8000 Miles in a Model T

The adventures of two Edgewood young men on a 9-month road trip around the US in 1936.

(Taken from an unidentified local newspaper clipping of the era. See endnote*)

Saturday night two tired, happy, much be-whiskered young men drove into town with a remodeled, revamped, 1923 Model T Ford, and were greeted with genuine relief by their parents. These young men were Leo Ash, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Ash, and Carl Lewis, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Lewis.

Carl has been out near Portland, Oregon for the past two years where his brother, Ray Lewis lives. Leo went out last August, leaving here the 12th. When he reached Portland Leo bought the Ford in question and motored the rest of the way to meet his friend. From the time the two boys left their homes here until they arrived home again Saturday night they had been in 36 of the 48 states in the Union and their little “Lizzie” had been in 29 states. They drove close to 8,000 miles and had no trouble with their car, spending less than eight dollars on repairs. This amount included the purchase of two tires also. They had some luck on tires however as they picked up one on the desert in Arizona that had evidently been cast off by a motorist. They put it on their car and drove it the rest of the way home. Another of their tires was what they termed a “Baldhead” when they started, but they drove it all the way. They averaged 20 miles to a gallon of gas and were able to make all the grades in the mountains in high gear. “Lizzie” was relieved of any excess weight such as fenders and, out of plywood they constructed a body in which they carried their possessions and which served as sleeping quarters when they were in a hurry and did not care to set up their tent. One luxury they allowed themselves and that was a radio in their car. As they traveled they have picked up some crazy as well as clever little lines which they have painted all over the car even to warnings on the doors. Out in the Arizona desert not far from the Rocky Mountains they picked up the skeleton of a Rocky Mountain goat’s head and used it as a radiator cap decoration.

Adapting “Lizzie” for life on the road, and finding a tire in the desert.

Because of the rather out of the ordinary caps they wore they were often taken for sailors. They were asked if their goatees were signs of some religious cult to which they belonged. This rather abundant growth of hair was disconcerting at first glance but the courtesy with which they spoke made things all right and we know this same courtesy is not put on and that it helped them in their work along their route home.

Last October 12th they set out from the Ray Lewis home and went to Tule Lake, Calif., where they worked in the potato harvest a week. Then on down to McFarland, where they picked cotton about five weeks. Down through Los Angeles and to Santa Monica where Leo saw the Pacific Ocean for the first (time). Down through San Diego and into Old Mexico where they visited the famous racing city of Tia Juana. Back into the United States they journeyed across Arizona and New Mexico and after a week of traveling they got across the largest state in the nation, Texas and crossed Louisiana. They entered New Orleans over Huey Long’s bridge and saw the huge delta of the Mississippi. From Louisiana they traveled through Mississippi and Alabama along the Gulf of Mexico. At Mobile Bay it cost our young men $I.05 to cross the toll bridge. This was the highest amount they had to pay on the entire trip and they crossed a goodly number of toll bridges too.

On December 23 they entered the Sunshine State, Florida and saw them laying the cornerstone to an addition to the state capitol building at Tallahassee. They spent Christmas and New Year’s Day at Pensacola. Then they went on south to Plant City where they spent the entire winter. They picked strawberries, worked in truck gardens and picked fruit. They had a wonderful winter, slept in their tent all the winter through and never had a cold even though the rains would soak through their tent and dampen their beds. All the fresh fruits and vegetables they could eat kept them well and Florida’s sunshine tanned them a deep mahogany. Working without shirts and since the others with whom they worked went barefooted they did as “‘The Romans Did” and saved their shoes. When they left for the north on April 26 they had coats of tan that would have published to the world that they had been living in a land of sunshine. They have lost a lot of their brownness on their way home but they got here with their goatees and Leo with a moustache.

One of the pleasant diversions of the winter was their swimming in the crystal clear spring water.

On the first lap of their homeward journey they visited Daytona Beach and the old Atlantic Ocean and then followed the coast up to Saint Augustine, the oldest city in the new world and visited Fort Marion there, Up through Georgia and the Carolinas they were interested in the backward methods used in farming as compared with the way their fathers conduct their farming operations. They saw ‘plowing’ being done with oxen and old time plows. They saw tobacco and cotton plantations. They were charmed with the beauty of Virginia and especially liked Richmond, and its historic points of interest.

Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River and the James River were all interesting but Washington, D C. was one of the high spots on their trip. They! arrived there when the Japanese cherry trees and all the lovely shrubs and trees of the capitol were in full bloom and found it to be a very lovely city. They found the streets in Washington much more comfortable to ride over than the ones in Baltimore where the cobblestones made “Lizzie” shiver as if she had the ague. Wilmington, Delaware and then Philadelphia. In this old city the boys drove their little old Ford right into Independence Square where they created quite a commotion. They were interviewed by newspaper reporters and had their pictures taken for publication. They visited Independence Hall and saw the Old Liberty Bell. Because of a crowd of hoodlums in this city they had to hurry away before their whole ear was stolen from them.   They crossed the Delaware River into Trenton, New Jersey, visited in Jersey City and went through the Holland Tunnel into New York City. There they caught the subway and drove “Lizzie” right down Broadway.    The   policemen treated them fine and well they might for in all their trip these young men never bumped another car and neither were they bumped. In New York they went down to the harbor where they took a ferry for the island to visit the Statue of Liberty. Then they visited Empire State building and saw the-mass of skyscrapers and quite enjoyed the thrills of the largest city on this side of the Atlantic.

“Lizzie” with her mountain sheep and spare tire hood ornament, and parked at the White House.

They next went into Connecticut and Rhode Island, visited New Haven and Providence and all along the coastline they saw the fishing sloops out on the ocean. Historic Boston on Cape Cod Bay and then on into the rocky farming country of New Hampshire.

The fences built of rocks, laid up just as walls are made in our country was another source of comparisons for the boys. When they reached the state of Maine it was pretty cool.   Snow was still on the ground on May 5 and they were told that there was still ice in the lakes farther north in the state. Through New Hampshire and Vermont on the way west they saw the huge maple groves which at that time of the year were sugar camps where maple syrup and sugar were being prepared for market.   Lumber camps, large tracts of timber, including white birch made this part of their trip one of greatest interest.    In New York State they went through Albany and left the United States, again at Buffalo over the bridge just below Niagara I Falls. Their trip through Canada was made on the day before the coronation and. all the buildings along the highway were decorated with three to live flags of the Empire. At Windsor, the last city in Canada before they entered Detroit, they could travel in all four directions and go into the United States. Their way home from Detroit led them through Cleveland, Ohio, South Bend, Ind., and into Chicago, Illinois. They noticed how very wet the land was through the last three or four states they crossed and how late the farmers are with their plantings.

Having worked with all classes and all kinds of people in the potato and cotton fields of California, the fruit and vegetable gardens of Florida, they feel they have learned much of value about how the other classes live. Through all the 8,000 miles their Ford “Liz” has been a tried, sorely tried and always true friend, aim while she may not have the most lovely exterior, the working parts have been “tops” all the way.

*(This piece was taken from a photocopy of an unidentified newspaper article presumably from an Edgewood local newspaper given the introductory lines. The year of the publication is determined to be 1936. The writer indicates that the month was May and “…their trip through Canada was made on the day before the coronation and all buildings along the highway were decorated with three to five flags of the Empire.”  King George VI was crowned in May of 1936 and would have been celebrated in the Dominion of Canada.  The travelers would have been in their early 20’s in this year.)