"OUR TRIP TO FLORIDA" BY MR. & MRS. WILLIAM AUSTIN, LASALLE, MICH.
In the fall of 1919, we decided to make a trip to Florida with a car. I had been there several times before by train, and knew very well what I could expect, by travelling on highways with an auto. I bought a new Ford truck, with the lowest rear axle I could get. My speed was 12 miles per hour in high; One mile in five minutes; we used the clock for a speedometer.
I bought a large tent with side walls, that covered the whole car, so we could walk around the sides and do our cooking in the back of the tent. I had pulleys in the rear wheels, so if I got stuck in the mud, or sand, I could hook a rope on the wheels and stake the other ends; start the motor and it would wind itself out. That was quite common at that time.
My tools were: shovel; ax; saw; set of carpenter tools; also a set of Ford tools. I started with the determination to go to Florida or “BUST”. If it “busted”, I would ship the outfit back by freight, and come home on the train.
We started the last of Oct. 1919; 100 miles was a good days run; It took somewhere around 17 days to make the trip. After we crossed the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Ohio, the pavement stopped and we encountered our first mountains; There was a difficult one getting out of Covington, Ky.; The road would around the hill to the crest, where we followed the ridge as far as we could; then we descended into the valley and then climbed another ridge, until we were nearly to Lexington, Ky.; A few miles south of Lexington we encountered the Ky. River Gorge on the Ky. River; 250 ft. When we reached the bottom of the gorge, we were towed across the river on a flat boat; (cost $2.00); I don't think the river was more than 20 ft. wide; We then wound our way out of the gorge to the top of the hill; There is now a fine bridge spanning this river on the Ky. at this point. When I cross it now, it makes me wonder how we ever climbed those grades.
We had the AAA routing; from here they sent us west to Mammoth Cave; then to Nashville, Tenn.; The signs were green paint on the telephone poles, that routed us through the towns; Here we went west to sand Mountain; This Mt. we found was very steep; I got part way up the Mt. and my motor stopped. I could not get gas to the carburetor; Lucky I had eight gallons in tank; I put a valve stem in the lead of the tank; put nuts on both sides of the stem, then put tire pump on; Mrs. Austin did the pumping; so we did not have any trouble that way. When we reached the top of the Mt. we found 25 miles of sand roads; Then the trouble started. The tracks of the southern cars and wagons were 4 in. wider then the north, so we had to fight the sand to stay in the road. Through this stretch of bad road, we came next to the Tennessee River at Mussels Shoals. We drove to the edge of the river; There were two cables across the river as wide apart as the boat; The boat had four posts at each corner; pulleys on each corner on the posts connecting to cable; We were pulled onto the skow; then all four wheels were chained to the boat. Then two men with a notched 2×4 scantling at one end, would hook it to the cable at the front end, then walk back; they kept up this procedure until we were across the river. The river here was very rocky and swift. So swift I could hardly stand up by holding on the car; (Mussel Shoals rightly named). Here our signs stopped, so we went east to Chattanooga.
There was no tunnel to the south, so we had to go over the top of the Mt.; (route 41 at present) From the top of the Mt. we could see five roads winding back and forth on the slope we were to descend; From Chattanooga to Atlanta.
In Atlanta we were going out Peach Tree St., when we came to a steep grade; There were a number of cars at the bottom; the people were waving at us, but I did not know what they meant; but I soon found out; I only drove a few feet down the grade, until I found out it was Red Clay, just like grease; well, I slid to the bottom and lucky I did not tip over.
Next to Barnesville, ga., on to Waycross over 40 miles of sand road; I never saw sand so deep; it was part of the Okefenoke Swamp; I paid $1 per gallon for gasoline at Race Pond and was glad to get it. There were only two tracks; One going and one coming; The larger cars could not get through; lots of them burned, and were rolled out of the track, because when you were in you could not turn out. At Folkstown, the AAA had three wreckers pulling the wrecks out.
I met a man going to Florida with 21 bu. potatoes; a coop of chickens, a coop of rabbits, and a goat. You could not buy white bread; One man bought 25 lbs. flour and made it all up into biscuits; The stores did not carry bread.
We went to Jacksonville, Fla., on King's Road to Main and Laurel where our youngest daughter was born, and saw our old friends. We then crossed the St. John's River on the ferry; I have some of the old tickets which we used; A book of 30 tickets for ??? cents.
We found the back road to St. Augustine; The brinks were loose, laid in the sand, road only six feet wide; it would have been better, no brinks at all, as the road was full of holes, and if you should get off edge of the brink, was almost impossible to get back onto the road. From St. Augustine, we traveled to Datonia, then on to Leesburg, where we stopped back of the motel; There were seven cars at this place; It was a very filthy camp; Yes, very dirty indeed; After we cleaned up the best we could, we built a fire and the men all sat around and talked about the condition of the camp; They argued, that if something was not done about the unsanitary conditions of camps, no doubt the State would stop camping; So we started an endless chain, to teach folks requirements of camp life; We all shook hands and agreed to tell everyone we met camping, about these rules; The next morning we all left; I met one of these men a few years ago.
From Leesburg we went to Kissimee, then to Lakeland- Plant City and then came into Tampa via 7th Street (broadway now); We came to the overhead bridge; there was some more brick pavement; the second brick pavement we had seen in Fla. and only a short strip of it. Most roads were made of oyster shells; I asked a man where we could park; he told me to go down to 22nd St., turn south, then a few streets beyond the railroad turn east, then when the street turned follow it to the park; There I met Mr. Clark, who was Park Manager. I parked on the east side, because it was close to water and the washroom. When I was setting up my outfit, Mr. Finney's family parked by the north side of me. Back of me were three families; We cleaned away brush and rubbage before we set up our tents. I got a sheet iron stove, set it in the tent with pipe running out and then fastened to a pole. The Finneys and I took the truck and got a load of wood; mostly knots from pine trees, that had rotted down.
The first night we went over to the campfire and sang songs, and told our experiences on the way don to Fla., There were only a few there; We told them of the endless chain we had started at Leesburg and everyone thought this was a good idea; A few days before Thanksgiving Mr. Tremaine came into camp; he was a natural entertainer and sure had something doing all the time. He was short, fat and jolly. At home had grape vineyards.
Every day there was more coming and by Christmas the park was packed full. Then Mr. Clark parked them north of the park (up as far as Fisher's Camp); East of the park a man owned what is now DeSoto Park, and charged ten cents per week; The most of our time was spent going down to the Alafia River to fish; Mrs. Obelsted was fishing on the bridge, got excitied and throw her pocket book into the river, containing beads valued at $800. She never did get it. To go to the river, we had to go down 22nd Street to 7th Ave., then east on Turkey Creek, then turn south on what is now 441 to the Alafia River; Every one that went fishing caught so many, they brought them to camp and dumped them out, so every one could help themselves; Many times they would have a burlap bag full.
It was about the same old story until Christmas; I went to the country and brought back a large tree, lots of Holly, Palms, Mistletoe and Blackeyed Susan for to decorate the tree; Brought for anyone that wanted them; We put the tree in the band stand, which was octagon in shape, and only about 20 ft. wide, so it did not hold very many. The children had pieces, and there was all kinds of entertainment by the crowd.
Mr. Horn put on a trapeze set; when he finished, he did something to his leg, then pretended to slip; and one of his legs feel off at the knee; No one knew that he only had one foot; Quite an excitement.
Mr. Hawkins made chewing taffey for the crowd, and assessed everyone fifteen cents; He claimed he made around fifteen-hundred pieces; He was a concession man; He was a very large man and walked with the aid of a cane. Everyone brought a present to put on the tree; in return everyone received a present, and had a wonderful good time; Every one had their place fixed up; one had a pair of Bay Rattlers (rattle boxes) fastened to the tree; Another had a pair of Irish Bats in cage (Red Bricks); one had a large spring which was the fountain of youth; Mr. Morrison had a cemetery in front of his place, where he had John Barleycorn buried; Also all off the fixings; I caught the largest hookworm, had it in a box with a looking glass in the bottom; when they looked in, they saw themselves; it went over big; some were pleased; some were angry.
The week of Christmas was one round of excitement; one time there were so many cars came into the park, it was after dark, before the could all get out; After that Mr. Clark would not let visitors with cars in the park. About that time the city tourists found out we were having such a good time, they wanted to take over. We talked about it in our nightly meetings On night Mr Hiser gave a long talk about it; he suggested we call our organization “The Tin Can Tourists” after our Tin Lizzies; all other cars had a hard time getting through the sand roads; I supported Mr. Hiser's motion; The motion carried; Before that we had a dozen names; In fact every one almost you talked to had a different name. Mr. Morrison then gave a talk, in which he said he could see the Organization going a long ways. Mr. Freeman was elected our Can Opener; and Dr. Morrison our honorary can opener; His health was very bad, so he very seldom came out; He had a wall tent on the side of his car.
Mr. Hawkins had a House car and Mr. Hiser a Jezimire Trailer; These were the only ones in the park; The only acting officer we had was Mr. Treman; If there was anything to be done, the closest man was to do it. There were no records kept at all. It was Mrs. Hobert got the children together and formed a cradle roll; had there names recorded; Later she was T.C.T. Secretary;
Mr. Fails was there nearly every day; He would march the children around; have them pick up paper in order to help keep the park clean. Mr. Fails worked in a show down town; It was against the rules to work and camp in the park.
There was a large place for camp fire, with three rows of benches in a half circle; around the fire; We rented a piano. There were several women pianists; Mr. Coffee played a horn; Mr. Horn played a guitar; I believe it was Mr. Budd that played an accordion; He dressed like an Italian, and another man like a monkey; they went around the park playing, He collected seventeen cents; He wanted to give it back, but no one would take it.
Mr. Oblested went down on Seventh St. and purchased gas at a reduction of one cent per gallon, in we would buy our gasoline from him. He told is to put a tin can on the radiator for identification as T.C.T.'s. It was not long before everyone had cans on their cars; After we named it, we put T.C.T. on the cans for our emblem.
Mrs. Coolbaugh had a lunch and coffee stand; Chase & Sandborn furnished the coffee, sugar & milk; It was the first time I heard “Good to the last drop”; The Sholes Co. furnished the cookies. We also had an oyster fry; Large oysters; covering a slice of bread; The largest oysters I ever saw; Ten cents for two sandwiches; Major Ive got them; He lived in a boat by the old dock; This was his occupation; fish & catch oysters.
Yes, we had a lot of fun; as I have related about entertainment; Every evening Mr. Horn would play his guitar and sing several songs; if he could get anything on anyone he would have it in a song; One person got mad and put a lot of fiddlers in his car; He had a side wall tent on the side of his car; When he went to bed there was a lot of excitement;
New Year's nigh no one could go to bed; A lot of fellows went around and if they found anyone in bed, they would dump them into the bay.
A short ways from Mr. Links (Now Hattie Behrend), a man was painting his tent; He had the parafine on the stove in his tent; He told his wife to fiz some more, so goes and got the gas and pured it in the parafine on the Stove; She was badly burned; They lost nearly everything they had. Across the street on the morth side a woman in a tent gave birth to a child.
We held our meetings every evening; We would get all that came in that day to the meeting; It was called to order by our Can Opener; If we wished to speak at the meeting, we would make the letter “C” with our extended right arm; Meeting was called to order by singing “AMERICA”; Then there was a welcome for the ones that came that day. They were asked what state they were from; Then the folks from that state would cheer them; They were told about clean camps; Also they were asked to relate their experiences on way to Fla.; I never will forget when they asked Mr. Hizer to sing; he put on a lot of agony; had to get everything tuned up, then he started to sing “The Monkey's tail goes round & round”; There must have been a thousand verses all the same; some high, some low; He had a regular tune that he sang it in.
Mr. Hubert was a very busy man drilling Black Eyed Susans and making beads; I have some of the beads he drilled. Mr. Bird was kept busy making pine needle baskets. Mr. Hawk was busy training a ring tailed monkey that he caught on way to Fla.;
Mr. Brown would dress up every day and tell of the big game he had killed. Mr. Odair was busy with his ginger ale outfit. Mr. Clark was busy with his garden; He also had a lot of guavas; he sold them in the park for $.25 a peck; I bought a pk., took them to the tent; my wife was not there, so I hid them in the back of the bed; every thing went well until sometime in the night she got the smell of them; she got up, thinking a cat had gotten into the tent; It turned out alright; later she made guava jelly. We liked the guavas, also the jelly.
There were a lot more things happened; About the first part of March we started north; Nearly every town had a T.C.T. Camp and were taking in members; It seemed like every town was trying to see which could have the largest crowd; We stayed a week or two in Jacksonville; The camp was back of their Fair Ground, and the city had made a new prison. When we got there the city was cleaning it up; Trucks were grading and clearing; There were a lot of covered sheds, so we pitched our tents under them out of the rain. The mess hall was 40 or 50 ft. square; Camp had a park manager; Hall was scrubbed; neat and clean; Facilities: water, lights and plenty of toilet space; every thing going in a large scale. When we left, there were about 20 outfits; And the city was still fixing up the camp. The last night we were there, the city put on a dance and refreshments for the tourists and invited all to come back next year; also said they would like have a real camp for us next fall.
We had such a hard time coming down to Florida over the bad roads, that we decided to go home by the way of Washington, D.C.; although it was several hundred miles further, but I think it was well worth it; We followed what is practically No. 1; Going through the Carolinas, we saw a lot of folks picking holly leaves, of which they were making tea; The tea is still on the market by a large soup company; I am sure you have used it many times.
At Washington, D.C., we visited the main buildings; the tower and also the zoological gardens.
Went over Lincoln Highway; Going up Savage Mt. in low, the truck could hardly pull the load, so I stopped to see what was the matter; I had a hard job holding the truck; the ground looked level, but it was a side hill; When we got to the top, there was just enough room to balance the truck; We got just a short distance down the slope, when we burned out our brake in the transmission; I got stopped; while I was putting new ones in, the children walked down the road; then I saw a small cloud coming level with us, and when it struck the Mt. it just poured, and I never saw so much water fall in such a short time and the sun was still shining. One of the girls crawled in a culvert to get away from the rain, but in a few moments she was washed out and down the side of the mountain; We had some excitement, before we got dried out good, but no one got hurt.
We had fair roads from there to Columbus, Ohio; From where we headed north to Toledo, Ohio; They did not want to stop so we tried to make home. We got to the Aldoma Theatre, in Detroit at 3 o'clock in the morning; Had “busted” 5 casings; From Toledo home, we had worn out all of the tires which came with the car. The last to blow out were two at once; I got tires from a man which I knew; We drove into our yard as the sun was coming up.