After Mary Love and I were married I was accepted into the Regular Marine Corps and we lived in many places during the ensuing shuffle from duty station to duty station. Grandma Lewis managed to visit us at every place except while I was in school at Rensselaer in Troy, NY.
One of the most memorable was the visit to Oceanside, CA in June of 1953. She and Ann had driven out with Martha Louise ("Ease") in Ease's car, with the idea that Ease would seek employment there and Grandma and Ann would return home by train.
She had visited us while at Barstow, CA in 1948, and was disappointed that she never got to see the Giant Trees. I was determined that she would see them on this trip. Oceanside was a full day's drive from Sequoiah National Park, which meant we would have to stay over for at least one night. At that time David, Jr. was 6+ months old, Donna 2 years, and Cathy 4. Ann was a teenager, and there were three adult women, plus me. We could not afford public accommodations for that group! I decided we could make a camping trip out of it.
At that time we still had the little cargo trailer, later to be converted into a "pop-up" camper in 1958. It had a 4'x6' bed with 3' sides and bows for a canvas top. I figured that I could make a double-decker of the trailer that would sleep 4, the two children could sleep in the car, David could sleep in the bassinet, and I would still need space for one more adult--namely Grandma Lewis. I had a folding army cot for her, but needed a tent. At that time we could buy osnaburg (unbleached muslin) at the quartermaster's for a few cents a yard (It was used to make targets for the rifle ranges). So I bought enough to make a lean-to tent for the back of the trailer that would accommodate the army cot and the bassinet.
I designed, cut it out and stitched it up with Mary Love's sewing machine. Next came the problem of waterproofing it. This proved to be a hazardous operation. The only system I knew of was to melt paraffin and pour it into a bucket of gasoline. Then paint the material with that solution. The gasoline would evaporate and leave the osnaburg saturated with paraffin. I set the rig up in the back yard and was verrrry careful not to cause any sparks and managed to successfully waterproof the tent--and survive!
Then we got our camping gear and groceries together and headed out early one morning up hwy 101. Arrived in the park in late afternoon and set up camp in the campground. Everyone oohed and ahhed over the monstrous trees. Especially the General Sherman which naturalists have reckoned to have started from a seed about the time of Christ!
All went well, and I don't remember how many nights we spent. But one night soon after everyone was bedded down we heard a noise near our picnic table. I flashed a light and there was a big bear sitting there with our ice chest turned up on end between his front paws trying to open it! Everyone in the trailer and Grandma were awake by that time. I scrambled out and yelled and scared him away, but not before everyone had seen it. There was some very light sleeping the remainder of the night!
I particularly remember the long drive home in the heat. It was a long day with a car full and no air conditioning! Looking back on all the preparation and effort it took I often wonder what ever induced me to attempt such, and after attempting it, how I managed to carry it off! But Grandma had seen and enjoyed the Giant Trees!