August was the month our family traveled from Southern California non-stop to southern rural Oklahoma. This was our required annual summer motoring away from our East L A home. An obligatory trudge taken for the purpose of visiting our parent’s mother land. A trip with a promise of lake swimming, ice cold watermelon, greasy fried chicken and homemade banana ice cream once we get there.
Once again, Destination: Wilson, Oklahoma. And for we California kids, a step back from California modernity. Early century ice boxes instead of refrigerators along with outside wooden door outhouses as an alternative to indoor plumbing. “What is this Sears catalogue doing in this smelly shack?”
Starting off, our car trunk would be jam packed with clothes and personal items. Two adults, four kids, and enough fried chicken and baloney sandwiches to last the entire trip all stuffed in paper sacks sitting in-between each kid on the back seat. Plus my dad had a thermos full of coffee up front. And again, it was non-stop. No restaurant or motel stops. Not even the occasional rest area. Stops for gas were rushed. Run to the bathroom, wash hands, and hop back into the car.
These were the days of no wide interstate highways. No car air conditioning. Just sweaty adults and complaining whining kids with windows rolled down. Come on! It was the early 1950s.
So, we did start off from Los Angeles in the early evening and drive south through the humid Imperial valley passing by the Salten Sea on the way to Yuma, Arizona. Driving Into hot and sultry Yuma after crossing the California/Arizona border over the Colorado River. Then rattled and rolled through the southern Arizona desert at about midnight and often slogging and sloshing concurrently with the Arizona annual monsoon season. Which did include plenty of blinding flashes of lightening. Then the following morning would put us into the cooler southern New Mexico Mountains where we would descend down the other side into the windy desert of White Sands on our way to Brownfield, Texas. Then head up to Lubbock and the hot humid cotton fields of west Texas. And eventually into Wichita Falls then head north across the narrow Red River bridge and continue on into the quaint little village of Wilson Oklahoma. We did not travel route-66 because it would take us several hundred miles north of Wilson. So we drove the southern route.
But let me back up. All this break-neck over night driving is not to forget the blinding dust storms we sometimes encountered. Plus occasional flash floods washing across low spots of the narrow two-lane roads of southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. And my favorite to watch, windshields being splattered with all kinds of flying bug guts. And then there was the occasional driving atop gravel and dirt roads recently graded for soon to be an Interstate highway system. All these traveling adventures plus a few speeding tickets done in a dull gray humble overloaded 1950 Ford 4-door sedan. Just a physical and mental test of one’s Okie endurance. It is somewhat a surprise we all are still living today. Go Oklahoma!