Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Going To Yellowstone (1919) by Lila Tyler
In 1919, my husband's grandfather's family drove to Yellowstone in Model T Fords. Merle Adams was twelve when they made the trip. His cousin, Lila Phillips, was 17. I recently found the story Lila wrote about the trip that she titled, "My Most Memorable Trip." She must have submitted it to a magazine or newspaper because the manuscript has a notation of "$3.00" at the top and "photo returned." The photos are from Merle Adam's photo album.
One hot morning in August 1919, two model T Fords, containing 13 people, camping gear, food, and extra car parts, such as brake linings, and connecting rods left the little town of Elbert [Colorado] for a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Being farm people, vacations were almost unknown, so imagine the excitement after weeks of preparation of starting out on my most memorable trip. My parents, Ella and Melvin Phillips with three teenagers occupied one car while my uncle and aunt, Sharold and Ethel Adams with three teenagers and two younger boys were in the other car.
In those days you didn't just pick up your sleeping bag and drive off. We rolled up bed mattresses (two full size and one single for our family), tents, bedding, pillows, towels, wash cloths, dish towels, dishes (paper was unheard of), cooking utensils, gasoline stove, food and clothing. Anything you might need for such a trip (including fishing rods) for a month you took along. What courage our parents must of had to start on such a jaunt. We also had cans of gas, oil and water. Of course there were small country stores where we could buy some supplies. I can't remember the price of gas but it was probably around 8-10 cents a gallon. Since Cheyenne Frontier Days was that week, they decided to make that our first stop. We arrived the night before the big parade, pitched our tents at the camp ground on the outskirts of the city. The next morning eight anxious kids could hardly wait to get to the City Center for the parade, after all we had never seen real live Indians.
After a sweltering day we settled in camp and on the morrow we packed up and headed Northward for Yellowstone, over dry, dusty roads making travel very slow. At one place someone had stuck up a hand lettered sign - Speed Limit 70 Miles Per Hour. Papa, with his great sense of humor, sat up straight in the seat, gripped the steering wheel and stepped on the throttle saying, "We'll never make it, we'll never make it." What a good laugh we all had.
Each night it was a major atsk to make camp and prepare food and make beds for thirteen people.
We enjoyed Wyoming scenery very much, camping along clear pure water streams, even the Bad Lands, Hell's Half Acre, were something to view.
After about ten days or two weeks of slow going we arrived at Yellowstone with all its wonders. Roads were not paved, narrow and winding. I remember going up Mt. Washburn, which is high with narrow curves. We came upon a couple whose car was parked in the middle of the road, they were in panic. Actually, the man was on his knees petitioning God to get them off that terrible mountain. My Papa being a good Samaritan offered to drive for them to get them out of our way, and they gladly accepted. We often wondered how they made it. So my Mamma climbed behind the wheel of our car and we proceeded down the mountain.
On one mountain the brakes were wearing out and the emergency was in jeopardy, so many times the wheels had to be driven into the bank to break the speed.
We enjoyed the hot springs, especially Morning Glory Pool which was beautiful in color and depth. We were intrigued by the bears as long as they stayed their distance. One camp where were were, there were movie men wanting to get a bear in action. They had strung a rope between two trees and hung lucious looking ham and bacon on it and focused their camera ready to snap Mr. Bear when he got the meat. Everyone went to bed expecting to hear and see excitement during the night. Morning came, the hams still hanging untouched but the canned milk and other provisions left at the foot of the tree had been cleaned out, and no one heard a sound. Disappointment reigned.
We camped near Old Faithful and saw it shoot many times. Mamma had a small Brownie Camera and took many pictures which now are very faded but hope they can be printed.
We spent eight days in the park and walked over terraces and saw many things the average tourist never sees. Whenever possible, we camped along creeks or small streams. All had pure water there.
We were from dry land and never had the pleasure of fishing so we tried our luck with little result. My sister, Verna, and Cousin Merle caught a small trout probably three inches, they were so excited they rushed back to camp to show their catch.
We left the park via the Idaho gateway, seeing the rich farm lands and fruit orchards on into Utah. The old Ford had taken a beating and had to be overhauled for connecting rods and brake linings which our dads did themselves. (They could do anything.)
One day the two cars got separated, each thinking they were behind, traveled at top speed to catch up. My uncle decided it was time to camp so they did, and we came upon them. We kids just knew we would not see our cousins until we got home.
We got to Salt Lake City and were really broke, about twenty-six cents was all we could scrape up between us. Mamma gathered three or four of us kids and went to a a bank and truthfully told our plight and came out with the cash we needed for the remainder of the trip.
We toured the Mormon Square and attended the noon organ recital which was impressive. We drove out to Saltair and tried floating in the salt water. The first thing I did was to get "upset" and my head went under, if my daddy had not been close, I'm sure I would have strangled to death, guess that experience made me afraid of water so I never learned to swim well.
Our folks were getting weary with all the work and little play so we started homeward. At Vernal, Utah, more repairs had to be done on the cars before crossing the mountains.
When we got to Berthoud Pass it was so steep and rugged in places the old Fords had to have some help so we got out and pushed. Those curves were a far cry from today's paved roads.
In all, we were gone five weeks and each one was really glad to see Elbert County. Indeed, it was a memorable trip.