Continued from "A Family Outing" Essay...
At first Susan took the sheep to the fairs in the station wagon, but soon she had too many sheep, so we bought a pick-up truck for her to transport the sheep. However, soon after we purchased the truck Thomas built a camper to go on the truck for camping trips. The three little kids and we did quite a bit of camping. The weekends Susan did not need the truck we went camping. The camping bug bit us so we bought an old school bus and Thomas converted it into a camper. We even had a hot water tank! One time we took Thomas's brother, Roger, his wife, Annie, and their daughter, Leslie, with us to the Smoky Mountains.
After we were there a few days Thomas wanted to see Fontana Dam in Tennessee. Roger and Annie would be content to stay at the campsite so, inasmuch as we towed a Fiat, we left the Fiat with them. We also left the cook tent, another tent, in which they could sleep, and some chairs. We took off for Fontana Dam. The bus had neither power steering nor power brakes, but we drove it up and down the narrow mountain roads and thought nothing of it. After we left some campers came in next to where Roger and family were camping. Roger said the man kept looking at them and finally came over and said "Will you please tell me how you got the tents, the chairs and yourself all the way from Connecticut in that Fiat?"
In February, 1968, we flew to Miami. rented a car and drove to Marathon. We had heard about the Keys from a friend of Thomas's. Susan, Maggie, Thomas and Francis went with us. It was the first airplane ride for all of us except Thomas. The little ones were thrilled, Susan and I were apprehensive. I remember saying to Susan "Well, we are up in the air," and she responded "We have to come down yet". We looked around and liked what we saw. We drove down to Key West and did the whole tourist bit: conch chowder, turtle steak and Key Lime pie. We had a good time. In the summer of 1968 we took the bus to Florida. We enjoyed Florida in the winter but we wanted to experience it in the summer before definitely deciding to move there. In Virginia the bus broke down. At that time some of the Virginians thought of us all Damn Yankees (some still do).
Anyway, we were towed off the Interstate and left on the side of the road. The fellow who towed us off said there was a mechanic down the road. This was 6.00 Saturday evening. We could not have picked a worse time or place to break down. The "mechanic" down the road was a gasoline attendant and could not help us. We were parked across the road from a tumble-down house. The people in the house kept looking at us. Finally the man came across and asked if he could help. He was going to school to learn to be an auto mechanic. He got parts and did the best he could to get us going. While we were by the side of the road we became acquainted with the family. They had five children, two boys and two girls and the baby. The baby had a crib and the other four all slept in the same bed, the girls at one end and the boys at the other end. The youngest boy evidently was deaf. He did not talk but did squeal. His mother said he was tongue tied, but we noticed if he did not see you approaching he was not aware of you until you were in front of him.
This camping trip was in the mountains of Virginia. In the winter it was cold. They had one faucet in the kitchen which came up on the outside of the house. The lady told me that in the winter they leave the faucet open so the pipe doesn't freeze, but one time the drain froze and when she came downstairs in the morning the floor was covered with ice. They rented this place. There was a gate to keep the cows in, but there was also a lumber operation going on so the gate had to be opened for the lumber trucks. The kids would open the gates for the trucks, and the drivers usually gave them a dime. If there was no tip, no gate opener.
Francis found out about this deal and he began to open the gate. Finally the next Saturday we got going and headed for the first campground we could find. We really needed to find the showers. We were there for a week. We continued on our way and when we went through Atlanta there was a great deal of road work. I imagine it was 1-75. The roads were in really bad shape and while we were in Atlanta we had a thunder and lightning storm which was the worst I have ever seen. We finally reached Boca Raton where Richard and Diane Horton lived. The bus was still not running well so Richard's mechanic took a crack at it and it did run somewhat better. We went down to Marathon and decided to buy three lots on Key Colony Beach.
On our way back from the camping trip, the bus broke down again outside of Washington, D.C. This time we had a real nice trooper who found someone to tow the bus to a garage. We left the bus there and took the Greyhound home. We arrived at the Bridgeport Greyhound Bus Station at 3:00 A.M. Bob and Denise came down and brought us home. A week later Thomas, Thomas and I went down and picked up the bus. It had a new motor then and went very well. In 1968 land values were rising and we thought we could sell the ranch at a sizeable profit so we put it on the market. We sold it in June, 1969, and moved to Key Colony Beach. Florida. Before we left June had a big "going away" party for us. She invited all the family and just loads of friends.
It was a camping trip to be remembered. The men at the Metal Hose Company also gave Thomas a big "going away" party. He received numerous gifts, one of which is the picture of the Oxford house, which hangs on our wall today.