KANSAS TO CALIFORNIA
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In retrospect, we should be thankful that only seven of the twelve kids still lived at home when the family moved from Oxford Kansas. If you were traveling to California with two adults and seven kids, I wouldn’t guess that anyone’s ideal mode of transportation would be a 1940 Ford 2-door sedan. The Ford deluxe came with a whopping 95 horsepower flathead V-8, mated to a manual three speed transmission. At that time 50 mph was flying down the road. Seat belts were still decades away and interior space was very limited. Add to that the fact that we were pulling a trailer and you can imagine that the load was almost too much to move. In fact the headlights were pointed up in the air and the tongue of the trailer was almost dragging on the ground.
The car belonged to Aunt Analee, who normally made a tidy sum of money driving people from the Midwest to California. Also In the car was Mother (Bertha Jane Prothro) age 44 along with us children, Doris 13, Bonita 11, Lloyd 9, Jimmy 7, Corky 5, Betty 3 and Patricia 1. The older kids were already living on their own. It was the day after Easter Sunday, 1941. Very early, on a rainy Monday morning, the nine Prothro’s set out for California. Dad, C.A. Prothro (44), had already been in California for a about a year. He was working in the Merced area. Baby Patricia kept saying “we goin to Cal pony, to see Daddy”.
The driver, Analee, didn’t need a map, she just drive south into Oklahoma until we hit Route 66 and turned right, all the way to California. It was two lane roads or just plain blacktop. The whole trip didn’t take any longer than a few days. Mom packed a basket full of food for the trip. Drinks were simple, water. Gas was between 15 and 20 cents a gallon, so it wasn’t very expensive, even if they didn’t get great mileage.
With nine people in a car made for four, you can’t imagine the cramped quarters and the problems we children could instigate. The most prized seat in the car was in the front of course. When Bonita and Doris sat in the front, they would pass time by reading every possible sign and constantly checking the odometer to see how much further. At only one year old, Patricia spent the entire trip in somebody’s lap. Car seats had not been invented yet.
After the first day, Analee tried to drive all night. When she became too tired, we stopped in the middle of nowhere and slept on the side of the road. It may have not been a bed, but at least we weren’t cramped into the car. The next night we spent in an inexpensive roadside motel, with just two beds. Doris, Bonita and Betty had their heads at one end of the bed and Lloyd, Jimmy and Corky had their heads on the other. Mom, Analee and Patricia in the other were in the other bed.
The next day took our family into the Painted Desert. It was so different than being in Kansas with then endless plains and wheat fields. Bonita says that the Painted Desert was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, with all of the red, purple, orange and brown tones, it was just breathtaking. We stopped long enough for the boys to pick up pieces of petrified wood.
When we arrived at Kingman Arizona, a change of plans was made. Our family took a departure to see one of the new wonders of the world, Boulder Dam. I can’t imagine wanting to spend extra time with nine people packed in a car, but the idea of seeing the Dam was too good to pass up. We were all amazed at the sight of the newly built Dam. The view from the rail was amazing. The higher safety rails were installed later. Bonita scared our Mom to death by picking up Betty, so she could see over the rail.
The trip continued on to San Bernardino, where paternal Grandmother Rhoda Prothro owned a boarding house. After a quick stop, it was back on the road. Final destination point was the Merced area. C.A.’s sister Levina and her husband Earl Barnett were Cotton farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. We were glad to be with Dad and have the family back together again.
In California it was on to new adventures and growing up in the 1940’s. Our older brother Perry served in the Marine Corps during WWII. One by one, we moved out and set out on lives of our own. Most of us Prothro’s stayed in California. The families could be found congregating in the Merced and Lancaster areas, with C.A. and Bertha moving between the two cities until their death and burial in Lancaster.
Looking back, we have no idea how everybody survived that trip, we just know that Mom and Analee were sure glad that trip was over.