1977 - 1980


It was April and time to plan our next coast-to-coast trip.  When the good weather comes we are in the mood to travel.  It doesn’t take long to get the trailer ready and we are on our way.  We stopped at familiar campgrounds along the way.  A lot of new ones were being built with pools and other interesting features to entertain their guest.

We stopped to visit our friends the Ebys, who we had met at St. Mary’s when we were flooded out in 1975.  He showed us his oil wells and how they worked. They lived in Duncan, OK, in a mobile home with a lot of land around it.  We parked the trailer in their yard and spent the night there.  Before bedtime, there was a tornado warning.  They told us to leave the TV on and if the tornado was heading our way, the TV would blare out and wake us to get to shelter.  The tornado did not come.

The next morning, we left the Ebys and headed for Arkansas.  We had heard of a park there called the Crater of Diamonds and, that, for a price, the park let you dig for some.  We thought it would be fun to try so we signed up and got a pan and a spoon to dig with.  It would have been fun, but they had had a lot of rain and the ground was really muddy and I kept losing my boots.  We tried for a while and then gave up.  They did have a showcase that held some of the stones that were found them.  Many different kinds, besides the diamonds.  Anyway, we didn’t stay much longer, but it sure would have been fun on a sunny day and dry mud.

Our nest stop was at Farraday in Louisiana near the Mississippi River. It was just an ordinary park but was not level in several places.  This older man in his late 70’s, came with a very small trailer, pulled it into a spot and left just as it was.  He unhooked the trailer from the car and the trailer was so unleveled that the foot of the bed was higher than the head.  Everyone was asking him how could he sleep with the trailer that way.  He just said that whatever side was high that is where he puts his pillow.  He was the talk of the park.  Finally, the manager came out and saw what everyone was looking at and he went and got his tractor and set the trailer level for the old man.

We headed for Sarasota after that and stayed a month at SunN’Fun and visited with Pat and John.   Mom and Bill were living in their own mobile home in a nice park.  They seemed to be happy with their new location.

We then headed for Adams Landing again, for our annual visit with Irene and George.  While we were there, the Walkers got in touch with us and he offered Van a job with the new company that he just opened.  Van would be writing instructions for operating a Mine Sweep for the Saudi Arabian government.  They had purchased some ships and they needed the books to be about seventh grade level for the men to understand how to do operate the equipment.  Van agreed to work for Bob, but we had made plans for my Class Reunion, my 45th in Fall River.  So we continued on our way to Fall River and would come back so Van could work for Bob.

On our way North, we stopped at Myrtle Beach, SC.  After we settled in the campground, we decided it was so hot that we’d go for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  Even though the campground was on the shore, it was quite a walk to the water.  The water did not feel any different than the air, wasn’t refreshing at all and by the time we were back to the trailer, we were hotter than before.  Later, we found out that the ocean and air were the same temperature, 83°.  Our next stop was Ocracoke Island where we lived way back in 1945. Everything was so different, couldn’t find anything that reminded us of where we lived.  I guess, the hurricane that came after the men left, really did level the area.  (We had enjoyed our three months there.  It was a good time for us, even thought the war was on.)

We made the Reunion in plenty of time, and stayed about l0 days.  There was a very good turnout for this reunion.  Since they were having reunions every five years, the group was getting small each time.  Of course, everyone had changed quite a bit.  Some you could recognize and some you didn’t.  It was great to see old friends again.  Pop and the family were all well and doing okay.  Leo was still handling his business with Pop doing the paper work for him.  He said he kept busy.  He used to work for Leary Press, which is on Second Street and an attachment to the house that Lizzie Borden lived in and where her stepmother and father were killed.  The story of Lizzie is still alive today on TV. They say that the house is a Bed and Breakfast place now.

Now we are on our way South again.  Van was anxious to hear all that he will have to do and where we will make arrangements to live.  W cannot live at Adams Landing, as that is at least 60 miles away.  We stopped at Irene and George’s on the way back to Charleston and then stayed at the Charleston KOA for a month until we decided just what to do.  Van started his job in a office building in Charleston.  It wasn’t too bad living in the trailer except that there wasn’t a comfortable place to sit.  We talked about moving to a mobile home park and started to look around.  Bob and Ethel said that there was one near where they lived and checked on it.  It was, if I remember right, about 8 feet wide, but had a nice kitchen area and living room.  It was fully furnished and had 2 bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with a single bed and a roomy bathroom.  They allowed us to park our trailer along side it, which helped, since we wouldn’t have to store it somewhere.  We also decided to get a car for me to drive, if needed and Van wouldn’t have to drive the truck to work every day.

I have to admit that it was kind of lonely until I met one of the neighbors.  She had a little girl and did crafts, but her husband changed jobs and they moved.  Van couldn’t under stand why I didn’t read books more.  And after thinking about it, I remembered that my father thought we (my mother or I) were being lazy if we spent time reading.  Auntie, Irene’s mother, read all the time. That is when we were neighbors when I was little.  She would read all day and a hour before her husband came home, she’d rush around and clean up the house.  I guess that was where Pop got his “lazy” idea from.  My mother used to hide the magazines from my father.  He said that the newspapers and schoolbooks were okay, but no reading for pleasure.  Van picked up a paperback that everyone was reading at the time, and I got hooked on reading and was enjoying it. After that I was never lonely.

Van liked his job writing the manuals for the minesweepers for the Saudi Arabians.  The ships were being built in Wisconsin and he had to fly up there one winter and he said that it was very cold and lots of snow and the pilot had to fly low over the landing strip to scare the deer off the runway. The ships were not finished, but he brought back a lot of information.  Several months later, the men from the office and Saudi sailors would go to Wisconsin and bring the ships back down the St. Lawrence River and Atlantic Ocean to Norfolk, VA.  But now, he came back to Charleston and was busy writing the books.

We stayed at the mobile park for several more months, my cousin Mary Hogan and husband John came to visit.  She was a cousin on my Danish grandmother’s side and Aunt Maggie was her sister and Mary’s mother.  They always kept in touch with our family.  While visiting us, she told me that we had a cousin living nearby and we looked her up. We found Harleyville, SC and met Grace and Fred Dantzler.  We had a nice visit, but at the time, I had no interest in doing a family history and didn’t take any notes.

The office group would soon be finish with the book making and were going to be transferred to Norfolk VA.  We would be living in a regular campground there, so we agreed that a bigger trailer would be necessary.  We had one ordered and delivered to Sumter, SC.  We had no problem selling our Ideal, but we sure had a job unloading all our things and groceries. Our eighth month stay in Charleston was over and we were ready to leave when whenever we got the word from the company. 

When the time arrived to leave Charleston, Van would pull the trailer with the truck and I would follow with the car.  We would have the CB radio to communicate to each other.  It worked out okay until we hit this one town.  He got all the green lights and I caught all the red.  I really got out of his sight, and he called me on the CB radio and I was so busy looking for him, I forgot that I had to pick up the mike to answer.  I finally did and he had pulled over to the side of the road and waited until I was in sight and went ahead again.  That was the only problem we had all the way to Virginia.

We were heading for a campground named Dismal Swamp in Chesapeake, VA The name made us wonder about mosquitoes and other bugs.  But the Swamp was just the opposite.  We were told that the sailing ships used to collect that water for drinking.  They would fill their barrels for every trip. Tannic acid in the water was safe to drink, but bugs couldn’t live in it. We also heard that was the area that George Washington did a lot of surveying.  We took a boat ride on the lake with an old fisherman and he had lots of tales to tell.

The Walkers RV was parked right next to ours, so Ethel and I went everywhere together.  She drove her Mustang and I gave directions.  She said she always got lost in that area and I could see why.  One freeway that goes west sends you east to get west.  I had a good map to follow and we did okay.  We arrived there in March and that was too soon to use the pool.  It was a half-mile to the mailbox, so we had a good daily walk.  We all wanted telephones and the boss needed to have one.  When we inquired about phones, the Phone Company decided to put phones in all the sites.  So we had a week of construction.  Time went by very quickly and the election for President was in November.   Sometime in October, Dorrie phoned and wanted to know if I could go to Germany and stay with her.  Michael was told that he had to go to a spa and have a long overdue checkup and she didn’t like the idea of being alone with the two children.  Carsten was five and Regina had just turned three. Van said that it was okay with him, he could manage okay.  So off, I went to Germany, by myself for the first time. It was a lot colder there, but so was the Norfolk area and I had warm clothes to take.  I spent most of my time over there watching the kids.  Carsten was very active youngster and a big tease to Regina.  Dorrie was so pleased that she didn’t have to take the youngsters when she went shopping and doing the laundry in the basement of the apartment house.  One thing I do remember, she received her absentee ballot in the mail and she was trying to fill it out.  The only person on the ballot that she knew was the President.  She knew nothing about all the other candidates.  She decided then that she wouldn’t bother voting any more.  It was a big package so she could save the government some money.

Van in the dismal Swamp camp in winter

While I was there, she wanted me to show her how to make an apple pie.  The apples she bought were huge, she only needed three.  The Germans don’t make pies and she makes them when she wants something special.   The month went fast and it was fun.  When Michael returned from the spa, I came back to Norfolk in plenty of time for Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays.  We found out that the training was cancelled for two weeks at Christmas time and all the workers were going home for Christmas.  So we would too.  Carl was taking care of the house at that time, so there was no problem where we would stay.  The Walkers went back to Tucson to be with their family.  Four of their children lived in that area.

It felt good to be home again where it was nice and warm. Van said that when I was in Germany, Norfolk had a big snowstorm and he took pictures for me to see.  Norfolk usually doesn’t get such storms, and the natives seem to enjoy them.

We visited all our camping friends, but the time flew by and it was time to go back to Virginia.  They had a big storm in Cleveland where we were to change planes and no planes were flying.  They finally put everyone up in a hotel.  That is when I learned what to pack in your take-on luggage.  We didn’t have any of the things that we needed and it was too late at night to buy any.  I really learned a lesson that night, now I’m pretty fussy what I carry on the plane.

Everyone arrived back to Norfolk okay and all had enjoyed their Christmas.  But it was back to work time.  It would be three more months before the training would be completed.  The Saudis are very wealthy people and Van was receiving all kinds of offers to work in Arabia.  One offer was for some of the men to navigate the ships to Arabia for them, but the powers that be said no to that.  They had received the training and they had to bring the ships home themselves, “showing the flag” on the way.  They must have made the trip okay since we never heard any more about them.  No double that they shipped all the expensive cars that they had bought, to Saudi Arabia.  They broke all the road rules here in the states that they would have to follow back home.

We all left the Dismal Swamp Campground about the same time. Wishing everyone good luck with their next adventure, we headed south to Irene and George’s, then to Sarasota and then home.  We stopped for one night only on the trip West until we hit Selma, AL.  When we were leaving the campground, I looked back and could see that we were leaving a trail of pipes.  Van got out and checked and found that the holding tank got caught on something pulling out of the spot.  He picked up all the pipes and now we had to decide what to do.

Our next stop was Meridian MS and we found a repair place right off the highway.  They couldn’t fix it, but would do a temporary repair job. They told us where to go in Waco, TX for help.  We found a campground, then went out for dinner.  The manager was pacing back and forth and kept looking out at the rain.  She finally came to our table and explained what was going on.  She said that they just reopened the restaurant after being flooded and closed from the last storm.  She said the water had passed the window ledge and everything was ruined.  We wished her luck when we left.  The next morning when we drove by to get on the highway, we saw that the repair place and the restaurant were flooded again.  We kept driving until we were out of the rain, and then looked for a campground.


The next day was sunny and we reached Waco and found the plant that makes holding tanks, but they don’t install them.  The only place he knew was 40 miles away. So we bought a tank and we were on our way.  We found the repair place okay and he started to work on it right away.  He soon found out that we had the wrong tank for the trailer, so we took the tank and the number of the tank size we needed and made the trip back to Waco and back.  Cost $25.00 for the tank and $89.00 for the installation.


 When the work on the trailer was finished, we were ready and anxious to get home again.  It seemed that we were away a long time, but Van had enjoyed being busy and working again and wondered if he would go back to work again in California. The company that Bob Walker had worked for on the East Coast also had an outlet in San Diego.  Time would tell after he arrived home and relaxed awhile if he felt like going back to work again.  Right now, we were slowing making our way home and it would take a week or more to get there. 


We arrived home April 1979.  This was usually the time we started our trip to the East Coast, but we did it in reverse this year.  It was good to be home.  Carl was living in the house, but after we were home awhile, he decided to go live with three of his friends.  That was okay with us.  He did a good job taking care of the house.  We started going camping with friends again.


Then one day, Van received a phone call from one of the men he had worked with in Charleston.  Asked him if he was interested in coming back to work.  Said that he wasn’t sure, but he would check it out.  After his meeting, he told me that he thought he would go back to work for the company.  If he got bored or tired, he could quit, but it would give him something to do.


We still went camping every two weeks and enjoying it.  Ira Bradley was in the process of finding out all the information about a trip to Mexico.  You drive your RV on a railroad car and live in it while it traveled through the mountains and fields of Mexico.  It sounded so interesting that seventeen of the club members signed up for it.  Later we found out that it was called The Piggy Back Caravan.  It took several weeks before the arrangements could be made, but everyone was excited to hear all about the trip.


In the meantime, Van went to work every day as a tech writer for Northrop, and enjoyed doing it and I was busy with my sewing projects.  Carl, in the meantime, had a steady girl friend, Charlene, whom he wanted us to meet.  Things are different from the forties when I grew up and now the eighties.  They forget about marriage and just live together, which we oldsters don’t approve, but no one listens to us anymore.  So on June 7, l980, they had a beautiful baby boy, named Cody Ryan.  They had a very nice apartment and were doing okay until the housing told them to get rid of their dog.  Carl had had the dog for years and he told them he couldn’t get rid of him.  So he was evicted.  They didn’t tell us, but just by chance, we went to visit them just after they had packed everything in their van.  They didn’t know where they were going, so they ended up with us in the guestroom.  Cody was four months old then.  Carl hurt his foot at work that September and we finally received word that our Mexico trip would be in January.  So we told the kids they could stay until we came back, but that they ought to look for a place in the meantime.



updated: 20.11.2011