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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Idaho Trip

By Marcy Belson

1945, it was time to visit my mother's family in Idaho. Summertime in the desert, hotter than blue blazes, no air conditioning in the car, but we had a burlap water bag that tied to the front bumper of the car.

My dad had a new maroon DeSoto, two door coupe with a lot of chrome and a big hood ornament. DeSoto had been in war production until late 1945, and my father had been on a list for most of the war years waiting for a new car.

He had been riding a motorcycle for a year, the only reliable transportation for his work. He always bought coupes. The DeSoto was purchased with no back seat and he used that area for his tools of his business, that being tractors and what he needed for a quick repair job on site.

My mother drove but she didn't have another vehicle. Mostly, she walked to town; the bank and downtown section were within a few blocks of our home. She shopped at the grocery store across town because it was the family store and while it was now under the management of a renter, it was still the only grocery store where we shopped once a week, driving when my dad was home.

I don't know how Mom persuaded him to drive her to Idaho to visit her Uncle Fred and his wife Ida. My father usually made the vacation plans and there were only two plans: either drive to Arkansas to visit his family and coincidentally, her family, and the second plan involved fishing at a lake in the mountains.

Nothing else in my childhood was ever done. He probably knew there was some good fishing in Idaho.

Mother's sister, my Aunt Loretta, was invited to join us. Then my father invited his cousin, Ruth. Ruth was the youngest, other than me, and she had just had a difficult break up with a serious boyfriend. I think the plan was to distract her with this trip, because she didn't have any relatives in Idaho.

Now, four adults and one eight-year-old girl ready to climb into a coupe with only a front seat. The front was a bench, and I was placed between my parents.

Marcy Belson family

My aunt and cousin were given wooden folding chairs behind the front seat.

I don't know how far it is from the Mexican border to Caldwell, Idaho, but I can tell you that was the trip from hell for all of us. Straight up we went, nothing but desert, right through Las Vegas when it was just another little town on the highway.

I remember a gas station out in the middle of the desert. My dad stopped to fill the gas tank and I begged for some cold ice water. We all went inside and sat on the stools at a counter and were given glasses of water.

The man told my father the charge was ten cents for each glass. I never saw my father more angry than he was at that moment. My mother paid the man and walked with my dad back to the car.

The other memory is of Ruth (my dad's cousin) crying. She was desolate, she cried every day about her lost love. His name was "Biggen" Bales. He was called "Biggen" because he was BIG! He was a cowboy from Texas and he was over six feet and good looking.

The happy ending to that story is that when we got back to California, Biggen was on the phone from Oklahoma calling Ruthie and asking her to marry him. She did, and I have two great cousins from that marriage.

When we finally got to Caldwell, our family lived on a big farm. There was a barn behind the house where we played. I think there were a couple of boys and one girl cousin.

I slept on the living room sofa and awoke one night needing the bathroom. I couldn't find it. For the first time in my life, I didn't go looking for my mom. I just went out the front door and found a bush; the same routine I was told to use when we were on the road.

My mother's uncle owned a shoe store downtown and I was fitted for new school shoes. Then, the five of us got back into that DeSoto and did the long trip in reverse. We sure didn't stop at the hated gas station in the desert.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Sounds interesting many years later, but I can imagine it was hell when you did it. I cannot imagine that gas station charging 10 cents for water. Ice, maybe, but not water.

My first car was a 1958 DeSota coupe. Man I loved that car.

Last year I was in Missouri on a motorcycle trip that began in Ohio. It was 104 degrees. At the event I attended, a bottle of cold water was $2.00. I was so glad I had two bucks.

Glad Dad had ten cents for you.

I'm trying to see those folding chairs as back seats. Did they have their seat belts on?

Loved your story,Marcy

Especially about the ice water costing 10 cents a glass.

I went on line recently to book a ticket on USAir and before reservations came up the entire screen was filled with "THERE WILL BE NO MORE WATER SERVED ON ANY USAIR FLIGHT"

I laughed and thought to myself "They're all heart,aren't they?"

When I boarded the plane and the drink cart came along I got to see what they meant. No more BOTTLES of water.They would only give you a GLASS of water.

Seems everybody was taking the free bottles of water home in their carry-on bags so now they will only give you a glass.

Do you think some of the descendents of the gas station guy are running USAir?

I'm sure the guy at the gas station in the middle of nowhere needed to make a living, but my dad probably remembered earning 10 cents an hour! Three women and a girl, on a long hot trip, it had to be tough for him! I think we also drove to Arkansas with family seated on the wood folding chairs.

Well, if the gas station descendents are now running USAir, we can look forward to another change.

From now on First Class will have regular seats and everybody in the back will sit on wooden folding chairs.


That's great, Nancy! I guess it could get worse, hard to imagine, isn't it?

What a great snapshot of a different time and era.

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