During the eight trips on leave, temporary duties and permanent changes of station, driving the 2,430 miles to Jenkins, I would plan for weeks. I would make sure my car was in good shape, mark our route and the stops we would make on a U.S. map.
The towns that had a park, we would stop and eat and let the kids play while I got some rest. We always had a large ice chest with food and drinks in it.
In those days there were no freeways and no routes around cities. You had to drive through them.
Kansas City and St. Louis were the worst to drive through. Most speed limits were 50 miles per hour. I would plan our routes near military bases and shop in their BX and commissary.
At nights we would stop at rest stops that I had marked on my map. I did not drive all night. My wife and kids slept in the car for the night.
I would lie on a blanket on one of the tables and sleep.
If I had the money, we stopped at a motel. I’d tell the kids to hump down in their seats as they charged per person.
I would get a room with two beds. The kids had bedrolls and slept on the floor. The kids had games they played while I drove, and we all sang songs.
When we stopped for gas, the workmen saw a car filled with kids and the military decal on my car and they would sometimes give us a discount.
I’ll never forget this one time we stopped for food. I always tried to find a place that had specials for large families. When the lady asked what we wanted, my son Bruce said he’d have the biggest steak they had. Everyone cracked up.
One time we got into Kentucky and we stopped for breakfast at a country place, the lady knew we were a military family. She told us her son was in the service, and she wanted to fix us a good country meal.
She brought us biscuits, gravy, eggs and ham, and all the milk my kids wanted to drink. When we got ready to leave, she only charged us half price.
My kids still talk about the food we ate that morning.
My last trip home from California in a car I drove my 1955 Chevy two-door hardtop that was in mint condition. My wife, son Randy, daughter Tammy and I were the only ones in the car. All the other kids had left the nest.
When we passed by semi-trucks they would flash their lights and hit their air horns. I would hit my Model A horn that you could hear for a mile away.
This was one of our best trips. I was retired from the military and was making good money as manager of a print shop. We had all the time we wanted on this trip.
We stayed in the best motels, and ate what we wanted when we wanted. We were living “high on the hog” as my late father used to say.
My last trip to Jenkins was in 1977 for my 50th high school reunion. I love those mountains and really miss them.
I have many friends and kinfolk in that part of the country. The stories I write for The Mountain Eagle help them to keep in touch with me.
When I talk to my cousins back there and they tell me about all the rain they are getting, I only wish we were getting some. I don’t recall the last time it rained here.
I want to thank all veterans for their service.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.