“You load sixteen tons and whaddya get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” The theme song of my childhood. Tennessee Ernie Ford was the extra traveler in our old station wagon in the 50’s. My sister Cindi and I would fight about “our space” in the wide back seat. If it got bad, one of us would toss ourselves over the seat and into the “way back.” We were free-range passengers. No seat belts required.
The radio was always blaring. My parents, Meg and Bill, filled the car with blue cigarette smoke and tunes that I will never forget. “Melancholy Baby” was “their” song and one of the first we learned. If we hit a spot with no radio reception then an acapella version of the Penn State fight song was the filler music. Frank Sinatra’s version of “Love and Marriage” was another song regular in our repertoire.
We only traveled to visit relatives, mostly my cousins. I remember one trip to visit them in Colorado, mostly because my mother had a panic attack when we crossed the Royal Gorge Bridge. Afraid of heights, we left her on one side as my dad drove us over and back just to say we did it.
My dad never wanted to stop for meals or potty breaks. Any meal in the car was peanut butter and jelly brought from home in used brown bags. Pee breaks were a stop on the side of the road, squatting in the weeds. Oh, how I hated that. I only remember one trip when we stopped and pulled into a little general store/Esso station somewhere in South Georgia for a break. We begged our parents to buy us bottles of Coke for 5 cents from the old freezer style vending machine. We were rarely allowed to get a soft drink and we were so tickled that I remember Cindi and I being struck with a case of the giggles. One of my favorite photos:
I come from a family of travelers on the Galt side. My grandparents took my mother and her brother on frequent visits to sites in Pennsylvania. Gettysburg became as familiar to them as their backyard. This is from a trip in 1938. Not sure why my grandfather always wore a tie. And a hat, for that matter.
Twice a year we traveled to visit the other grandparents, the Calverts, who lived on a farm in northwest Pennsylvania. It was a trip of several hours and the excitement didn’t start until we turned left onto the hilly road that led to the farm lane. There was one particular hill that my dad would speed up and then it seemed like the whole car floated down the other side. It gave us little “stomach thrills.” My sister Cindi, after several trips, decided that it was the sweater she was wearing that made her stomach lurch on that hill. She demanded we turn around and do it again without her sweater on to see if that worked. Of course, my dad, went slower this time time so she didn’t feel the affect. From then on, whenever we approached that hill she made sure to have her sweater off.
I have always been a person who likes to explore new places and have traveled all my life. The Galt blood runs strong in me. In the car, I often find my self humming “Sixteen Tons.”