Last summer I stumbled across “Our Trek to the West,” Elizabeth Dalrymple’s manuscript describing the adventurous summer road trip of four women. Their stories made me laugh, and reminisce over my own road trips and exciting excursions with my friends. Given the state of travel these days, it seems like researching a road trip is a good way to spend an afternoon.
I took another dive into the Archives of Women of the Southwest to find other adventurous women, and, behold, I found not one, but several other accounts of women taking off across the country with friends and belongings in tow.
Margaret Burkhalder’s scrapbook contains a travel journal and diary, postcards, clippings, programs, and ephemera from a five week trip from Buffalo, New York to the Midwest and Western United States and Canada with a group of nurses from Buffalo General Hospital, June 11 to July 14, 1936.
Burkhalder documents the cities, sights, and activities in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, Alberta, Iowa, Michigan, and Ontario. On the trip, Margaret and her friends visited tourist attractions like the Grand Canyon, Bryce National Park, Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Banff, and Mount Rushmore.
The scrapbook opens with Burkhalder’s pass from Buffalo General Hospital granting her 14 days of vacation from June 12th-26th. The nurses departed their residence at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday June 11, 1936, bound for the west. The party consisted of Ann Clancy, Mildred Gent, Marjorie Craig, Nina Dorey and Margaret.
The scrapbook provides details into the experiences of these women, and what they saw along the road in 1936. On the 7th day of their trip, they stopped at the Painted Desert. “The miles and miles of many colored sand make a very lovely sight. Soon we were at the petrified forest to see the numerous pieces of stone-once wood.” Shortly after lunch, the girls encountered some trouble when the car’s radiator overheated. After a quick repair they hit the trail once more before stopping in Flagstaff for the night.
They arrived in Los Angeles, California just in time for the Biennial Nursing Convention on June 22, “the sole object of our pilgrimage (?)”. Margaret’s account is full of memories, stories, and laughs. Reading through it, I can once again picture myself driving along the highway with my friends, pulling over to experience the adventures of the road.
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.
If you opt to hit the road, remember that the journey is part of the adventure.