In the summer of 1954, my father put me, my two sisters and my mother on a train headed in a westerly direction. We were off for a cross country trip to Salt Lake City so that my mother could spend time with her sisters and other relatives who lived in Utah. I was going to meet aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that I had never met before. Except for my Grandpa Reid, I don't think any of my Utah relatives ever traveled to Virginia to visit. Their reason was that it was "just too far" to come. Apparently, traveling from east to west wasn't as far as traveling from west to east.
The first leg of trip was to Chicago where we changed trains to get to Salt Lake. To save money, my mother brought food along. The primary staple of the train trip diet was Vienna sausages, straight from the can dripping with liquid, and soda crackers. We probably had some fruit and other non perishables as well. I remember eating at least a meal or two in the dining car where tables were covered with white table cloths, place settings were nice hotel quality flatware and food was served on china brought to you by waiters in white starched jackets.
If you've been on a boat, you know about "getting your sea legs". Riding a train, you have to get your "train legs". It was sometimes a challenge to walk up and down the train due to the motion of the car. Walking between cars was a little scary because the motion was even stronger and there was a slight gap where the train cars joined. To a seven year old, that gap seemed like the Grand Canyon. I was amazed that the waiters could serve a full meal with the train in motion and not spill anything.
The train between Chicago and Salt Lake had observation cars. Those cars were sort of like a double decker bus. The observation domes were accessed by small stairs. Up there, you could really see the landscape rolling by. It was also a great place to sleep.
After three days and two nights on the train, we arrived in Salt Lake City to be greeted by my mother's sisters and ready to start our three week adventure. Our visit to Salt Lake was documented on the society page of the Deseret News with a short column and picture of my mother, my sisters, Karen and Linda, and me. We were celebrities for sure!
|All it took was a call to the Deseret News by my aunt and our visit was documented.|
P.S. I think I need to go buy some Vienna sausages and soda crackers. Can you even get Vienna sausages anymore?