In my grandma’s youth, most people never traveled further than fifty miles from their hometown. Traveling was slow and difficult by horseback or stagecoaches, then came the passenger trains which were a great improvement––if the depot was nearby both your hometown and destination. When the automobile was invented and became more available, a new way of traveling opened up. We take for granted these days freeways and paved roads. But imagine living in my grandma’s time when most roads were dirt. So in winter or stormy times, roads could be closed because of mud or flooding, etc. (My uncle Norman and family traveled to Utah from San Francisco by car to visit his mother, my grandmother.)
The advent of transcontinental highways linking major U.S. cities and the creation of national parks like Yellowstone, Zions, Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountain National Park to name just a few gave the tourist a definite destination. Larger cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Washington D.C. offered educational attractions like museums and historical sites that brought a new era of family vacationing.
My husband’s maternal grandmother ran a country store in central Texas but every summer she’d take a week to 10 days off and gather family members (her grown kids, grandkids or other relatives) together to go on vacation. She’d spend the winter months planning her vacation route with the aid of Humble Oil road maps. Her husband who didn’t like to travel would stay at home to take care of the store while Big Momma would leave Texas’ humid summer days and head west to the cool Colorado mountains then on to other cities and parks throughout America. Over the years, she was able to take her kinfolk who accompanied her to all 48 states. (Photo l-r: Grand dad Travis Laxson, his son Bill, grandson David, great grand daughter Deborah Floyd, Big Momma Juanita and great grand daughter Alicia Floyd.)
It was a highlight of my husband’s youth recalling those trips. It broadened his horizons as a young boy to see there was more to America than his life in Gatesville, Texas where he was born and raised. Seeing Pike’s Peak in Colorado, visiting Yosemite and the Redwoods in California, riding a paddle boat on the great Mississippi River, and gazing on the massive sculptures at Mt. Rushmore created a real love of nature in him. It influenced his career choice to work for the Forest Service and live in the West with its mountains, wide open spaces and great beauty. A summer vacation gave his hard working grandmother an opportunity to be together with family and fulfill her desire to see America.