World War II Car Travel




1941 Nash Ambassador courtesy Wikimedia Commons







During my World War II childhood in New York, my mother, my sister, and I escaped the city and went to Maine every summer. We left the car in the garage all winter, took  buses and subways, and saved our gas rationing coupons for the summer trip.

It took two full days to drive the 350 miles to Maine since the wartime speed limit was thirty-five miles an hour. We watched the cows in the fields and read the Burma Shave shaving cream signs along the sides of the two-lane roads.

                      “His cheek was rough                                  His chick vamoose

                       And now she won’t                                     Come home to roost

                                                                                                                            Burma Shave”

The first night we stopped at a tourist home in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Someone told my father about this new kind of place out West called a motel. You’d just drive your car right up to the door of your room and carry in your own suitcases. “Keep your eyes peeled for a motel,” Dad told us, but we never saw any. All we saw were cows and Burma Shave signs.

The next day we drove to Maine through all these little town on Route 1—York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk. More Burma Shave signs entertained us.

                   “To kiss a mug                                                 That’s like a cactus

                    Takes more nerve                                          Than it does practice

                                                                                                                         Burma Shave”

We stayed a couple of days in Portland with our aunts and uncle. Whenever our uncle had fun somewhere, he’d say, “Gorry, it was a real whiz-bang.”

They saved their meat coupons for our visits. Aunt Edith cooked huge roasts. If we stayed over a Saturday night, she made baked beans and brown bread. Aunt Edith knew a good bean baker. She took her bean pot over in the morning, he baked it all day, and then she picked it up that night. I loved the spicy smell and the soft dark bread.

We  stayed in Portland long enough to get gold fillings from Dr. Woods, Dad’s dentist. He never used Novocain. “If I hit a nerve I want to know it,” he’d say. Boy, did I know it. He drilled awhile, squirted cold air on the tooth when it got hot, then swabbed the cavity with iodine or something before he filled it. It was awful, but it was only once a year.

Next we drove up the coast to the camp. Dad stayed a few days before he took the train back to New York. In August he’d take the train back up to get us and we’d drive back to New York in time for school.

We were so  lucky we could spend summers in Maine away from hot New York City with its danger of polio.

A Valentine Remembrance

Valentine’s Day brings back the memory of our Dachschund, Yodel, a beloved member of  our Maine family for many years.

Nosey, Yodel’s first love, lived next door. Nosey would rise on her long legs and ring the doorbell whenever she wanted to come into the house.Yodel, a victim of his anatomy, could only stare at her longingly.

Several years later, a new family moved in with their St. Bernard, Heidi. Concerned about her size at first, we soon stopped worrying. Heidi’s owners never let her loose. This worked until Heidi came into season. With no regard whatever for the neighbors,  Heidi remained at home on a tight leash.The family appeared periodically to chase the male dogs away.

One day, I arrived home with an armload of groceries. Instead of greeting me, Yodel stayed quietly near the the laundry room back door as I unpacked the food. Sadly, his cheeks filled with slivers, Yodel appeared to have met up with a porcupine.

Frantic to reach the St. Bernard, Yodel had chewed his way through the bottom third of our flimsy wooden laundry room door in his single-minded attempt to reach Heidi.

Alas, poor Yodel.


Courtesy Wikimedia creative commons by daveynin(Flickr:2010 PA Kennel Assoc. Dog Show


Maine to Seattle Sewer Solutions


Swedish Road Sign

I started a municipal minutes business when I moved to Maine during a recession — an education in city planning. The Sewer District became my favorite meeting. Environmentalists, quick to criticize the board, had never actually faced the challenge of keeping a town clean. Sewer District reps, who had, claimed “We’re the real environmentalists. We do what’s possible.”

You have to think of people in the context of their times. I write about my father, Hans Pederson, a Danish immigrant who became a major early 20th century Seattle contractor. Back in 1910, the city leveled its steep hills to expand its downtown waterfront. No longer did sewage and water flow downhill only to turn back and shoot up like geysers under the advancing tide. New sewer and water lines created outfalls to Elliott Bay — a boon that followed the advent of flush toilets. The solution fit the times.

Some say that in 1910 the plumber Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet, known as “The Waterfall Waste Remover.” Others believe that his name can only rightly be associated with the function for which it is used. A convoluted trail of patents and folklore connect Crapper’s plumbing company with the Waterfall Waste Remover.

The truth may never be known.

%d bloggers like this: