1939 Travel Diary of John Winsloe


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Submitted by Alice Rose -

In the fall of 1939 my grandfather, John Winsloe of Guernsey Cove, PEI, met his daughter Amelia (Minnie) Winsloe in Stoneham, Massachusetts where she lived and worked as a nurse. This is the travel diary of the road trip of almost ten thousand miles they took to California and back in approximately five weeks. His notes and observations are written in the context of Germany having invaded Poland in September; two World Fairs happening in the USA (New York City and another in San Francisco); and the 'Great Depression'. John Winsloe was eighty-one years old at the time of this journey.

Alice Rose


October 2nd 1939

I left home for Boston and bought a ticket in Charlottetown for $38.00 and some 30 odd cents. I did not remain in town for the night but took the evening train for the west and stayed in Borden at the Abegweit Hotel for the night.

October 3rd 1939

I paid my bill at the hotel in the morning and walked down and aboard the SS Charlottetown. We had a nice crossing to the New Brunswick side of the Strait and then took the train for Boston.

Going through New Brunswick there are many splendid sights of land and water; and the foliage in places was very pleasing to those who enjoy the many colours of the trees along the way in the autumn, when nature does the painting.

October 4th 1939

Minnie met me in or just outside of Boston.

October 6th 1939

Hitler made a long talk over the radio early in the morning, about six o’clock. He spoke for an hour or more, and I would say that it was a queer speech for peace, when there was so much of defiance in it and frightfulness. He spoke in German and there was a person who explained as Hitler spoke.

October 13th 1939, Stoneham.

I think, so far as I can see that it is about sunset at 5 o’clock P.M. Tomorrow we expect to start on our trip and may go to New York.

October 14th 1939

The number of miles on the car when we start on our trip at 2:28 P.M. Saturday evening was 22,7773

We traveled until late in the night and came to Waterbury and still continued driving until about eleven at night, I guess, making it 180 miles from where we started. At this stage we are at a nice place out in the country. It was well lighted and, I judge, we were glad to be there for $1.25 for each room, or $3.75 for the three

October 15th 1939

There was a fine extensive view from where we stayed last night and it seemed to me that we were on the edge of a great big hole or valley.

Today 15th we had our breakfast in Danbury, and it was surely good. Later in the day we came to New York and had our dinner there in one of those big restaurants and it was as good a dinner as in other years. Tonight we are staying in Yonkers, and I think will have a meal of Minnie’s making.

Tuesday left Yonkers after staying two nights at our sleeping apartments. We went to the World’s Fair in New York City on Monday 16th of October and today Tuesday 17th start for the west. The day was cool enough and I saw a child or two going along in bare legs.

We are now in New Jersey after coming over the George Washington Bridge. We drove along in this state for quite a distance and about noon crossed the river into Pennsylvania.

Speed limit is 50 miles. Advice along the way "Better to creep than crash in Pennsylvania Mountains". One of the longest hills we, or I, ever saw was in the Pennsylvania coal-mining region and later we were driving along the Susquehanna River and the high banks clothed with trees in their beauty. We passed through a little town called Tonawanda and later we came into a little town called Troy, a nice, small town in the hills of this state. The mountains are not very high and in some places farming is carried in the valley. Hens and cows are plentiful with some pigs and sheep.

We are staying for the night in Mansfield Pennsylvania last night, a very nice place.

October 18th 1939

The hills, mountains and valleys of Pennsylvania should be seen to get a right estimate of their great beauty and extent. Two days ago we saw in New York the world’s show in works of art. Today we see the works of nature and some of its grandeur. The both are great and wonderful to be seen.

Lots of oil pumps at work in this part of Pennsylvania as we pass and on our way we saw a small deer by the side of the road and Minnie tried to feed him but he did not seem to like the food she gave him. We had our dinner in Warren, Pennsylvania just on the Allegheny River. Cows are out in many fields feeding in the great numbers in this state. It is fine weather for man or beast these few days. The sun is out and we are making haste "westward ho". The mountains are of many colours like Joseph’s coat.

We have crossed into Ohio this evening about 5 o’clock. We traveled 356 miles today.

October 19th 1939

We are in the large city of Cleveland, Ohio this morning and expect to leave after we have breakfast or we may go on and take our breakfast. It has been a beautiful state so far and very level; like prairie country but much more beautiful and much of it given to growing corn.

October 19th 1939

Fine but very windy today. Ohio has sheep, cows, hens, geese and pigs as we journey along. Just leaving Ohio and entering Indiana. Made 321 miles today.

October 20th

We are in Illinois now and not far from Chicago, the 2nd or 3rd largest city in the United States of America. It has been very smoky there today. Much like a fog but we got through it. While there we drove around the Lake Michigan and saw some very fine buildings. After I saw the time in Chicago I set my watch just about one hour back. We are leaving Chicago today

In Illinois there were many things to interest the farmer: pigs, cows, sheep and white hens in abundance. It seems white hens are more plentiful than any other kind in the northern states that we go through, I reckon watching as we go. Just crossed the Mississippi River and came into Iowa and into the city of Davenport. We traveled today 261 miles

October 21st Saturday 1939

We stayed in Iowa last night at Wilson Junction and had splendid accommodation. Iowa is a very fine farming country and seems to have everything in the farming line. Hens, pigs, sheep, some geese and ducks but no foxes or fox pens to be seen in Iowa, and very few in any of the Western States-no turkeys either worthwhile mentioning. We only saw a very small part of each state and the things we did not see might have been somewhere.

Des Moines, the capital of Iowa. We went around to see it. Corn in almost every Western State in great abundance; don’t forget that fact and that the cows were in the corn and the pigs walk over the land with cows, horses or sheep for companions and seem to feed on the same pasture. No oats, wheat or potatoes seen along here but corn, corn and more corn and the animals I have mentioned.

Alfalfa, a clover like plant of the bean family, used as forage in Europe and the USA grows out here and the pigs eat it with cows and horses; and they all move about the field and graze and root too if they feel that way. Just passing through Council Bluffs and just crossing the Missouri River Bridge. We are now in Nebraska State and Omaha City. We were just seeing Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys and there were plenty of them around.

October 22nd Sunday

Nebraska on our line of travel is an agricultural country very similar to the other states we have gone through. Today is very fine and we are going to church. We went to church and the preacher said he was going to write me a letter. Very level country and many stacks of hay or alfalfa or some other products I do not know.

We are going over the Lincoln Highway. Nebraska is an agricultural state and we have gone 271 miles today.

October 23rd Monday 1939

North Platte had our breakfast here and stayed all night. Still in Nebraska. This is said to be Buffalo Bill’s town. Very fine morning and we are off for Denver, Colorado, tonight if we can make it.

Truck moving in Nebraska with part of the family behind on the truck and a rope or two passed in front of them to keep them on, I suppose. A regular bundle of confusion to look at from behind.

We are nearly through this State and the houses are few and far between. We have been in Colorado about one minute. We are not sorry to leave the state of Nebraska for a day night. We had a flat time on our way to Denver. There is a tree in this country called eucalyptus that sheds its coat once a year.

October 23, 1939

We saw cattle yard and cattle in it, by hundreds I suppose. Colorado pretty flat as yet. Great lots of sugar beets or mangles. Men are busy burning along the railroad track the grass and weeds, which grows so plentifully. Sugar beets yield from 16 to 22 per cent sugar. The western part of Colorado much improved from the enormous amount of sugar made.

It looks stormy in the Rockies as we approach they do not seem far away, just across the valley we are going along in a southerly way they are on the north side of this valley. Tonight we are in Denver, Colorado in fine apartments.

October 24, 1939

We had our breakfast in Denver City and stayed in Denver City on the night of October 23rd. On our way to California we went over one mountain 10,500 feet high.

Today we had engine trouble in the Rockies, but a Good Samaritan who gave us good advice, which helped to cheer us up and gave us new courage, overtook us. We are just west of the Rockies tonight and have a very good cabin with carpet, three beds, heat and a toilet.

We are still in Colorado and are coming near the border. I think the mountains are not so high as the ones we came through yesterday and no snow is to be seen like yesterday in the Rockies, where the young ladies began to cover each other with snow.

October 25th, 1939

As we were driving along this morning there was a drove of sheep in our way. Minnie asked the man in charge of them how many there were in the drove that held us up and was told 2,500. Before I was ready to write there was another larger drove of 3,200 we were told by those who drove them along. The sheep delayed us some for they just completely filled the road. The last part of Colorado not very good hills and mountains.

Just crossed the border and are in Utah and had dinner here at Gipson Hotel. We just came to another flock of sheep. I would say there were as many in it as in the other two flocks that would be more than 5,000 in this flock or 10,000 so far. Elevation of the mountains here 6,000 feet. Ran into a big windstorm here-dust storm one may call it.

The name of these birds we were seeing and did not know is ‘magpie’. They have a white streak on wings or across the back it seems. Elevation in mountains here 6,000 feet

We just arrived at Salt Lake City at about 7:10 o’clock at night and it is raining. In Salt Lake City today and were in the Temple or some great building and saw a picture of Brigham Young, the Mormon, and we bought some cards.

October 26th 1939 Thursday

We are in Salt Lake City and went up to see the capital, a beautiful building as all the others are around here. We stayed here all night in the city.

We have just passed the salt industry in Utah where the water is let over a flat place and shut off. Then the sun dries it and we saw the salt piled in great long stretches. The lake I heard was likely to be 80 miles and 30 wide. I saw the lake and it looked big to me. The salt industry is kept up, I suppose by this large lake and the mountains and other favourable conditions surrounding it.

We saw again this morning, I suppose, 4000 sheep going along the mountain bottom near this salt lake.

October 26th 1939

We are crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert; ninety-one miles across. The desert looks like snow in winter and it is salt. Minnie got out, got some and pronounced it salt. I counted more than twenty tires thrown away. I think I might have counted 100 if I had begun in time on this 91-mile drive. And looking on it coming along it would reflect the mountains and telephone poles as we came across.

October 27th Friday 1939

We are now in Nevada and the land elevation is 4,400 on the river bottom. As we drove along this morning, we saw people sleeping by the wayside almost in the trench, covered up. A lot of mountains in this state but we go mostly in the valley or at the foot of the mountains. We had enough mountain climbing in the Rockies.

We slept these two nights in what is called a court. Had our dinner in Reno, Nevada and just entered California a few minutes ago. They are examining our baggage to see we do not carry weeds from other states. Elevation of 7,000 feet on this stop. We are seeing some high mountains in California since we entered and I notice the soil is quite red where we are now. We saw the rattlesnakes and the man in charge told us that they eat only twice a year; once when they go to sleep for the winter and once when they come out in the spring. Their food is mice and rats. They do not fight with one another.

Saturday October 28th

We stayed in Sacramento, California last night in splendid apartments. We just saw the capital building and a beautiful row of palm trees in this city of California with many motels. Driving through a beautiful country; very much like as if it once were prairie country. This was between Sacramento and San Francisco. Mont Vista. Just passed Cherry Glen.

Great flocks of sheep in California; thousand on one farm I would judge from what I saw.

So far on our travels in California, it seems to me that the mountains are much smoother than many of the other states. The rocks do not crop out of the mountainside so much but are mostly smooth.

October 28th Saturday 1939

We have been in Berkley and Oakland, California. We crossed over on a long bridge and had our dinner in San Francisco, also our supper. We crossed over to San Francisco on the Oakland Bridge and went to the Fair, which was about to end that day. It was a great affair held on Treasure Island, which had been built by man large enough for the occasion and the hundreds and hundreds of people.

October 29th Sunday 1939

We saw Leland Stanford University today. While there we went to Presbyterian Church and heard the minister speak and sing and he did both very well, I thought. Some politics in it. Arrived at Los Gatos today and saw Mrs. Jones and her daughter.

October 30th 1939

‘A strange bird is the pelican; his bill can hold more than his belly can’

Carmel Beach. We came here today and saw some wonderful sights of birds and men as well as beach and birds and one man in those waves. Tremendous quantities of floating seaweed as we drive around the coast of California.

We are on our way home today and have chosen the coastal road. It may be longer and rougher but it suits us. The waves of the Pacific are rolling in today on the sand of the beach. The waves are breaking and looking green and nice, and not as red as the waves at home. This is a very hard and rocky coast, and in some places frightsome, when one looks down and sees rocks and waves beneath waiting to receive you. I suppose we came the coast road two or three hundreds of miles when we could be on it and that was not always. The Coast road we have just come is about 83 miles long over and cost $10,000,000.00, so I have been told.

We are just passing through Santa Maria California. One place "Go" and "Stop" told the sign of red and green

October 31st Tuesday 1939

We are in Santa Barbara this morning, one of the most beautiful cities I ever saw. The morning is not very good for sight seeing; it is somewhat foggy but clearing I hope. There is a beautiful lake near here just sprinkled with birds, ducks etc and a beautiful little island in it, and very lovely surroundings. I think it may be a park.

We are down along the coast today and see many, many birds on the shore, if it were a sand cove. Birds that resemble our curlew very much and very many of them. The day is fine but foggy. We have left Santa Barbara behind and entering Ventura.

Minnie saw a pretty tree with lovely flowers by the wayside called eucalyptus. We got the name from a man who was working at the gas station. He said the peeled trees would soon be green again and that the loss of the bark would not kill them. They shed their bark.

We are now in Santa Monica near or on the beach. We had our dinner at Santa Monica-halibut. Here are the palm trees in abundance. Now in Hollywood, a nice clean looking place. We would expect that so many ladies there. This is the case with the towns along the coast; most of them are looking white and clean.

We are in Los Angeles today and later in Pasadena. It seems we are going through hundreds of acres of vineyards. Last night we stayed in a cabin and are staying tonight in one also.

November 1st Wednesday 1939

We, or I, expect to get through California today. Breakfast in cabin. I heard that the temperature yesterday or day before was 99 degrees. Just visited a date palm garden with lovely dates still growing on the trees; there was a man picking them on some construction, which I did not go to see.

We are still in California. In that same place there were large grapefruit also growing and getting ripe. We have just passed a large date palm garden of the largest kind of date palm trees that we have seen anywhere in California.

Just entered Arizona. Crossed the Colorado River and left town of Blythe, and had our dinner here. California is a very fruitful country, as most people know and a mountainous country as well. Met about five cowboys in Arizona driving cows riding horses and had an auto there also.

November 2nd 1939

We are off for the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Arizona has many mountains as well as most of the western states. Going through Desert Valley in Arizona is a tremendous height 4877 feet, here a fright to climb. The land in this state, or in parts of it, is at an elevation of two to five thousand feet. 7000 feet where we stood at the Grand Canyon Arizona Lipan Point elevation 7400

Friday November 3rd 1939

We stayed at Winslow last night in a good cabin. We had our cooking utensils in part and had supper and breakfast at Winslow. We are surrounded by desert before and after coming here. We are now at the Painted Desert and there is a little cabin here at the look off. To my mind this desert is a lot more beautiful as we turn east and it is not painted with this red soil. But a growth of green of great extent and looked beautiful in the sunshine.

We are now in the state of New Mexico and saw where the cliff dwellers lived. So far this state does not give any evidence of agricultural success. It may be one of the mining states. It is a lovely day and a nice long and level road ahead

The people here seem to be a mixture of white, coloured, Indians and Mexicans. Speed limit in New Mexico was 55 miles where we traveled and I saw that Minnie went the limit. We have not been troubled much in New Mexico going through mountains for the road is nice and level and keeps running through the lowland. Just passed an Indian fireside; all sitting around the fire.

November 3rd 1939

We are among beautiful trees in New Mexico, which helps its appearance greatly.

November 4th 1939

This morning still in New Mexico, and there were lots of ducks in the water, as tame as our hens; and did not seem to mind the car in any way, but just kept on about their business whatever that was and did not fly up. Great deal of mirage one would be almost sure of great lots of water in the valleys and still, if one went for a drink, not a drop. In this case in New Mexico there was a broad valley of green trees, which looked exactly like water, which proved to be a desert. I was asked once or twice, "Do you see the water?" I replied, "I see something". I had too much of this mirage stuff to be fooled any longer.

It is 4,200 feet in altitude above sea level in New Mexico. We crossed the Rio Grande today and are now in Texas at El Paso, 3,500 feet elevation. It is some city. Then we went into Mexico-Old Mexico. There was a small tax but the trip was worth it. There was a difference in the people in look and language. I did not understand what was said and one after another tried to sell us something. We had our dinner at El Paso.

Took our breakfast in cabin in Texas and went to church and the meeting was not just in the same order as at home. The minister preached from the text "What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?"

We have just crossed over that fine bridge in Texas where so much can be seen: the Rio Grande and Mexico. As we go along in Texas, one cannot see many houses or people. One may look and have an extensive view and see neither house nor man. Stayed in a cabin in Texas and took supper and breakfast in it. Minnie chief cook always.

November 6th 1939 Monday

Leaving the cabin in Del Rio this morning. The elevation is as much as 4,000 feet in Texas. The scene has changed very much. We begin to see where people live once more and where farms have been cultivated in Texas. Much flat land in eastern part and also in the south of this state, and much more desirable to live in, I should judge, than the western part. Coming to San Antonio, a mixture of people in the city. In this city we went to the zoo and saw a wonderful selection much better than in Boston or Providence, I think. After leaving the zoo we went driving toward the end of this the largest state in the union.

Where we have been driving a good part of the first day we entered, the whole of the second day and I think the best part of the third; so we will be glad to get into Louisiana. Then we tried to get a place to stay for the night. We did not get a place easily on this occasion and had to drive on for fifty more miles before we got a place to stay. I said to the man "You are a big man" and he said, "That does not hurt me any". I asked him "How much do you weigh?" and he said, "Two hundred and seventy four or five, I think"

Today we are in Texas yet hoping to get into Louisiana by dinnertime. Call the large farms in Texas ‘plantations’ but out west ‘ranches’. Passed over a great bridge with a Welcome to Galveston sign, one of the largest kinds. May be two miles or more.

Tuesday going through Galveston City. From here we crossed on a ferryboat some miles. Texas yet and I do not know when it will end. I think we have gone more than 500 miles in Texas now. Still in Texas at 3 o’clock. The best part of the third day as I said some time ago. Just crossed the Sabine River and now in Louisiana.

Wednesday November 8th.

We passed over a very long bridge across a river in Louisiana on the Mississippi for Baton Rouge. Saw the beautiful state capital; crossed on the ferry. We were up to the capital and had our dinner there and looked over this beautiful building of polished marble. Hughie Long it seems built this great structure. His picture is in it; very good-looking man but he was killed by another man. I asked what was done to the man who killed him. He replied "Put fifty seven bullets in him".

I never saw such a cemetery in my life as the one we saw in New Orleans. Warm and fine today.

Thursday November 9th 1939

We stayed last night in a cabin on the coast. I went down on the shore before leaving Gulf Point. In Pensacola, Florida today. Crossed over on a three-mile bridge and saw a lot of convicts working in their striped clothes in Florida.

Friday November 10th 1939

Stayed last night in a cabin facing a beach in Florida. Minnie was picking shells and I picked some also. We had our supper and breakfast in the cabin. I notice that some of Florida’s beaches are almost as white as snow. We have gone through a lot of bush and wilderness in Florida around the coast. Tallahassee is near now and we had our dinner here.

We passed more convicts at work, not far from the city we left. They look strange in their stripes; and we have passed another gang of convicts. The first gang was mostly white and the last mostly white and they were working on the road. They seem more plentiful than on other trips.

We have just crossed a bridge on which was written "Away down upon the Suwannee River". On our other trips we could not find the Suwannee River, but here it is now in Florida- a very nice river. We are in camp tonight very near the Suwannee River and the bridge that crosses this pretty stream is further along in Florida. Left Suwannee River after breakfast. Welcome to Dunedin, a beautiful bay of water here. We had our dinner in St Petersburg, Florida. Crossed on a bridge to Port Tampa.

Sunday November 12th 1939

We stayed at Orlando last night for supper and breakfast of Minnie’s getting up, and very good. We are off and we are going to church but do not know where. We have been to a Baptist church and listened to a good sermon.

In Jacksonville and the people just love to sit in convenient places to obtain a good look at the traffic on the street as it moves along today and every day, I take for granted. We are in a splendid cottage in Florida, I think, but very near the state line.

November 13th 1939

This morning is cool and damp and we expect to resume our journey after one of the tires is fixed or replaced by another. I think this is the most unpleasant day since we started on our trip.

On our tour today through Georgia, Minnie turned back for me to have a look at the Old Slave Market, which we passed without all of us getting a good look at this unusual sight. I was pleased to get a better look at this old relic of slavery days. There was a large bell in the centre of the market. There was a sort of covering over the market, which reminds me of our barrack tops at home.

It is 14th November 1939 and we came through a range of mountains in South Carolina. Later in the day we traveled through crooked roads in North Carolina for many miles until I was tired out. We got out as darkness was coming on. Then we tried for a cabin or some place to stay for the night and managed to do it, not before it was time.

November 15th 1939

Stayed last night in Tennessee and this morning have gone into Virginia. Silver fox farms advertisement; in Virginia one mile distant. We crossed over one very high mountain today

Thursday November 16th 1939

We went through the Shenandoah Mountains once more, and thirty-five miles extra of new road making 100 miles, or nearly that, of mountains. This has been our third trip through this beautiful valley.

Stayed in Maryland last night near the town of Frederick at a very nice place and good garage. After leaving in the morning we passed along some miles and I saw the sign "Snake farm just ahead" and I saw that it was a short distance to go. We have been told that they eat the snakes out farther west; and told that if we would stay until Sunday we could go to some place where they have a kind of feast of snakes.

Just crossing the Susquehanna River on one of the USA great bridges, through Morristown in Pennsylvania today. We had our dinner in Flemington, New Jersey where the Lindbergh trial took place.

November 18th1939 Saturday

We are up among the mountains on the west side of the Hudson River at West Point, or nearly there and hoping to see Mr. and Mrs. Proctor today and we expect to end our long trip today.

November 19th 1939 Sunday

New Hampshire Mountains. Arrived at Stoneham 5:15 o’clock Sunday night 19th of November 1939, having finished our trip of nearly ten thousand miles. We went to church Sunday night after coming home

 


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