Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 2: depart NYC

May 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

When Beatrice Massey and her husband decided to set out for the West Coast in 1919, they invited two friends to join them in their Packard.

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The 42nd Street dock in New York City where the Massey’s headed. This photo, taken five years later in 1924, shows LHA Field Secretary Gael Hoag stands with the group’s official Packard. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2893.]

“We picked them up at the Seymour Hotel in New York City, at three o’clock, Saturday, July 19th, and started for the Forty-Second-Street ferry in a pouring rain, as jolly and happy a quartette as the weather would permit. Our guests were a retired physician, whom we shall speak of as the Doctor, and his charming, somewhat younger wife, who, although possessing the perfectly good name of Helen, was promptly dubbed ‘Toodles’ for no reason in the world….

“It had rained steadily for three days before we started and it poured torrents for three  days after; but that was to be expected, and the New Jersey and Pennsylvania roads were none the worse, and the freedom from dust was a boon. We chose for the slogan of our trip, ‘It might have been worse.’ The Doctor had an endless fund of good stories, of two classes, ‘table and stable stories,’ and I regret to say that this apt slogan was taken from  one of his choicest stable stories, and quite unfit for publication. However, it did fit our party in its optimism and cheery atmosphere.

“With a last look at the wonderful sky-line of the city, and the hum and whirl of the great throbbing metropolis, lessening in the swirl of the Hudson River, we really were started;  with our faces turned to the setting sun, and the vast, wonderful West before us.”

* From Beatrice Massey’s book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, 1920.

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Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 1

May 8, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

I love early automobile memoirs for capturing the feel of travel a century ago. It was common for wealthy Easterners in the 1910s to take their new play-toys across the country, then detail the experience in print (and just as often returning the car and themselves back east by rail). Of course, these travelers often packed up their elite mindsets (along with silver tea sets) but after a few days on the road, they found it would not be all smooth highways and fancy hotels, and instead were forced to fix flats and camp by the side of the road.

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In 1916, Emily Post (not yet known as an expert on etiquette) wrote a book about her travels, By Motor to the Golden Gate. This inspired Beatrice Larned Massey to follow in her tire tracks, so to speak.

“I was fired by a desire to make a similar tour,” she wrote, but World War I delayed her for three years. “Then the ‘motor fever’ came on again…. After talking and planning for three years, we actually decided to go in ten minutes — and in ten days we were off.”

She captured her adventures from New York to San Francisco in her own book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, published in 1920. Most of her trip was not along the Lincoln Highway, though she followed much of the route through Pennsylvania, plus all of the trip gives wonderful insight into early auto travel.

Let’s get her started:

“All the necessary arrangements were quickly made; leasing our home, storing our household goods, closing up business matters, getting our equipment and having the car thoroughly looked over, and all the pleasant but unnecessary duties occupied the last few days. Why will people write so many letters and say so many good-bys, when a more or less efficient mail and telegraph service circles our continent? But it is the custom, and all your friends expect it — like sending Easter and Christmas cards by the hundreds. We are victims of a well-prescribed custom.

“It is always of interest to me to know the make of car that a friend (or stranger) is driving; so let me say, without any desire to advertise the Packard, that we had a new twin-six touring car, of which I shall speak later on. I believe in giving just tribute to any car that will come out whole and in excellent condition, without any engine troubles or having to be repaired, after a trip of 4154 miles over plains and mountains, through ditches, ruts, sand, and mud, fording streams and two days of desert-going. And let me add that my husband and I drove every mile of the way. It is needless to say that the car was not overstrained or abused, and was given every care on the trip. In each large city the Packard service station greased and oiled the car, turned down the grease-cups, examined the brakes and steering-gear, and started us off in ‘apple-pie’ order, with a feeling on our parts of security and satisfaction.

“The subject of car equipment, tires, clothes, and luggage will take a chapter by itself. But let me say that we profited in all these regards by the experience and valuable suggestions of Mrs. Post in her book.

“When we first spoke to our friends of making this trip, it created as little surprise or comment as if we had said, ‘We are going to tour the Berkshires.’ The motor mind has so grown and changed in a few years. Nearly everyone had some valuable suggestion to make, but one only which we accepted and profited by. Every last friend and relative that we had offered to go in some capacity — private secretaries, chauffeurs, valets, maids, and traveling companions. But our conscience smote us when we looked at that tonneau, the size of a small boat, empty, save for our luggage, which, let me add with infinite pride and satisfaction, was not on the running-boards, nor strapped to the back. From the exterior appearance of the car we might have been shopping on Fifth Avenue.”

* to be continued….