Thursday, December 6, 2012

Four Boys and a Car Named "Minerva"

 I recently ran across this story in the Evening Kansan Republican from 1939 of a trip taken by four young men shortly after high school graduation. A short time later I discovered that we had the photographs taken by one of the travelers in our collection.

Today, we expect certain amenities and a service station with a McDonald's at regular intervals.  In 1939, travel was a little different. Enjoy the story of four young men exploring the great Southwest as reported to the Evening Kansan Republican when they returned to town on June 19.
"Minerva, the 1931 Hudson 8 sedan crawled into Newton Monday night at 10:30 with tremendous effort after her three weeks trek  of 5,463 miles through the wilds of unconquered Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada,California, Arizona, and New Mexico with Pat, Bill, Maurice and Dick."* 
The four young men left Newton at six a.m. on Wednesday, May 24 for a road trip across seven states in their black sedan they affectionately called "Minerva".  The young men took turns driving in two hour shifts. By that evening they "hobbled wearily into Denver", after fighting the wind and dust of Western Kansas all day.    Apparently they had a mishap, because the article noted that the"front right door was slightly dented . . . and a broken starter."  They "judged the beds they slept in that night the best they had ever slept in." The next morning they awoke refreshed and took time to tour the the Municipal Airport in Denver where they saw the Douglass D-C-4, "the largest land plane in the world."

Then, they were on their way for the second day of their adventure. As they drove through the mountains they encountered snow and more car trouble.  
"No less than six inches crowned Minerva in the blizzard and after an altitude of 7,000 ft through Berthould Pass which boasts a climb to 11,334 ft., Minerva's vacuum tank stubbornly refused to operate.  By the time Granby was reached that night, it had become 'old stuff' to stop and siphon gasoline from the tank to keep the vacuum tank in good humor."
Working on Minerva in a blizzard
After leaving Granby, Colorado, they headed toward Salt Lake City.  Along the way, they continued to have trouble with the vacuum tank and they had three flat tires.

Changing a tire.
Once in Salt Lake City, they reported that they did not feel very welcome.
"The town itself seemed to scowling at them with their intrusion, for they were greeted in the private drive of the Capital by the police with puzzled glances at their packed car, and remarks full of wondering at their being around in the middle of the night."
Postcard, ca. 1940
While in Salt Lake City, they were able to see the Mormon Tabernacle, the capital and museum. They also swam in the Great Salt Lake.

Postcard, ca. 1940
From there they traveled to Reno, Nevada, camping out along the way.

Camping out along the way.

Once in Reno they visited several tourist attractions including the courthouse, and  "Harold's Club and the Dog House, nationally famed night spots of the town of divorce." 

Then off to California, where once again their welcome was uncertain.
"After spending their first night in California  comfortably curled up in blankets on the Capital lawn in Sacramento, the boys and Minerva were gallantly helped over the last lap of the trail into Yosemite Park by the state police."
They pitched a tent in the Park and enjoyed the sites noting that they "were over-awed by the wonders of that beautiful spot."   
Postcard, ca. 1940
They tried to walk under the Yosemite Falls, which were known as the highest free falling falls in the world , viewed caves and went swimming.
"Wawona" a tree in Yosemite National Park
Today, it is referred to as the "Fallen Tunnel Tree"

Eventually, they crossed Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco and stayed at a Y.M.C.A.. While in the area, they visit several former Newtonians including Col. Dave Randall, head of the marine barracks at Mare Island.

Posing with Minerva
"June 13 brought homesickness for Bill, as he labored feverishly with his friends over two blowouts, two punctures, aches from sleeping on 'little boulders' at Boulder Dam . . . and the presentation of bills for two new innertubes."

Postcard, 1938

Taking a break.

Apparently Bill was feeling better by the time they reached the Grand Canyon.  The twenty-five mile jaunt to the depths of the vast canyon and back again gave them memories and many, many blisters."

Postcard, ca. 1940
From this point Minerva was turned toward Kansas and home.  When asked about their trip, the guys replied that they had fifty cents left and the price of gas in California was "so high it cut their mileage off quite a degree."**** They did not attend church, "because they never knew when Sunday came around." Finally, the reporter asked, 
"'Average driving speed?' Silence answered this one, with a slow confession that 40-45 were the figures for 'publication,' but Minerva could go faster.  . . . they added, 'she's for sale now!'" 
**Note:  Although last names were not given in the article, based on the information with the photographs the four friends were likely Dick Glover, Pat Sauble, Bill Golding and Maurice Claassen all Newton High graduates in 1939.  This might have been a trip to celebrate graduation.

Four friends, 1985
Dick Glover, Pat Sauble, Bill Golding, Maurice Claassen
****Note on gas prices: Ten cents a gallon seems to have been the national average price in 1939.

"Odyssey of Four Newton Boys and an Antique Car", Evening Kansan Republican, Wednesday, June 21, 1939, page 3.
HCHM Photograph Archives, Newton High School 100th Anniversary, (Railer 100), 1985 Pat Sauble Collection #2010.209.7-12
HCHM Postcard File - Travel


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