If anyone knows anything remotely about my husband and me, or has faintly been interested in this blog, they will understand this adventuresome couple loves to travel, hike, and camp. So this Golden New Era across country train excursion publication by H. H. Franzen peaked my interest. An impromptu train journey zipping across America in 1929…how exciting.
During our 92-day 2010 North to Alaska across country trip, I faithfully and consistently wrote 15 lengthy pictorial journals while on (not after) our Trip of a Lifetime. In the same way, H. H. Franzen recorded his memorable Western Journey to California 84 years ago in his home newspaper, the Golden New Era. Just as the adventuresome 81-year old Adams County, Illinois settler shared his weekly Western Journey stories with his family and community, I also shared each of my fifteen pictorial journals with family and a select group of friends, regularly sent as an email. To this day, several friends comment how much they enjoyed traveling to and from Alaska with my husband and me. “It was like we were really there.”
Would Mr. Franzen have ever dreamed his 1929 California Letters recorded in this and subsequent blog posts…hardly.
Will any of your journals, diaries, or recordings of life in general be recorded or printed for the public decades after the fact? Text messages, Facebook and Twitter comments? Probably not, but maybe just maybe, those who take the time and put forth the effort to Write-Record-Document-Share about their lives will be remembered at least in print…some day.
Thank you WordPress for the privilege of sharing a bit of me with a bit of the world.
Now let’s get going with Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Franzen from Golden, Illinois to Long Beach, California.
H. H. Franzen tells of his trip to the Land of the Setting Sun
On the fourth of February, I happened to be at the Buss Lumber Yard and after exchanging a few words with W. J. Buss, he told me he was going to take a trip to California, as his son had written him to come. He asked me, “Why don’t you come and make this trip with me? You have sold out your business and have nothing to do now.”
I answered, “Well, I have thought of that several times, but I have always had work in the winter time—making seeders and in the summer time I did not care to go, as it is real nice here also.”
“Well, he said, I will make you a proposition. I will stop off overnight in Kansas City on account of business, and if you decided to go you can meet me there at the depot next morning.” We talked a little longer, and then I went home and talked it over with my wife.
Next morning I went to the depot to bid him farewell on his long journey, and when I reached there I found both Mr. and Mrs. Buss there. She also urged me to go. I promised her I would again discuss it with my wife, but I didn’t think it would do much good. When I came home, I told my wife that Mrs. Buss also wanted us to go and asked her what she wanted to do about it. She says, “Well, what do you say?” I answered—thinking she would not go anyway— “I am ready.” She replied, “Well, if you are ready, I am ready too.”
Next minute we were preparing for our trip, and at 8:30 p.m. we were speeding our way to the great West. Next morning we met Mr. Buss at the Kansas City depot, and we found that all arrangements had been made for a pleasant journey by Glen Chambers. The Rock Island road took us all the way to Los Angeles. We went through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Along the border of Mexico, we stopped but four times, and I have forgotten the names of the places. We had but one change to make at Los Angeles, where we took the Electric Car for Long Beach, which was only 20 miles distant.
Arriving there I inquired for Buffum’s store, which we had trouble finding. We entered the place and inquired for Miss Wimda Tholen. Oh, yes; all the clerks, (of which there are over 300) knew her by her first name, we were directed to the second floor. Here my wife left me for a few minutes, and while I was waiting for her to return, I looked up and there before me stood Wimda. She said, “Oh, Grandpa is it possible? Is it really you or a vision?” I assured her that it was really me and she said, “Is Grandma here too?” I pointed my finger at my wife who was just returning and Wimda said, “Oh, what an unexpected surprise!” It was indeed a surprise for I hadn’t given them the least hint that I was coming to California to visit them.
We asked how we could get to her home and she said, “I shall take you there myself.” We asked her if she could get off that long and she said, “I shall be back right away so you wait for me.” We waited at the door for her and in a few minutes she reappeared. We took a bus to the Tholen home and Wimda entered before us. We then rang the doorbell and our daughter saw us through the glass, and she said, “If that doesn’t look just like Mother.” I had hid just behind the corner. She said, “I didn’t expect to see you here and coming all the way from Illinois.” And then such a hearty welcome as we received. Mr. Tholen wasn’t home just then, but he soon arrived and when he recognized us he opened his mouth and could not get it shut again for a minute or so. The whole family looked natural and healthy, although Mr. Tholen didn’t have strength to go to work and hasn’t worked for over two years. Their home was a nice single story home and was about thirty blocks from town. Long Beach has a population of 100,000 and many of the buildings are 16 stories high. Most of the tall buildings are apartment houses and are rented mostly to tourists from the East. These tall buildings are found only in the business section. In the residence section the houses are nearly all one story structures and there is just enough ground for the house. The lots are about 50-60 feet wide and most of them have a garage at the back end, although the entrance is at the front part, past the house. The houses have no basements at all but are certainly nicely arranged inside.
The city spreads over a large territory and near the outskirts is pretty well divided up into sections. The oil wells are surely a great sight. There were about 900 at one place and each well has a tower that is 130 feet high but they are not all producing. They were very close together being 20 to 30 feet apart. Most of them have to be pumped but a lot of gushers are sending forth oil. It’s hard to describe it to those who have never seen them. It is certainly some business. Lots of people have become millionaires, but the production is going down. The daily out put at one time was 200,000 barrels but Long Beach is a little below the average.
There is another oil field not far from Long Beach, and there are oil wells at many other places. I did not learn much about them. Some cities have sprung up in just a couple of years and in some the population runs up into the tens of thousands. Half of that country is laid out in blocks and lots which are for sale. Many of the walks and pavements are made of the finest of concrete. Quite a lot of people believe that in a short time the whole country will be built up into the gigantic city, and it certainly looks like it. I think its mostly Eastern money that’s doing it. Then it’s wonderful climate helps for there it is summer the year round yet it is always cool at night after the sun goes down.
H. H. Franzen
Although these two images are from Nelson’s 1882 Union Pacific Pictorial Guide Book, the are representative of the Franzen’s Rock Island trip to California.
Rock Island Railroad history can be found here
If you are interested in traveling with my hiking buddy and me through some of the same areas the Franzen’s whizzed by, then you can visit www.corinthrose.com under Travel.
Keep writing, recording, and sharing. Never know, some day someone like me just might publish it for the world to read.