#958 – Dick Bernard: An unexpected look at a trip through California , 1941.
Note Dec. 5, 2020: This blog consists of two parts, about the same trip. The link to the first part – the trip to California from ND – is at the end of the para below the Golden Gate postcard.
Numerous times this past year I’ve written about the ancestral farm in North Dakota. The business of sifting and sorting through over 100 years of pictures and written records takes place here at home, as I go through documents piece-by-piece.
Often there have been surprises.
Last night two postcards floated to the top of the pile, post-marked San Rafael and Eureka CA on July 22 and 23, 1941.
Here’s the first:
(click to enlarge)
The text was sparse, as one might expect. The writer was my mother: “Dear Pa and all. We left Long Beach this morning and are staying at a cabin in Greenfield CA. It is 323 miles today but we got a late start. The old man who owns these cabins worked around Lamoure [south central ND, Mom’s home area] in 88*. He came here from Montana. Don’t sound as tho we will get much sleep as we are on the main highway. Richard [me, one year old] is fine, sleeping already. Esther, Henry and Rich” Mom was 31 at the time; Dad was 32.
I long knew about this western trip, in fact I wrote about it a year ago here.
But this fragment – two penny post cards – helped to fill out the story from a contemporary perspective, rather than from someones recollections years later.
I looked up Greenfield. I already knew San Rafael, just on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge; and Eureka is up the coast a ways from San Rafael. Mapquest shows todays routes Long Beach-Greenfield-San Rafael-Eureka here, here and here. 1941 was pre-freeways of course. It would appear that most of their route ran more or less along what was then Highway 101 crossing the then-new Golden Gate Bridge and continuing north on Hwy 101 to Eureka.
They continued to Portland OR, where they visited folks who’d moved west from near Mom’s ND home, thence to Bremerton WA, thence east back to North Dakota.
The big surprise from the Postcard was that we apparently spent more time in California than my Dad had remembered. He had us leaving Long Beach on July 5. The San Rafael postcard was postmarked July 22 meaning, likely, that they were in Greenfield on July 20 and probably spent two more weeks in Long Beach than he had recalled.
The second postcard, with the Golden Gate Bridge (opened 1937), postmarked Eureka CA Jul 23, 1941, was to my Uncle Art, then 13 years old. It takes considerable patience to decipher it – long ago pencil on glossy paper with ages of wear doesn’t make for an easy task. Luckily, there aren’t many words. Here’s what I’ve divined so far: “Tuesday [July 22, 1941]. We went over this [the Bridge] yesterday morning but it was so foggy couldn’t see…the Redwoods…We are fine….”. The postcard itself was labeled “No 60 in UNION OIL COMPANY’S Natural Color Scenes of the West. Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101. This engineering wonder links San Francisco with the great California Redwood Empire. Unique in bridging the mouth of a major harbor, it has the longest single clear span in the world – 4200 feet.”
The front of the postcard written at Greenfield is entertaining, and I’ll let it speak for itself.
You’ll never know what you’ll find hidden in what you thought was “junk”….
The travelers, at right in the photo: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard, with Henry’s parents and brother, Frank, at Long Beach, July, 1941. (Click to enlarge)
* Lamoure was founded in 1882; North Dakota became a state in 1889.
from Shirley: Dick – thanks for the views of old post cards – 1941 – oh my. When I was growing up California seemed to me to be a “magical” place. I would hear conversations about
visits there – the long drive to get there – the Pacific Ocean – the orange groves – etc. Surely this was a place of excitement and mystery. My first trip there was in the late 50’s. I drove my VW to Long Beach – to be shipped to Hawaii where I was moving. A friend accompanied me – we drove across Montana into Washington and then down the road to Long Beach. My bubble burst – and California became a crowded place without color as it was so dry with very little greenery. LA was a vast “pleasure-land” and we did have fun there after shipping the car off on its journey. The Hollywood Bowl, tours of the homes of stars, Disneyland… yes – a lot of fun – but not the picture book in my mind. Thanks for sharing.
POSTNOTE Dec. 9, 2020: Another postcard was discovered (below) written July 25, 1941, , probably in Portland OR, where it was mailed. The note, from my mother to her parents in ND, says they visited and stayed overnight with family friends who now lived in Oregon. She said they hoped to be home the next Tuesday (July 29).