Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kathryn in America: Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Get Your Kicks on Route 66!*
That summer, together with Ida and Nestor Patana, we decided to make a trip to California. They had a large Chandler “touring car,” open sides with side-curtains (if necessary.) So, with all needed equipment packed into our cars we started off. The Muttinens (Miettinens?) had bought our furniture and remained in the apartment.

We were young and it was an adventure! They had a little girl, Florence, she was about 4 or 5 years old then. The cars were never out of sight from the other – so if help was needed it was there. We took in all the sights on the way, natural sights and as many free ones as possible, we had no extra money. The Patanas had a tent which they put up for the night at free camping grounds and we had a mattress and slept in our little coupe. We cooked outdoors and ate outdoors. Ida and Nestor had to have their potatoes every day – sometimes we’d cook them in a roadside ditch! We camped by creeks and once even in a cemetery! Nestor had a mandolin which he would strum in the evening. Those days the roads were still under construction – often we had to pick our own road across fields and riverbeds. Yellowstone Park, to us, was an awesome sight! And the Grand Canyon.

The roads were rough and dusty, tires had to be changed often, as they would wear out. Spare tires were carried then – many at a time – often outside of the cars. Those were the days when the “Oakies” were also on their way West – with all their worldly goods piled on top of their “jalopies.” I think we looked like them, too. Eventually, we got to Los Angeles. The men looked for work with not much success, as there was a surplus of labor. So, Ike started selling Fuller Brushes again – which he already knew how to do. And Nestor got some iron work in San Bernadino, Cal. He had the misfortune of falling on the job [and] luckily was not injured seriously. They were quite broke and wanted to come back to Waukegan, Ill. I did not want to stay behind, either. Ike perhaps would have stayed – but he also decided we’ll come back, too. We went then up the West Coast to Black Diamond, Wash. where Nestor had an old blind uncle who lived near the Columbia R[iver] We helped him with his haying and he took us fishing on the river, it was surprising how surefooted he was in spite of his blindness.
Picture of some Oakies heading West.
We stopped by small mountain streams several places on the way back, to fish and camp. The scenery was so beautiful and we didn’t try for any speed – the tires and roads were not made for that in those days. Then the first place we and the Patanas ever lost sight of one another occurred in N. Dakota. Something went wrong, I don’t remember what, with the engine of our coupe. The Patanas had been ahead and just then, not in sight. It was a hot, hot Sunday afternoon on a barren Dakota prairie, dusty and dry. I’ll never forget that was the longest hottest and dustiest Sunday afternoon both of us ever spent! Ike tried to hitch hike – no one would pick up a lone dusty young man and we kept waiting for the Patanas to turn back to see what had happened – but no. Finally, an old mad and a young boy stopped to give Ike a ride into Valley City, N.D. Ike sure found out why! He had to help the old man fix his old worn out tires a half dozen times – tho’ it was only about 18 miles to the town. I had to stay in the car and wait, as all our possessions were in the coupe. If I had the windows open I choked on the dust, and windows shut, I felt suffocated in the heat! But finally, when it was almost dark, the tow-truck came and hauled us to Valley City. We stayed in a hotel (for the first time on the whole trip) and the engine was repaired the next day. Then we finished the whole trip and drove towards Superior, tho’ I seem to remember we slept one night in the car yet, in the yard of a Co-op Store – I think it was Perham, Minn. The farmers were driving to the store already in the morning before we woke up!

So, we went to Altos in Allouege. (Ike’s sister) Soon, the Patanas drove in, too—greatly agitated as to what had become of us. They had turned back – took a side road into a small town off the “highway” – thinking we had to go there for some reason – when they got back to the main road, they again figured that now we had gone by. So, all was well, that ended well. Of course then we all went to Oulu. Ida Patana’s family was there and also ours. In those days the trip we had made was really considered something! Our families were all glad to see us back home. I think we stayed at Tikkanen's and helped with the haying for awhile.

*I named this chapter myself.

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