Nothing says summer vacation like a road trip across the country with your friends. What could be better than driving from Pennsylvania to Colorado and back? The Elizabeth Dalrymple manuscript describes the adventures of women traveling together entitled “Our Trek to the West.” The narrative is illustrated with 40 photographs of the people and places they saw.
From parks to zoos, diners to dives, encounters with hitchhikers and bikers, this manuscript is full of memories and adventures as Elizabeth tells the epic story of her trek to the west from Pennsylvania through Michigan, Canada, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and West Virginia.
The adventure began for Elizabeth, our narrator, and her friends Lillian, Aldine, Ethel on a rainy day in June 1940 as they set out from Pennsylvania for Colorado. After “tearing along at almost twenty-five miles an hour,” the women stopped in Michigan to deal with some engine troubles. On a lark they crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada and had a scuffle with the mounted police. “Oh yes, their Canadian mounted police are everything they are cracked up to be.” After a night’s rest they continued west to White Pigeon, where they enjoyed some bar-b-que and dancing, “Oh how these Indiana lads can jitterbug!” Turned out to be a long night for these ladies, noting that they would rename the town “bloodthirsty mosquito.” The next morning Elizabeth burst into what she thought was the shower room only to discover another man’s bedroom. In her words the moral of the story was, “from palace to hovel, from chicken to feather, from swanky hotel suites mingled with champagne, to cabins infested with mosquitoes—that’s life.” The girls attended a dance in Custer with some forest rangers and regaled them with the tale of their Badlands escapade. Elizabeth “learned something new and different—you order one bottle of beer with four straws. Some Fun.”
While they explored the rocky mountains of Colorado, poor Ethel split her pants sliding down a big rock. Together Elizabeth and Ethel returned to the hotel and “did a new kind of boogie-woogie dance…so no one would suspect’ their plight.” According to the Elizabeth, “so many people call you kids out here in the west. They seem to get quite a kick out of four girls traveling…You kids are certainly having a good time.”
Documents such as this manuscript provide invaluable insight into life in another time for women traveling in the southwest. This particular manuscript feels so familiar and relatable to me, as though it was a trip I took with my girlfriends. Each page delights the reader with poetry, limericks, and wonderful words of wisdom. There are too many enjoyable stories to list them all. Probably my favorite quote comes from the encounter with the forest rangers outside of the Badlands. “Never worry about getting lost out here in the great open spaces, as every road eventually leads to somewhere, no matter how lonely or how long.”
To learn more about these adventurous women who explored the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.
Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing the collection.
Remember, no matter where the road takes you, enjoy the journey and take plenty of photos!