and eventually the aircraft was towed away from the terminal area. All afternoon the restless passengers waited while the F.B.I. was located and, in time, searched the aircraft and luggage for a non-existent bomb. On the flight to Atlanta, John had two stops back in North Carolina. As they looked down on that state then, it was with a new interest. The dogwood blossoms shone through the pine canopy in great profusion.

When John and Rita returned to the anxious children that Sunday night, it was to tell them that their daddy would be going away for good in just two weeks. He felt he must give his employer that much notice, and he wanted to leave no unfinished details on the farm which he had just gotten into full production. The hardest job was saying goodbye to a faithful handful of workers who had done all he had asked of them for eight long years; and had he asked them to go with him, they would have gladly done that too.

On the twenty-fourth of April, John left for Kansas City to receive instructions for his new job. After a day at the company headquarters meeting people and getting a feel for their expectations, he boarded a plane for Chicago, and late in the afternoon of April 26, arrived in eastern North Carolina, with only a suitcase, to start a new business from scratch. His sense of security that he felt when he had first seen the new library was not misplaced. A few days after his arrival in Plymouth, he introduced himself to the librarian and asked if she knew of a suitable room he might rent until summer. A lady checking out a book at that moment said she had such a place. Accompanying her to her home only one block away, John soon had what he considered the finest place in town to stay until school was out and he could find a place to move his wife and children.

We were to see him once more at Tendal before summer. A business trip had taken John to Georgia. He picked up a Pinto from a rental agency and got home about three o'clock one morning to spend one day. His trip back started from Tendal at one a.m. He had to drive to Atlanta, catch a plane to Norfolk, Virginia, pick up his truck, then drive back to Plymouth, North Carolina. When school was out, Don went to Oregon with the youth choir of the Delhi church while Rita took the two younger children out to North Carolina to spend a week with their daddy. Rita's main interest was locating a house for sale so the family could be together again, permanently.

The Fourth of July in 1972 was certainly no vacation. John purchased a used pickup truck in Plymouth Friday morning and left for Raleigh-Durham airport at 12:30. Upon reaching the terminal, he found it jammed with people hoping for no-shows on fully booked schedules. Taking to the highway again, he headed west as fast as traffic would allow. The five hundred thirty-six miles from Raleigh to Nashville, plus a bursted water hose, delayed John's arrival at Martha Friedberg's mobile home until after three o'clock in the morning. After a short rest and a good breakfast, he joined the Saturday traffic for the remaining five-hundred-ten-mile trip home.

Sunday was a day of rest and farewells to church friends and family. Monday seemed awfully short for all the preparations that had to be made for the move. Another Louisianian had chosen to cast his lot with John in his new undertaking, and he had to arrange for trucks and hitches to move their goods, cars, and families. All day during a hot Fourth of July, Pete and John loaded furniture and boxes into the U-Haul and pickup. A six p.m. departure time had been set as an absolute deadline for leaving--ready or not. Both John's and Rita's mothers worked all day at a task they had both dreaded for months. They were not only seeing their children leave, but (what may have been even harder) three grandchildren as well. In all, John was moving a convoy of nine people and five vehicles to a new home. He sent Pete on ahead with the U-Haul towing his Thunderbird so he could get a head start towards their first night's stop. John's mother had kindly consented to let me have a home underneath her carport, so I was left behind after only 217,356 miles. Promptly at six o'clock John and Don left in the pickup towing Pop's 1960 Falcon while Rita and the two younger children followed in the Fairlane. What goods could not be loaded by departure time were simply left behind. Goods will wait, but time will not. It was September before there was an opportunity for John and Don to fly back to Louisiana, rent another U-Haul and carry a second load of household goods to North Carolina.

Having established a new home, there could not be frequent trips back to Louisiana. However, the grandmothers were able to travel to North Carolina on occasion to visit the family. In June of 1973 I did get a fleeting glimpse of my folks again. John's company had honored him with the courtesy of inviting him as a guest to the annual board of directors meeting at Jackson Lake, Wyoming. Rita was invited also, so their daddy decided to take the kids along as well. They drove across the whole state of North Carolina to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the first day. On Saturday, the ninth of June, they arrived at Tendal to spend Sunday with their friends and family. On Monday John's mother drove his family to Monroe to catch Delta to Dallas. She was meeting Buddy Floyd who was coming in from California just thirty minutes after John's take off time. The step brothers were just that close to seeing each other. As it was to turn out, they never had a chance again, ever.

Frontier airlines got the travelers to Denver in the early afternoon where John had a rental car reserved. It was not long before they were high in the rockies where some of the roads were still closed by snow. His family posed for pictures on Berthoud Pass at 11,314 feet in the same spot where John had done the same in April, 1948. Passing through Chuck Eaton's (Tulsa relative) home town of Waldon, Colorado, they were in Laramie, Wyoming, long before dark. Mostly for Don's benefit, there was a brief tour through the campus of the University of Wyoming. A short while later, just as the family was preparing to visit the local historical museum, the sky burst. The rain turned to hail, and very quickly the ground was covered and water flooded the streets over the curbs. All the trapped passengers could do was sit and watch the deluge as daylight faded away. The museum stayed open rather late, however, so when the storm passed the tour went on, even though with wet feet from wading to the house.

On Tuesday John started out in a poor direction from Laramie to reach Jackson Lake. He drove southeast to Cheyenne to tour the capital and let the family do a little shopping. They were plenty puzzled when he turned in the rental car. He had planned a surprise for them long before leaving home, but there was a surprise in store for John also. He had reserved seats on Amtrak from Cheyenne to Rock Springs in southwest Wyoming. The kids had never had a train trip before. What a disappointment when this once-crack Union Pacific streamliner pulled into the station, over two hours late and filthy dirty. By mid afternoon it had only made it back to Laramie, where it swung north for Medicine Bow. In spite of the slow pace caused by the deteriorated track and the heat in some cars from faulty air conditioners, there were some redeeming features to the long ride. The vista dome cars provided good views of the desert, and the kids got a particular kick out of riding through a small hailstorm in one. One touch of elegance from the past remained that Alison, in particular, appreciated. That was the diner. The food was good; but best of all, the waiter was an old hand who treated her just as he would have years before. A touch of class held over from a bygone era.

The train arrived at Rock Springs so late that the car John had reserved had been carried back to the dealer. It took a half hour of precious time to get another one brought to the station. It was very late in the long summer day and still 230 miles to the cabin he had reserved for the night. There was very little competition for the broad highway paralleling the continental divide on the western slope of the Rockies. The country was so vast and open that the scenery changed slowly, even at eighty-five miles an hour. The lofty mountains and bands of antelope were sharp contrasts to the flat fields of Louisiana of the morning before. By dark the big Ford was in the mountains of Bridger National Forest and in four hours was at Coulter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. The old log cabin on the shore of Jackson Lake was mighty welcome that night.

Wednesday was scheduled as "coming in" day for the directors. John had brought his family in early so he could have one day with the kids before separating for the remainder of the week. Soon after the gates opened, they entered Yellowstone National Park by the south entrance, following Rockefeller Memorial Parkway along the Lewis River. Although the sun was shining, the air was still nippy as Rita made lunch on a fallen tree trunk by a clear, icy stream on the east side of Yellowstone Lake. As the rented Galaxie rolled down from Sylvan Pass out the east entrance, it met miles of tourists creeping up from Cody. Although it is the nearest town and considered the gateway to Yellowstone, Cody is eighty-one miles of beautiful drive along the Shoshone River from the park. Buffalo Bill Museum and Whitney Art Gallery form the focal point of this town that was founded by the famous plains scout, Pony Express rider, Indian fighter, and master showman. A better western art and historical museum would be hard to imagine. Beside all the unique memorabilia, the family thoroughly enjoyed the many bronzes by Fredrick Remington and the Charles Russell gallery.

Although the afternoon was half gone, and they were a long way from Jackson Lake, John was determined to find a way through the bear Tooth Range along the Clarke Fork of the Yellowstone River into Montana. Since the highway was unpaved, it was hard to distinguish it from a couple of dead ends which, although very scenic, used up precious daylight. The route across Bear Tooth Pass (elev. 10,940 ft.) climbed above timberline through horse and cattle range, then descended in steep, looping switchbacks reminiscent of the Swiss Alpine passes.

Descending Coulter Pass (8,000 ft.) into Cooke City, Montana, there was so little traffic that the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park wasn't even manned. It was almost as if the Lewises were trespassing on Jim Coulter's private domain. Except for the roadway, the country looked as it must have when the white man first saw it. That was what President Theodore Roosevelt had in mind when the National Parks were created. Before the tourists reached the crowded center of the park, they had seen bear, buffalo, moose, elk, and a coyote plus numerous waterfowl and small animals. It was late when a tired bunch of sightseers returned to their cabins that night, for the little swing that day that had touched only one real town (Cody) had covered 500 miles.

The children were left on their own at Colter Bay for Thursday, Friday and Saturday while John and Rita joined the company officers and their wives at Jackson Lake Lodge. The weather just did not know that summer had arrived. It hadn't in western Wyoming. Each day the kids went on trail rides, boat rides, hikes, or whatever suited them. Most trips resulted in their getting soaked; but Alison's spirit could not be dampened when she could look out across beautiful Jackson lake to Skillet Glacier on the backdrop of the Grand Tetons. Friday afternoon it snowed.

His daddy had let Don keep the car so he could take Alison and Todd back into Yellowstone Park to visit some of the famous spots they had missed on Wednesday. On Saturday the grownups went to the park on a chartered bus. The young lady who was the guide and was to meet the bus at South Entrance was delayed due to fresh snow in the pass where the road from Old Faithful crosses the continental divide. At noon the tour bus stopped at Old Faithful Inn for lunch. As John and Rita sat with friends in the dining room of this grand old landmark, they saw their three children at a table near a rear window. Their parents had to leave on the bus, but the kids had all day to climb the hills and enjoy the wonders of one of America's favorite attractions. That night they joined the grownups at Jackson Lake Lodge to dine in style at the grand hotel just once before they had to leave.

Saturday night when John called the Jackson airport to confirm his reservations for an early morning departure via Salt Lake City, the clerk tried to persuade him to take a later flight that would connect with the Salt Lake City-Denver flight in Grand Junction, Colorado, and arrive in Denver at the same time. That was not what he wanted. He planned to show the family a little of the Utah capital. As the 8:30 a.m. plane was leaving Jackson Sunday morning, a heavy snow was just starting. The 11:00 a.m. plane didn't get off the ground that day. By then, the earlier flight had arced over Idaho and down over the edge of Great Salt lake and landed at Salt lake City.

As he has had to do on a number of occasions, John carefully figured the time he had available, picked out a knowledgeable cabbie, told him how much time he could spare, and told him to show them as much as possible and still get them back to the airport by departure time. He really got his money's worth at Salt Lake City. The cab driver was an excellent guide. His first stop, of course, was Temple Square. Just this one spot justifies a trip to Utah. The Mormon Tabernacle was too full to admit more worshipers, but it was possible to stand and hear the wonderful Tabernacle Choir. At the beautiful capital building, the guide knew which doors were open and, by knowing the attendant, was able to get the exquisite governor's reception room opened for a private viewing by his fares.

There was a good view of the snow-capped continental divide from the afternoon flight to Denver; and as the flight to Dallas passed over southwestern Kansas, the green circles of center-pivot-irrigated corn could be seen in contrast to the brown plains. When they deplaned in Dallas in ninety-two-degree heat, the fatigue of a long day and a full week hit my folks all at once. They were a weary group of travelers when they made it back to Tendal that night.

The visit was hardly more than a pause. Alison stayed behind with her grandmother in Delhi while the others headed on back to North Carolina. The Fairlane had 97,000 miles on it and was still running smoothly, but John neglected it on this trip and nearly lost it. He rarely checks the water in any of us because we so seldom need it, but when he gassed up at the last stop in Mississippi, he missed a good opportunity to head off some trouble. There was nothing to indicate overheating until the idiot light came on. Those warnings are always too late. By that time they were in a dry section of Alabama. John didn't realize how dry until they crept in to a small rural station and the owner told him he had to haul water for his own use. The 302 engine could still steam, but it had gotten too hot to get well by itself as mine had done in Canada twenty-one years before. I never did hear what the actual damage was, but for the rest of the trip John had to stop about every fifty miles and put in more water. It kept boiling away, but since none was getting into the oil he kept heading east. When it got home the Fairlane seemed to feel better. It still wanted a little water occasionally; but other than that, it ran pretty well. Nevertheless, as it crept up on 100,000 miles, both John and Rita got bitten by the new-car bug. When that fever hits a family, one excuse to get rid of a car is as good as any other.

Alison and Rita's mother were flying in to Raleigh-Durham about the time of Rita's birthday, July 23. Rita had fixed her eye on a big, new car with lots of extras and had enlisted Todd in a subtle campaign to get his daddy interested in that particular automobile. Well, it was pretty, and big, and plush, and well appointed. It was also expensive. Nevertheless, without Rita's knowledge, John made a trade with the local dealer--after a necessary talk with his bank. On the way to the airport, he drove by the dealership, parked the faithful little Fairlane, and picked up the new car as casually as he had changed his shirt. Rita was stunned by her unexpected Birthday present. Her husband felt she deserved one new car in her life. He had one: me.

At the airport, after greeting Alison and Mrs. Caldwell, John told Rita to bring the car around to the baggage area to pick up the passengers there. Of course, Alison and her grandmother were still looking for the white Fairlane when John opened the trunk of the new, green monster. That was one birthday present that the family was to enjoy for a long time. It spoiled Rita though. John had insisted all their married life that all automobile expenses be faithfully recorded in a little book kept in the glove compartments. She probably figured that her new car was going to cost so much to run that she didn't want to know about it. Actually, other than the energy shortage running the price of gasoline up so much, it hasn't done badly at all.

After moving to North Carolina, the family trips shifted from the Fourth of July to Thanksgiving. Of course those special trips were not the only ones. Just one day's excursion (a loop around North Carolina's Outer Banks) while Rita's mother was visiting was 400 miles not counting two ferry rides. Just the two round trips to the airport were 600 miles. In October, when the mountain foliage in Virginia was at its most gorgeous, the parents took the children out of school one Friday to visit the Old Dominion. They crossed the mighty James River on the Jamestown Ferry to see the first permanent English settlement in America. A short drive along the Colonial parkway put them in Williamsburg, the second Colonial capital, where the movie, The Story of A Patriot, set the mood to appreciate that historic cradle of liberty.

The circuitous route to the nation's capital led through Yorktown, Westmoreland County, Wakefield, and Maryland's eastern shore. All the major monuments along the mall in Washington were visited leisurely that cool, moonlit night. When the restaurant opened at the entrance to Mount Vernon next morning, the Lewises were waiting. Pancakes, of course.

The estate of America's first president was more educational than John had imagined. His mother had told him of her visit there in 1933, but the restoration over the years had captured the charm which made it easy to feel why George Washington was reluctant to be away from his lovely home overlooking the wide Potomac.

A drive across northern Virginia to Front Royal put the sightseers on the Skyline Drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. The hardwoods charge the mountains with such a riot of color each fall that thousands of tourists stream to the tortuous Drive and the Blue Ridge parkway to enjoy nature in her autumn splendor. At Charlottesville John left the Shenandoah National Park to take the family on a tour of Thomas Jefferson's mountain-top home, Monticello. Reading and studying about such shrines can add much to the appreciation of them, but cannot substitute for a personal visit. John had stopped by this home of the third president on one of his trips to Ohio, but could not feel that the trip was complete until Rita and the children (especially the little history buff, Alison) had enjoyed it with him. The new car made quick work of the short run to Richmond, where the family dined in a good Mexican restaurant which John had discovered earlier on a business trip. Between Richmond and Suffolk they cruised through another Waverly (Va.) on the three hour trip back to their home in North Carolina.

Thanksgiving Day came one day after Rita and John's anniversary in 1973. Since their mothers and Miss Evelyn (another school teacher and friend of the family) were not able to be with them anymore as they were at Tendal, the family decided to break with tradition and leave home for the holiday. Without a very definite plan, John drove through Norfolk, Virginia, crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, split the beautiful farm country of Virginia and Maryland's Eastern Shore, and stopped to visit Delaware's capital at Dover. Rita was not about to settle for a drive-in Thanksgiving dinner. In early afternoon she saw exactly the sort of place she had in mind. The family enjoyed a sumptuous feast at a large plantation home that had been converted to a restaurant. The food would have done the original owners proud. For an hour and a half the diners stepped back in time about two centuries. They were full and contented as they wandered along the rural byways up Delaware Bay to Wilmington to spend the night.

The following morning the first place John headed was the old-world city of New Castle. The heart of this old town reminded him of Belgium. The guild hall was literally the hub of the early settlers' world as witnessed by the northern border of Delaware still being an arch of a twelve-mile-radius circle drawn from that point. From New Castle a slow drive through the heart of Wilmington took the tourists to the DuPont estate and the fabulous mansion-museum: Winterthur. Here they were able to see rooms furnished authentically in all periods, so that progressing through the museum was a stroll through the history of American homes.

From the banks of the Brandywine the route led through Chester and Lancaster Counties to the famous Pennsylvania Dutch country. In fact, the Amish cooking had become so famous that the lines in all the restaurants around Bird-In-Hand were so long that the Lewises had dinner with the Colonel, at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lancaster. A fast drive across the Susquehanna River, then through York and Gettysburg, put the sightseers in Gettysburg National Military Park by mid afternoon. Having grown up visiting a similar park at Vicksburg scores of times, and being steeped in the history and tradition of the Civil War, it was possible for John to get some feel for the scale and intensity of the tragic pageant which covered those hallowed hills more than a century past; but how the throngs of Japanese that raced from monument to monument, cameras snapping, could relate to it was more than he could fathom.

Gettysburg was not exactly on a beeline home from Wilmington, Delaware, but some of the most interesting sights are found on side trips that are best discovered after reaching a given area. Just at dark John surprised Rita by parking in the tiny hamlet of New Market, Maryland. This small village has saved itself from oblivion by specializing in antiques. The main (and almost only) street is lined on both sides by antique shops. Fortunately for John most of them were closed, but lighted. Window shopping is fun and much cheaper than the real thing. The winding, narrow road south through Monrovia, Lewisdale, and Cedar Grove to Germantown was very picturesque and gave a more intimate glimpse of rural Maryland than is available from an Interstate highway.

The fact that back country roads are slower was no longer of much consequence. Thanksgiving weekend of 1973 saw the inauguration of the lower speed limits that were a result of the gasoline shortage. Friday, November 30, the Maryland speed limit dropped to fifty miles per hour. Fortunately for John, the new car had an automatic cruise control. After years of getting on down the road, fifty miles per hour seemed slower than a bicycle. A strange thing soon became apparent, however. Even though the beltline around Washington, D.C and the Interstates were jammed with traffic, it was flowing smoothly with no one cutting in and jamming on brakes, causing those long chain reactions that are so nerve wracking. The new pace left time to look at the passing scene and enjoy the radio. The most amazing revelation was that it really didn't take a whole lot more time to get someplace going a steady fifty-five miles per hour in the eastern states (other than Maryland) than it had with the old speeding and stopping. About five p.m. Rita had been buying apples at a farm market near the Pennsylvania line, but before midnight she was home in Plymouth, North Carolina.

With 1974 came a crisis. John had an operation just prior to his birthday at the end of 1973 and spent the most painful New Year's Eve of his life in the hospital. At that time, negotiations were underway for the sale of the property he was developing. These proved successful, with the transfer to be effective the first of February. Incapacitated during convalescence, the prospects of having to move from the company-owned home to a new job seemed to be too unthinkable to contemplate. Once again He who sees each sparrow fall provided for His own. The house was optioned to John and withheld from the property sale. Then out of the blue, a phone call from someone he had never seen nor heard of led to another management position without the loss of a single day's work. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

When the switch in employment occurred, John's 1972 company pickup that was sold had 53,000 miles on it. His new office was sixty-five miles from home, and a satellite office was seventy-five miles in the opposite direction. In the next three years this was to require him to put 115,000 miles on his company cars. Tiresome though this daily routine may have been, it did not entirely quell his zest for taking the family on their Thanksgiving trips. Don had graduated from high school in June of 1974, and when Thanksgiving came he decided he would rather stay at home and go deer hunting than go on the trip. He left early in the morning to go hunting, and killed a small buck as soon as it was good light. Had he phoned home as soon as he made his kill, he could have had his buck and made the trip as well. He missed a truly delightful tour of New England.

Thanksgiving Day and Rita and John's anniversary coincided in 1974, but the family left on their annual trip the day before. Traffic was slow through Richmond, slower still in Washington, and almost at a complete standstill in Baltimore. John had planned to take the Harbor Tunnel around Baltimore, but a sign truck parked on I-95 warned that the line at the toll booth was four miles long. Rather than sit through the line seeing nothing, he drove on through downtown Baltimore. There was traffic aplenty even there and the most horrible, bright, yellow street lamps imaginable; but the kids got to see the U.S.S Constitution and the rows of gleaming white steps protruding onto the sidewalks that are old Baltimore's marks of distinction.

Passing by the motel in Wilmington where they stayed the year before, John crossed the Delaware Memorial bridge across the Delaware River and drove on to Trenton, New Jersey before stopping for the night. Even though the building wasn't open, he drove around the beautiful capital next morning before going on to New York City. So they could see the Statue of Liberty and view Lower Manhattan from good vantage points, he took the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn and crossed to Manhattan via Roebling's famous Brooklyn Bridge. There could not have been a better time to hit New York City. Traffic near Battery Park was almost non-existent. It was possible to drive slowly by Wall Street and gaze at the skyscrapers without the annoyance of honking horns which usually greet the tourist that is so naive as to try to drive through downtown New York City. When they got uptown it became apparent where all the people were: lining the route of Macy's parade, that's where. After driving up Park Avenue and back by Central Park, John cut right across the parade. The policeman broke the column of floats and let the travelers pass directly in front of the huge Sinclair dinosaur. By stopping in the center of the intersection to ask the policeman some direction (perhaps a bit contrived) John bought a moment of time for Todd and Alison to get a good look at the famous parade they had watched before only on television.

Noon was rapidly approaching; and with no particular place in mind for dinner, John took the Henry Hudson parkway north, passed beneath the approach of the George Washington Bridge and made haste for the Connecticut shore. The type of place for which he was looking eluded him until far past noon; but at last, near Old Saybrook, a large sign on a modest old home proclaimed, "Jason's Rib." The traditional Thanksgiving turkey feast was being served in the old parlor by a cozy fire. A pianist kept a pleasant holiday sound wafting over the room. When the proprietor returned from a trip outdoors with logs for the fireplace, the tune from the piano faded into Carolina Moon followed by Carolina In The Morning. The license plate on Rita's car parked near the wood pile had tipped the host to the presence of his southern guests. Not only was the stop a memorable Thanksgiving; but to look at Rita the other guests might have believed it was her twenty-second birthday, but certainly not her twenty-second anniversary.

Leaving "Jason's Rib" in the bright sunshine of late afternoon, the tourists hurried on to New London to take a quick look at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy hometown. By the time they reached Mystic, the light was fading fast, and John had to cancel the tour of Mystic Seaport and settle for a brief pause only. A fuel stop was made in Wyoming, Rhode Island. The resemblance of this rolling hill country, only thirteen miles from Block Island Sound, to central Wyoming was astonishing. Darkness almost won the race to Newport; but there was time for a quick trip along the waterfront to see some of the estates that have contributed to the prestige of this fashionable summer resort. A short stroll along the front after dark, with a brisk wind off the sound, left no doubt that the twenty-eighth of November was not summertime.

The time had come to think ahead and decide where he wanted to wake up the next morning. Accordingly, John picked up I-195 at Falls River heading east; and when it gave out he joined his favorite highway in the United States: U.S. 6, the longest highway in the entire country. Crossing Cape Cod Canal they were soon in a winter wonderland. A blanket of fresh snow reflected the lights as John left the parkway for old 6A that twisted and wound through one picturesque village after another, each one with scenes that were Christmas cards come to life. The night was growing old as he drove through Brewster, and Trenton, New Jersey seemed a long way back down the road. Just when it appeared that a place to sleep on a cold night might get to be a problem, a welcome Sheraton Inn loomed ahead and the problem was solved.

Winter had already arrived on Cape Cod, and the snow was in no danger of melting. Friday morning John drove to Pilgrim Monument at the eastern end of U.S. 6. He had been looking forward to following this highway to Provincetown since he first saw its western terminus in 1947. The California end at Long Beach had long since been absorbed by the Harbor Freeway, but the arc through Cape Cod National Seashore has retained its identity. Provincetown reminded John of St. Johns, Newfoundland. As he searched for a spot on one of the steep streets to leave the car, snow began to fall again. As the family sat in a large inn sipping hot chocolate and munching English muffins, watching the snow flutter by the window, obscuring the harsh shore where the Pilgrims first set foot on America, it seemed a very fitting setting for a Thanksgiving trip.

Across Cape Cod Bay about thirty miles lay Plymouth, to which the Pilgrims sailed after judging Cape Cod to be too exposed to the elements and unsuited for a permanent settlement. By highway, this trip was more than eighty miles, and everyone was anxious to see the famous rock that has become a shrine as the final landing site of the second successful English settlement in America. No amount of study can stamp the year 1620 in the mind of a youngster like seeing it chiseled boldly in that cold, grey granite boulder on the shore of Massachusetts.

Plymouth seemed a bit crowded until the tourists got into downtown Boston. That old city, quite clearly, was not laid out to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. The press of humanity was just too much for enjoyable sightseeing, so after a creep around the Common John let himself get crowded out of the city in the direction he wished to go and, as soon as possible, left the urban madness behind. He and Rita had been looking for an appealing seafood spot since they left Plymouth. On the northern outskirts of Salisbury, almost within sight of the New Hampshire line, they found exactly what they had been looking for. All hands were ready for the delicious lobsters selected from the tanks just minutes before being served. The short winter day faded away as the family enjoyed another memorable meal.

New Hampshire's coast line is so short that the motorist can cross the state on U.S. 1 and hardly know he was in it. Nevertheless, these few miles were enough to cause the Lewises to reach the Maine welcome station just after it had closed for the night. The parking areas and rest rooms were open, and the kids did get to romp a few minutes in four inches of fresh snow. Some thought had to be given to getting back home, and it was getting on toward bedtime again too, so John swung west back into New Hampshire to Concord and the giant Highway Motel. The full moon and the snow brightened the cold winter night.

As the Saturday morning sunrise shone on the glittering dome of New Hampshire's capital, the travelers, who should have been going home, headed straight north for the White Mountains, Franconia Notch, and the Mittersitt Ski Area. Along the way, they quit the Interstate to drive around in the small town of Plymouth. (The colonists carried the name of that old town on England's south coast to many of the present states.) Just as they passed The Great Stone Face, snow began to fall. The beautiful, white White Mountains fulfilled all the southerners' expectations of winter in New England.

After he finally turned south at Littleton, John made his way by as many of the old covered bridges as he could find on the way to Woodstock and Bennington, Vermont. The last of an enjoyable day was spent at the Bennington Museum and the Grandma Moses Schoolhouse on its grounds. From there sightseeing had to give way to getting back home. Between nightfall and late bedtime, the new car carried the sleepyheads across to Albany, New York, down the Hudson on the New York State Thruway to the Garden State parkway, and all the way across New Jersey to the same Sheraton where they had stopped on the way north. The next day the route home was varied by taking U.S. 301 from Wilmington down to Annapolis through the stately, Eastern Shore, Maryland estates. When Todd and Alison got home, they had plenty to tell Don about their five-day mini-vacation.