Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Franzen—quite the venturesome and curious 80ish couple.
Spur-of-the-moment train journey from Illinois to California in 1929…month-long tourist attractions throughout southern California…endless east coast family and friends get-togethers…recounting 12 years prior Royal Gorge experiences in today’s edition…, and then writing six front page articles for the Golden New Era after the fact.
What a guy!
CALIFORNIA LETTER by H. H. Franzen
The Homeward Trip
On April 10 we started on our trip for home. John and Anna Tholen accompanied us to the R. R. Station, where their daughter Wimda also met us. It had surely been one of the happiest moments of our lives when we met our children a few weeks ago, but now the parting time had come and as it was real doubtful if we should ever meet again, we bade them farewell with the saddest of hearts. At 9:25 a.m. we boarded the train for Los Angeles and at 11:40 a.m. we took the U. P. for Salt Lake City. It was only about 100 miles to the mountains and from there on all the way to Salt Lake City we never got out of sight of the snow capped mountains. Most of that part of the country is good for nothing, at least that is the way it looked to us. Between the mountain ranges there are lots of level plains and sand deserts that are partly covered with sage brush and cactus. In regard to the plains and deserts, we found it very much the same on our trip to the west all along the Mexican border. I do not over estimate when I say that we passed over 2,000 miles of such God-forsaken country. This does not even include the route from Salt Lake City to Denver. (Weber Canyon near Ogden, Utah)
We finally reached Salt Lake City at 12:15 at noon, a steady ride of about 24 hours. There we had to change and take the Rio Grande and Denver R. R. and as our train didn’t leave until 4:30 p.m., we took a sightseeing bus to take in the great sights of that old Mormon city. It cost us $4. The city has an area of 52 square miles. It was first visited by man in 1825. It was founded by Brigham Young in 1847. It is the center of Scenic America and in 1928 it had a population of 138,411. It has over 500 miles of streets, 458 miles of paved sidewalks, 16 parks of 2,040 acres, $191,000,000 of taxable property, and 103 miles of street car tracks.
We drove around the famous Mormon Temple and Tabernacle, but we didn’t go inside because that is only for the most holy of the Mormon faith and is not for the outside world. We were permitted to view the inside of the tabernacle. The temple is surely an extra large and imposing structure, and has many towers and spires pointing towards heaven. The building has several stories and is unlike most of our churches as it is considerably higher.
From here we drove to the State Capitol, and we were taken through the entire building by our guide, who explained all the different parts of this colossal structure. It is built throughout of the finest and best blue granite. It has large one piece slab of this material covering large portions of the walls. When you stand outside and under the great dome looking up it surely presents a most wonderful and awe inspiring sight. The outside makes an even greater spectacle, as its location is way above the city, giving a most wonderful view of both the city and the surrounding country.
It is also the county seat, and the court house seems to be an even more costly building. Then the State House also helps to make this city one of the most important and widely known places in the world. Utah has enough salt to supply the world for 500 years. The water in the Lake contains enough salt to make you float above the water.
The bus gave us a long ride over the city and part of the surrounding country so the time passed quickly, and at 4:30 we again boarded the Rio Grande and Denver train. This trip to Denver took us just 28 hours going at a fast rate of speed through a continuous mountain range widening between the openings of the mountains which were thousands of feet high.
Next day we were informed that about 2 p.m. we would reach the Royal Gorge and that the train would make a special stop of 10 minutes at that place to give the 12 to 14 tourists on the train a chance to take in the grandest of all sights. As soon as the train stopped everyone hurried to get out and view this wondrous spectacle. There was a small stream passing through and between the mountains of equal height of about 2000 feet high. At the bottom the two walls were just 50 feet apart. At a height of 2500 feet these same mountains were just 70 feet apart or 20 feet wider than at the bottom. As there was no foundation for the railroad track to lay on, you can imagine what a sight this made. This was not the first time my wife and I had seen this place, for 12 years ago (1917) we were there, but at that time we had our car and we drove up from the back side. I had driven the car to the extreme edge of the mountain. They had built a gas pipe railing at the edge for the safety of the people, so we had a real good chance to look down and see that same hanging bridge from the top. Just think of the beautiful sight. We could now look up and almost see the place where we stayed 12 years ago. Well, this concluded our mountain sightseeing.
From here we went by way of Pueblo and Canyon City to Denver, where we took the Q (Quincy?) train for the East via St. Joseph, Missouri. We happened to pass through Lincoln and Adams, Nebraska, so we stopped off at Adams, where my wife’s sister, Mrs. Chris Wilken, lives. We found them all well except Mrs. Wilken’s oldest son who had suffered a slight stroke, but he had improved some. Two days later we started on the last lap of our 6,000-mile trip, and on April 16 at 8 a.m. we reached home, finding all the family well, and we also felt fine and no worse for the long trip.
Once more we send thanks to all our good friends in California who helped so much to make our trip a success, and we also send our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Frank Paben in Whittier, California in her bereavement, who has since our departure lost her life companion. May the good Lord console her in her deepest sorrow and grief.
H. H. Franzen
It was very interesting to read about the Franzen’s stopping to meet the Wilken family in Adams, Nebraska. As a former Nebraskan, I had heard about the Wilken grocery store during my 2000 southeast Nebraska family research. In March of this year, I had the privilege of visiting with an Adams, Nebraska family historian. He assured me the Wilken family had indeed formerly owned the local grocery store, since he had bought their downtown property. However, he doubted whether the 1929 Wilken family were grocery owners.
Thank you for taking the time to navigate through the past with the remarkable Franzen couple.
If you aren’t wore out from traveling through some of that Southwest wasteland Mr. Franzen described in today’s post, you might hop the train to www.corinthrose.com and see for yourself.
Next post: Farmer’s were Independent and The Old Timer’s Tale