Saturday, July 21, 2012

Florida, 1950 Style

by Delores Miller

So it is February 2011 in Marion, Wisconsin.  The Packers have won the Super Bowl and eight more months before more football.   Cabin fever has set in, so time to get to warmer climates, like Florida.

In 1950 Alma and Bill Zillmer and Edwin (Happy) and Beatrice Zillmer embarked on a sixteen day road trek to Florida  driving Happy's new 1949 Pontiac, straight 8.  What a powerful automobile.

Both women kept detailed diaries of that trip, which have surfaced in the Zillmer Family Archives.  Expenses were shared equally.  All were about forty years of age.  Happy drove, Beatrice read road maps, Bill gazed at the country side and Alma wrote in her diary.

4092 miles, 257 gallons of gas, which averaged 16 MPG, price per gallon ranged from 21.8 cents in Wisconsin to 30.0 in Illinois.  The entire expense for the trip seems to be $256.65 for four people, and includes gasoline, motels, eats and entrance fees to attractions.

Alma and Bill were straight off the Dupont dairy farm, Happy and Beatrice were Belle Plaine cheese makers, leaving their businesses in the trusty hands of their children.

Starting off with snow and below zero temperatures, first night stayed in Chicago with niece Ellie Kunstmann.  She gave them the tour of that big city, O'Hare Airport and Michigan Avenue.  This was the days before freeways and four lane roads.  Old Highway 41 towards Florida, saw their first colored people.   How shocked they must have been, no black people in Marion. Notes about crops and farming, pig farms, corn.  Ohio Valley was flooded.  Bill chewed Summertime Tobacco, and spit the saliva out the car windows, making a brown mess along the car doors, and the windows in the back seat should be closed or one got a mouthful of  recycled tobacco spit.

Fort Campbell Kentucky where many drafted young men got their military Army  training.  Wonder Cave, Rock City, Chattanooga, cotton fields.  Visiting always with people they met.  Orange trees in blossom.  Turpentine groves, picked pine cones from the trees.  Flat tire, a dollar to fix.  Strawberry fields, ready for picking.  1070 miles from home and  hit the Florida State Line. Glass bottom boat ride in Silver Springs,  $9.20.  All you can drink orange juice for ten cents.  Outdoor theater. $1,65, Sunday newspaper was fifteen cents.

Cattle looked poorly, always the farmer in their comments.  They range and drift along the country side, no fences, just cow catchers across the highway.  Smudge pots in orange groves ready for the frost.  Tampa and a narrow bridge to St. Petersburg.  Ferry boat across the river.  Shell factory at Sarasota.  Winter quarter tour of the Ringling Brothers and mansion of John and Mabel Ringling where they built the house in 1926 and willed and bequeathed it to the state of Florida.

Still heading south, flamingo birds, land is swampy.  Miami Beach on Highway 101 to Jensen Beach and to Jack and Clara Miller.  Jack was an insurance agent in Marion, Father of Blaine (Bud) Miller.  Clara was a Zillmer cousin to Bill and Happy.   Carl Herman Zillmer, Clara's Father was a Marion businessman and entrepreneur until his death in 1933.  Jack Miller  took the men fishing in the ocean, and all played sheepshead.  Jack had one leg amputated from gangrene and he and Clara travelled to Florida each winter, he did all the driving and they pulled a small camping trailer along which they slept in and ate all their meals.  Clara was a dear soul who lived to be over one hundred years old.

Clara took the ladies to learn the knack of placing shells into flowers, crafting.  Shopping at Fort Pierce.  Bok Tower, Cypress Gardens, water carnival.  Orlando in the days before it became a mecca for Walt Disney. Headed up Highway 1 to St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Smokey Mountains, Eagle, North Carolina.

Moving north towards home, hit flooded rivers, many detours.  Overnight in Janesville by niece Lucile whose husband Ferdinand Willing worked for General Motors.  Back home, five below zero at Bob and Joyce Zillmer's farm, where a group photo was taken (enclosed) of the four happy people.

Remarks in the diary said to 'Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think'.

Let's us take a trip to Florida now in 2011 and get out of the cold weather, inso?

               copyright 2011, Russell and Delores Miller

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