Imagine setting off for 7 weeks, traveling 8600 miles through 11 states with no smart phone or gps enabled vehicle and nary a convenience store in sight. Ernie Schaller, my husband’s maternal Uncle, and George Faber, both teetering on either side of 20, made this epic journey in 1934. They set off in an automobile from their hometown of West Bend, Iowa, on December 3, 1934. 86 years later, COVID quarantine organizing brought about the discovery of photos of their excellent adventure. Consultation with my husband’s cousin, Gloria, who is a family historian/genealogist, made George and Ernie’s journey come to life. Gloria has a double connection to this journey. In addition to Ernie being her maternal Uncle, George is her paternal Uncle. Along with sharing her memories of her Uncles, she had postcards that George wrote to his parents. Perfect narrations for the photos. Larry scanned these photos 15 years ago from his Aunt Helen’s photo album. We had almost forgotten them. The photos were a bit weathered when scanned but tell a story worthy of a Hollywood portrayal.
Oh to be a fly on the inside of the windshield. George and Ernie either bunked by the side of the road, with relatives or perhaps with someone a hometown townsperson recommended. The roadmap must have been well worn by the end of their travels.
There are no pictures from the Rose Parade but George mentioned attending in one of the postcards. He says the family they were staying with encouraged them to be back in Los Angeles to see the parade on New Year’s Day. This would have been New Year’s Day, 1935. The parade was not televised until 1947. What an impression that parade must have made.
Ernie’s mother wrote a letter that he received while in Oregon. She was very clear that the boys needed to be home before January 22, because Ernie’s sister was marrying George’s brother and George was to be best man. They made it back to West Bend with about 48 hours to spare. A write up of George and Ernie’s excellent adventure appeared in the January 24, 1935, issue of The West Bend Journal. It can be found at the bottom of this post.
George married Gertrude Henrich in 1955. They made their home in West Bend. After feeling the pull to leave West Bend, Ernie met and married Helen Siesennop in 1946. They made their home on a farm in Eolia, Missouri. George passed away in 1994, Ernie in 1995. Neither had children. Aunt Helen’s photo album shows slices of other parts of Ernie’s life. More of those to come.
December 5, 1934 Colorado Springs, CO
I suppose by this time you are wondering where we are now. We arrived in Colorado Springs around 3. So we took in some sight seeing. We saw the Cave of the Winds and the Garden of the Gods and was that worth seeing! Oh yes, I must tell you this too. We are sleeping aside of Pikes Peak. Tonight is a little cold but no snow. This card you are getting is from the tower we went in. You could see six states and Pikes Peak over 100 miles away! Well I must close now for space is sparse. From George and Ernest
December 8, 1934. Tusayan, AZ
Just a few lines to let you know we are still OK. Saw the Grand Canyon this morning. As soon as I get through writing this we are heading for Los Angeles. I think we can make it. The mountains are not as bad as I thought they were. The roads are very good. Geo & E
December 11, 1934 Long Beach, California
Dear Parents, As I have time now I will let you know we are still OK. Got here at Carl’s Sunday noon and since then have been busy seeing sights. On Monday, Carl and Mrs. took us through Hollywood. Today we took a wonderful trip to Catalina Island and I cannot tell you in words how wonderful this trip is, especially the bird park. Tomorrow we are going to see the Battle Ships and oil wells. The next time I write you I will tell you when to write and I will write you a good long letter. Geo & E
December 27, 1934 San Francisco, California
Dear Parents, We are still OK and hope the same of you. We are at George Kleinfehn’s now. We got here this morning. Say, I tell you we sure went through some big timber along the coast route and mountains. We saw the biggest tree in the world. 32 feet in diameter and 300 feet in height. That’s where it broke off in 12 foot diameter. Now we have traveled 4500 miles. Well, I must close. Wishing you all a Happy New Year. From Geo & E
December 31, 1934. Long Beach, California
Dear Parents, As I am writing you a few lines to let yAou know we are all OK and on our way home. We are back at Carl’s. When you wanted us home by the 20th we had to move. And thought we would see the Rose Parade. They urged us to be back by New Year’s. After New Years we will be on our way again. Before we leave I will write you a letter. From Geo & E.
January 6, 1935 Carlsbad, NM
Dear Folks, Just a few lines to let you know where we are. Got here at 1 o’clock last night. Going to see the cave today. Drove up from Phoenix, AZ all day yesterday, 605 miles, the longest pull we made on our trip. We must hurry so will say Good Bye. Geo & E
January 6, 1935. Carlsbad Cave
Dear Folks, Just a few lines that I am writing this card from Carlsbad Cave. 750 feet below the surface. From Geo & E
January 17, 1935 Blackwell, OK
Dear Folks, Just a few lines. We are still OK and hope we find you all the same on Sunday night at the Schaller from 8 o’clock on. I suppose that is good news. Well, we are at Wendell Gartner’s now. Saw the 101 ranch yesterday and don’t know what we are going to see yet. They are all fine. We sure had a good time at Gainesville (Texas). Stayed there a week. They are all fine and saw all the girls and boys that were in Iowa. Well, this is the last card I will write til I get home so until then will be seeing you Sunday night. From Geo & E