This trip was the maiden voyage of our new (to us) Airstream trailer, and it proved to be a delightful way to travel __ everything the Schumakers (Mary Love and Dave) have been telling us for years. It began on June 15, 1980. No more loading and unloading the car every morning and evening; no more lugging suitcases into and out of motel rooms; no more daily packing and unpacking, or sleeping in strange beds in strange rooms with noisy air-conditioners; and no more compulsory restaurant eating.
The first part of the trip was directed towards getting our daughter, Laura, enrolled and settled in college - Georgia Tech. We found a campground in Perry, Georgia called Perry Overnite Park. On that night we were in for a surprise. We noticed that there were several other Airstreams in camp, but had not paid them much attention. While we were sitting at our table playing cards, we heard this singing coming from outside our trailer. When we opened the door, we were serenaded, given a package of gifts, and asked by Flo and Bob Black to join in their fun. It turned out that the eighteen trailers were in a caravan headed for an international Airstream rally in South Bend, Indiana. They were the Tampa Bay Florida Unit of WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International). Before we knew it we had joined the club. The gathering was a happy one __ singing, popcorn over the grill, etc. They were making plans for their next day's travel __ destination: Chattanooga. The next morning, we joined them for breakfast, a circle of prayer for safe travelling, and for their exodus from Perry. We followed their "caboose" for a while, listening in on CB Channel 14 to their chatter.
Not long after leaving Perry, a car passed us with the occupant frantically waving and pointing back to the trailer. We stopped, expecting a flat tire, but discovered that the electric cable from truck to trailer had come loose and was dragging. I taped it back together temporarily and we
proceeded on. That was the only trouble on the trip.
Upon our arrival in Atlanta, we proceeded to Ann's sister, Louise's home, where we parked on the south side of their front yard. We imposed on their hospitality for the next three nights. We found John and Barbara (our son and his wife) and all went to Aunt Fanny's Cabin for dinner. Barbara took us on a tour of the law office where she worked. We also met their three birds, Maxwell and two new parakeets.
Wednesday night was Lydia's birthday (Ann's niece), so we all ate at the Hudgins for that occasion. Lydia has her own apartment now; Theresa (another niece) and Glenn live with Mom and Pop in a basement apartment; Stan III (Ann's nephew) is nearing the end of his architectural studies at Tech; Pamela (another niece) has another year in high school and has just started working for the summer at Six Flags Over GA.
The Hudgins household is like Grand Central Station with all the comings and goings. We really appreciated their letting us stay with them.
Thursday night, Johnny and Barbara took us to their favorite restaurant __ the PeKing. There we had egg rolls, sizzling rice soup, mo shu pork, almond chicken, Chinese embassy beef, rice, and fortune cookies. Sounds like a lot, and it was __ delicious!
Laura had an orientation program that ran from Thursday through Friday. She moved into her dormitory room on Thursday morning. She will be working toward a degree in computer science.
While in Atlanta, Johnny and I spent several hours in the Georgia Archives working on our genealogy. Very formal and strict; no briefcases are allowed; everyone has to have an identification badge; copies must be ordered and paid for in advance, then they make them later and mail them to you at $1 per page. But there is a lot of information stored there, much of it copied from the Mormon records in Salt Lake City. We found the death date of the first Jesse Lewis - May 28, 1849 - a fact previously unknown.
Friday, we took the trailer up to Lake Lanier __ a beautiful spot on a huge lake created by a dam on the Chattahoochee River. It was a popular place, and our campground was full. Our assigned lot was not right on the water, but it was still nicely situated. (The ideal spot was lot 127) Barbara and Johnny were with us Friday and Saturday nights, and Laura was able to spend Saturday there. They were going to pitch a tent, but decided the trailer was more comfortable, so we all slept inside __ Laura on the floor. It was a bit crowded, but fun. We caught seven trout on Saturday and broiled them over a charcoal fire that night. It was a successful experiment. They were delicious!
The kids (and the birds) all went back to Atlanta on Sunday, leaving Ann and I all to ourselves from then on. That left us with mixed feelings. On Monday morning, we headed for Barnwell, SC to look up some more family roots (Croft). We parked in the Barnwell State Park about 7 miles from town. It was a pretty place, but we were absolutely alone. It was just us and the critters. Tourists have not found Barnwell.
Barnwell is a very old city. Records in the courthouse go back to 1793. It is off the beaten path, and the local people seem to have very little awareness about the historical significance of their town. When we inquired at the courthouse about old family records, the girl led us to a
back room and said, in effect, "Make yourself at home." Just the opposite of Atlanta as far as formalities were concerned. In the room was a wealth of old documents. Whenever I found something significant, I took it up front to the Xerox machine and copied it myself. There was no charge. I found three old cases where my ancestor, Jacob Croft, was involved in litigation. In 2 of them he lost. Judgments were from $20 to $50. The cases were dated in 1826 and 1827.
There was a unique sundial in front of the courthouse that has been in Barnwell for over a century. I couldn't find anyone who knew anything about it, but I found an old newspaper clipping describing it as the only one of its kind in America, donated to the people of Barnwell in the 1820's. Another newspaper clipping described how all of the records of the county were hidden and saved during the Civil War when Sherman came through and burned all of the buildings in the town. But no history has ever been written about Barnwell, and no one there seems to care. Nonetheless, it was an interesting place. The phone book listed 28 Crofts.
From Barnwell, we went to Savannah and spent a day touring the city where hundreds of old pre-Civil War homes have been and are being restored. There are enough of the old homes around which have not yet been restored to appreciate the magnitude of the effort. The restoration brings with it a realization of the incredible amount of prosperity that must
have existed in Savannah in its heyday. In one house we visited, it had just been discovered that under many layers of paint, all of the doorknobs in the house were solid silver! After the War, people were unable to keep their houses up, so for a hundred years, the houses deteriorated
from neglect, until the present reconstruction began. But the 1840's and 1850's must have really been something! At the Visitor's Center, we rented a tape and tape player for $5. With a map, we were able to get a good picture of the place as we followed along listening to the tape. It took two hours to follow the tape through. It actually took us four hours because we stopped at several points to visit shops or a particular house. The shops along the cobblestone riverfront are very interesting. We ate dinner at the Pirates' House of "Treasure Island" fame. It had 23 unique dining rooms. The one we were in was said to be the oldest existing room in Savannah.
From Savannah, we went to Brunswick, hoping to meet with my accountant, but that was not to be. So we had a good time touching some old bases. We went by our old home on St. Simons Island, and visited with the Powells who still live next door. We went to the St. Simons Light and Coastal Georgia Museum near The Village. We also went out to Christ Church and to Fort Frederica. We saw a lot of marsh and caught the almost forgotten odor of the paper mills. We stayed at a Good Sam Park __ the Golden Isles Vacation Park just west of Blythe Island.
The next day we went over to Jekyll Island and caught a tour of the old millionaire's cottages which are now being restored by the state. They were all just derelicts of the past when we lived in the area in 1964. When the state bought the island, they also acquired the furnishings to the
old houses which had been stored in the old club house since 1941. Although no one knows which furniture belonged to which house, the furniture has been brought back out and placed at appropriate places in the houses. It was altogether very interesting. The millionaire's era was from the 1890's through the 1920's. They gave it up completely just prior to World War II. Such names as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, Macy, Goodyear, Crane, etc. all had what they called cottages, but they were huge. At Jekyll, we also went over to the beach. The horizon was filled with shrimp boats. There must have been a hundred or more in sight fishing. The word was that they are having a good year.
All in all, the Brunswick area has not changed much in the last fifteen years. There are some new roads, and some that have been widened, but there was very little apparent change in the business area. A lot of people have moved over to St. Simons. We saw many new homes there, but they still have only the same limited causeway with its 35 cent toll.
On Saturday, we hooked up and went to Waycross to see Mama Lewis (Ann's mother). We had lunch with her in the Baptist Village dining room, then we all went to look up Sally Strickland in Mershon. Sally Strickland is a genealogist, a member of the D.A.R., a world traveller, and a descendant of the Lewis family. She lives by herself in a nice little house in the pine woods about 15 miles north of Patterson. We had a good time comparing notes on family history, but I think I gave her more than I got in return. Her library is as good or better than many that I have seen in more likely places.
We then went into Patterson. The old downtown area is a ghost town. Every store is closed. All businesses are now out on the highway. The old depot is gone too. The old Lewis home, though, has been well kept. William now lives in Clyde's new brick home. He was not there, so we had no opportunity to visit with him. We did find Jesse and Margaret at home with their 3 girls. Jesse has a full beard and must weigh 350 lbs. We stopped for supper at the Green Frog restaurant in Waycross and got Grandma back in her room before dark. With permission, we parked our trailer for the night in the Baptist Village parking lot. It was very pleasant under the pecan trees, but no hookups, of course.
On Sunday morning, we visited with Grandma until about 11:00am, then pulled out for home. We headed south via US 1 and 301 through Folkston. I tried to find the Pigeon Creek Baptist Church which is supposed to be the first Baptist church in Florida, chartered in 1821. We found Pigeon Creek and an old cemetery nearby, but the only church was a primitive Baptist church in a relatively new concrete block building. The old church must no longer be in existence. US 301 is in sad shape __ very rough and poorly maintained. Most of the old businesses along the way are closed and boarded up. It looks bad. We had to wait 20 minutes on a train in Baldwin. Don't plan to go that way any more. At Waldo, we cut across to Gainesville where I called a law school friend, John Swalm. We had dinner in a nearby Chinese restaurant with John and his wife, Sue, then hit the road again. We would have spent the night in Gainesville, but
could find no campground.
On the outskirts of Tampa, we were stopped by a trooper and informed that the right front headlight was out. He was in a cooperative mood, so no ticket. With no further problems, we arrived home about 10:00pm, Sunday, June 29th.
In all we had driven 1750 miles, about 1200 of which were with trailer attached. It is an enjoyable and relaxing way to travel __ but not cheap! We averaged 8.5 mpg. With gas at $1.20, expenses add up fast. Even so, it will be hard returning to the motel routine.