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Travel Progresses by Leaps & Bounds ~ Part II
By Catherine C. Brooks

     When our forefathers landed at Jamestown, Virginia, they had no source of transportation available to bring to the new land on later voyages superior to what Solomon or Julius Caesar possessed. They traveled by the muscular effort of man or beast.

     Carts and wagons, followed by buggies and carriages, enhanced the comfort of travel from early in history through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Thus man traveled at a slow pace and most lived the same way.

     We, who lived in the first third of the twentieth century, experienced a portion of the lifestyle of our predecessors. I attended a three-room schoolhouse through the sixth grade. No bus picked me up at my lane; therefore I walked two miles each way. In winter, we girls wore heavy cotton underwear and stockings, flannel petticoats under our long sleeved cotton dresses with warm coats and caps. As spring blossomed, we shed the heavy garments for more comfortable attire. There were hikes of several miles on pleasant days to study nature. We enjoyed getting out of the classroom and since walking had always been a part of everyday life, we didn’t notice the extra miles.

     My parents, like many of our neighbors, didn’t own an automobile until years later. We traveled in the horse-drawn wagon to take corn and wheat to the grist mill to be ground into meal, flour and feed for the livestock and fowl. The wagon became the convenient means to get to and from the local country grocery store to shop for items we couldn’t raise. We purchased these with fresh eggs and homemade butter. My grandparents picked us up in their Plymouth sedan on Sundays for church. And they included us in many outings including the Yorktown Bicentennial where President Hoover spoke. Due to the scarcity of parking spaces at Yorktown, we had to park in fields on the Gloucester Point side of York River for a fee. We walked from the parking area to the ferry and from the ferry to the monument area where the celebration took place, carrying our lunch basket. The going seemed easy enough; but after standing all day, the trip back became a chore.

     I had scarlet fever the fall of 1933. That happened to be the year Daddy leased our home and farm to help make the mortgage payments which had fallen behind in the depression years. We moved to his parents home temporarily. Mother insisted I have Dr. White who attended her when she had scarlet fever as a child. Daddy went to the doctor’s office to request his services, but he found that the doctor would be delayed since he had gone to deliver a baby. Two days later when I had passed the crisis, Dr. White drove up in his black coupe. Mother related that she had been with me day and night. During my convulsions with high fevers, I had torn the sheets to shreds and knew nothing about it. Dr. White complimented Mother in that she had done all that he could have with cold baths and sips of cold water or juice when I was conscious. Antibiotics and other miracle drugs had not appeared then. Thus my medications were aspirin if needed, cough syrup and daily baths followed by a coating of Vaseline to keep scales from spreading the disease as the blisters dried up.
While I was still confined upstairs in the bedroom, a horse drawn buggy entered the yard. I watched from the window and could hear Mother and Granny Callis counting what money they had when they added it together in the downstairs hall. Then I recognized the man who slaughtered one of his cattle as soon as the weather grew cold enough. Beef–my mouth watered. We hadn’t had beef since the Christmas of 1932–almost a year. We had roast beef and later beef soup and did it ever taste good now that I could eat regular food.

     During the years my grandparents and parents lived and in my childhood, travel progressed by leaps and bounds. Robert Fulton’s steamboat triggered a desire in man to progress to faster travel on land. The locomotive engine that pulled railroad cars followed with railroads winding through cities and country. Often a railroad cut a prairie farm of large acreage into half but progress continued.

     As early as 1816, the French modeled the draisine, the forerunner of today’s bicycle. By 1899, 312 bicycle establishments existed in the United States with a combined output of 1,112,880 bicycles for the year. Men and women rode bicycles for both business and pleasure. The American bicycle showed improvement over earlier models. Coaster brakes, adjustable handle bars, cushion saddles, dropped frames for women and the pneumatic tires made for more comfortable riding. Today’s bicycles supersede those of the mid-twentieth century.

     Although Isaac Newton invented a toy horseless carriage in 1680, it was after 1890 when the new style vehicle known as the automobile or horseless carriage appeared. The glider followed soon after the automobile in 1900. Now, little more than a hundred years later, we view piper cubs, jets and sizes between flying in our skies around the clock. More automotive vehicles sit in the driveway than adults who live in the house while satellites and astronauts circle our sphere. We have progressed beyond one’s comprehension in the past 100 years. What will the twenty-first century bring? 

© 2001 Catherine C. Brooks All rights reserved


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