I remember collecting vials of sand from different States to give to a friend in Seward whose name was Sandy. In the summer of 1971 and I met this neat gal my age at the Seward swimming pool. As a timid guy I had found something wonderful. Since I went to the pool every day it was a great to see her. Two weeks later my folks were on the road to who-knows-where. Bad timing as far as I was concerned. Though she was gracious to receive the sand gifts, she eventually got
One aspect of the trip was loneliness. Sure, I saw my classmates in Seward every two and a half months, when one of the loops around the country had ended. My brother and I were around grownups and kids at Dad's workshops and that did get us used to being in large groups. But there were no friendships to form.
Riding in the back of the mobile home, doing my reading assignments on the road, reading about each state from the encyclopedia Britannica that Mom brought with us (required by her), well, we were isolated.
I know Mom typed letters. But just recently I got to read some of what she composed. She wrote to the tour secretary, her friend, Virginia Grabarkewitz, and to Glenn O Kraft, who was the AAL-CTC Tour Manager. Here is one thing she wrote:
"We seem to schedule time for laundry, advancing phoning, homework ...but we probably need some kind of looseness for inner communication. Karl said he didn't know how to talk to kids his own age, and cited an example. Pinned to the wall was my note to myself: 'Talk to Karl and Paul about CONVERSATION.' The reminder was simply because I knew it was a thing that needed covering soon ...and we didn't get around to it." (Nov.12, 1971, Appleton, Wisconsin)
American literature and American history was the homework I had to turn in. Reading about civil rights while we drove thru the deep South. Enjoying the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe when we traveled thru the New England states.
Two minutes. Over break we washed and cleaned out our house-on-wheels. On the side was a blue butterfly and the words "Artist At Large to the Church." I didn't know it then, but my dad was 49 years old. I was 16 and my brother was 14. I was a junior at Concordia High School in Seward.
"I keep spotting the Appalachian Trail on all these maps, and maybe someday Paul and I may try it... all 2000 miles of hiking, Maine to Georgia. Think we should start north? or south?" (pg.2, October 13, 1971, Stanford, Connecticut)
"Paul's idea of excitement was to walk down the Washington Monument. They don't allow anyone to walk UP anymore. "Down" sounds easy... but it was a mistake. A mistake because we did it in the morning and by the time we were on the tour of the capitol, we were dragging badly." (October 13, 1971, to Gordon)
"And the fall foliage scene, we had our fill. On that I cannot quibble. Because that was all around and ever new as we dashed back and forth. You'd need a detail map to realize how much back and forth there really was. We have a very very long list of what we hope to return to. Even today, I kept thinking, well, we've seen all the possible color combinations... nothing more is possible and then we'd round another corner." (pg.2, October 13, 1971, Stanford)
Photos courtesy of Marxhausen Estate, Seward, Nebraska.