Looking back: P.D. Camp family takes trip

Published 12:00 pm Friday, September 25, 2015

by Clyde Parker

September 25, 1915

Paul D. Camp and his wife Ella usually stay close to home except for business trips to Florida and to Baptist meetings.

This photo shows Paul D. Camp, center left, with his wife, Ella, and their son, Ryland, seated in front with the chauffeur, Jim Diggins. In back is either Ruth or Ella. They were photographed at Yosemite Valley on Sept. 10, 1915. -- SUBMITTED | CLYDE PARKER

This photo shows Paul D. Camp, center left, with his wife, Ella, and their son, Ryland, seated in front with the chauffeur, Jim Diggins. In back is either Ruth or Ella. They were photographed at Yosemite Valley on Sept. 10, 1915. — SUBMITTED | CLYDE PARKER

However, earlier this month an unbelievable family trip took place. Paul and Ella, along with their grown children, Ryland, Ella and Ruth, and chauffeur Jim Diggins, left “The Elms” and took off, cross-country, to California in Paul’s 1912 Buick touring car. This was definitely a break from the routine of their lives. Paul, President of Camp Manufacturing Co., while absent, delegated his duties to his Vice President, brother James L. Camp.

They had a travel guide, the “Blue Book,” which was used to show the best way to go. The defined route from Franklin first took them through Courtland and up the Jerusalem Plank Road to Petersburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, Staunton, Va. They then passed through Clarksburg and Parkersburg, West Va., and on westward, using the “Blue Book” as a guide, through hundreds of counties, towns and cities.

Most roads were unpaved. Some were loose gravel. Others were clay, sand or macadam. As they got further west, the roads were in much better shape.

Nevertheless, they encountered many obstacles and incidents along the way. They had several flat tires. They got stuck a few times in either sand or mud.

Luckily, forethought was given to possible incidents in that spare tires and gasoline cans were strapped to the car before they left Franklin.

They crossed swamps, creeks and rivers. Some waterways had bridges; others, such as small creeks and swamps, did not have bridges. Often, they had to wait for ferry rides. Several times, they encountered rain.

As much as possible, they had to time their travels so that they could get to towns and cities that had hotels and cafes. Particular care had to be taken to make sure they had places to stay at night.

The “Blue Book” provided a lot of information on hotels; however, for the most part, places to eat were not listed.

Texie, Paul Camp’s daughter, did not go but gave her thoughts on the trip.

“This was unheard of, for anyone to drive to California, but Papa always wanted to see the big trees in Yosemite National Park. There were no road maps, but they did have the ‘Blue book.’ That is all they had to go by. It would say, ‘Go five miles to the red school house and turn left, etc.,’ and that is the way they traveled.”

Two weeks later, they arrived in California and went on to Yosemite National Park where they were in awe of the giant sequoia/redwood trees. In fact, they rode the automobile right through one.

They then motored on to San Francisco. The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition was taking place. Hosted to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, the Exposition brought San Francisco and the United States to the world stage. It marked San Francisco’s ascendancy following the disastrous earthquake of 1906. Thirty-one nations and many U.S. states built exhibits at the Exposition.

Following their visit to the Exposition and Yosemite, the Camps decided to reorganize their itinerary.

Immediately following the Camp’s visit to the Exposition, Paul told Ryland, “I have seen the redwoods. That was my dream. NOW, I and your Mama, and the girls will take the TRAIN home. You and Diggins can take the CAR.”

So, son Ryland DID stay with the car and, with Chauffeur Jim Diggins, took a side trip up the Pacific Coast to Oregon, Washington and Canada. Then, they drove back to Franklin by way of Detroit. Ryland wanted to see the Ford assembly plant.

In the meantime, Paul and wife Ella, along with children, Ella and Ruth, took the train back to Franklin.

They all just got back. They are having just about as much fun recalling the arduous trip to friends and relatives as they had when they were actually on the trip.

They enjoy showing photographs including the one that shows the car being driven through a redwood tree in Yosemite Valley. That particular picture shows the family in their great big touring car with the top back. The women were all decked out with big feathers in their hats.

Last Tuesday, in Franklin, a meeting of the Young Men’s Business Association was held. Ryland Camp was the guest speaker. He spoke about the family’s recent west-coast trip and his trip up the Pacific Coast and, on his way back home, to Detroit.

This was Ryland’s first opportunity to speak about the trip in public. Since he took the trip up the Pacific coast, he saw much more than did other family members.

Young Mr. Ryland Camp had a lot to talk about.

“I was impressed with the splendid public highways in the west. Farming conditions, stock-raising, both horse and cattle, and a general boosting spirit are everywhere manifest in the West. I was especially impressed with the great cornbelt of the middle-west. The wheat fields in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada really caught my attention.”

“The roads in the West are far ahead of ours and the people, generally, are more awake to the advantages of ‘town-booming’ and advertising,” he said. “But, when the HIGH prices of western lands are considered and the superiority of our markets for crops in the South and East is recognized, Virginia is the best place to live,” he added.

Of special interest to Association members was Ryland Camp’s account of his visit through the Ford automobile factory. They also took note of Ryland’s obvious excitement over California’s big trees. The Association gave him a unanimous vote of thanks for his interesting talk.

Following the program, the members enjoyed an informal “smoker.”

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net