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Looking Back: 1915 – P.D. Camp family takes a trip

By Clyde Parker

Paul D. Camp and his wife Ella usually stayed close to home except for business trips to Florida and to Baptist meetings. However, on Sept. 5 of 1915, they took a most interesting and exciting trip. A break from the routine of their lives, it was an unbelievable family trip for that time. Paul and Ella, along with their grown children, Ryland, Ella and Ruth, and chauffeur, Jim Diggins, left “The Elms” in Franklin and took off, cross-country, to California in Paul’s 1912 Buick touring car.

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 old Jerusalem Plank Road to Petersburg, Richmond, Charlottesville and Staunton in Virginia. They then passed through Clarksburg and Parkersburg, in West Virginia, and on westward, through hundreds of counties, towns and cities.

Most roads were unpaved; some were loose gravel; and 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 go 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. Many 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 and Ella Camp’s daughter — did not go but gave her thoughts on the trip: “This was unheard of, for anyone to drive a car to California, but Papa was determined to do it. He 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 Camps’ 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 chauffer 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, were taking the train back to Franklin.

Upon their return, the whole family had about as much fun recalling the arduous trip to friends and relatives as they had when they were actually on the trip. Young Mr. Ryland Camp had a lot to talk about with his friends and business associates.

“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. 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 ae 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.