6 – 9 Dec 64 : Cool convertible, heading south! 

Collingswood, New Jersey, 

Sunday 6th December

Dear Mum, Dad, Nigel and Carol,

Yesterday we had our craziest day to date in the store – thousands of kids practically on the verge of a riot, and almost tearing everything apart. We worked from 12 till 9pm and we never stopped. One chap said to me ‘I’m getting out of here before these kids tear me apart’.

I was holding one of the military guns and showing it to a lady when it went off in my hand, and a huge red missile shot out at a fantastic force and almost killed another woman!! Some of these toys are almost lethal. We have some guns which give off a terrific explosion and emit smoke, and the kids take these down off the shelves and have battles, and the air is filled with explosions. We have to chase them all over the place to get the guns off them. Some of the women are really terrified. It’s like a madhouse.

I was put on the musical section yesterday for two hours, and I demonstrated and sold an electric organ. How about that?

Colin and I mess about rather too much I’m afraid but it’s good fun. Yesterday we got some batteries and a screwdriver and unpacked and loaded up a two-way walkie-talkie radio set, and were wandering all over the store talking to each other. We also spent a few hours demonstrating the racing car sets, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and drew quite a crowd to watch the races. However, we do also sell, and quite well too!!

One woman said to me ‘I like buying things from you – I get a real kick out of hearing you speak.’ Others don’t believe it’s real, and think we are putting it on, and if they hear us both, think it’s a joke. However we meet some nice people. Colin met a doctor who has invited us to his house.

Today (Sunday) Herb called around at 9:30am (despite our pleas that we prefer to stay in bed) and we commenced on the usual tour of coffee bars, until we finally went off to look for a camera for Colin. Then we had some lunch and went up to Vi’s. We stayed about an hour chatting to Tony and Pat, and then with Vi we went out back into ‘Philly’ (as it’s called) to go to the Benjamin Franklin Institute.

This is a museum and sometimes called ‘The Wonderland of Science’ although none of us were very impressed and all thought it was a waste of 75 cents. We saw the actual aeroplane that Amy Johnson crossed the Atlantic, and as Colin said she had more faith in it than he would have had.

We then went to a very plush restaurant for a meal. Our first decent meal since we have been here (expensive meal, I mean). I had snapper soup which is real turtle soup with chunks of real turtle meat in it. A vinegar bottle was put on the table and it turned out this was full of sherry, which you put into the soup. Very nice it was too. Vi had several raw oysters, which she swallowed with great relish, and made me feel a bit queasy. Herb had fried oysters. After the meal we went to Vi’s and watched TV, and then, despite our protest went down to Vi’s diner where she fried us some more steaks to take home.

The weather has once again changed, and gone down to below freezing and is very cold. We have seen lots of cars which have come from the North covered in snow. It’s very severe up there apparently.

I had a letter from Mum today and I was delighted to hear of Nigel’s success. Well done Nigel, and I hope you will enjoy it there. In fact I know you will.

I’m delighted to hear that Kip is in such fine form. I was in a shop the other day and there was a dog just like him in there, same colouring, same size, same bark even, and funnily enough his name was Skip or Skipper, which I thought was a great coincidence. I hope you can send me a picture of him.

Tuesday 8th December

Well, once again we are out of work and on the move. Colin left yesterday (Monday) as today was his day off, and I left today (after having bought a pair of socks and a pair of desert boots less 20%).  The manager seemed genuinely sorry we were leaving and said we had done a ‘great job’, which amazed us to say the least.

Yesterday I was playing with the racing car set (racing cars on tracks and controlled by electricity) when a fellow started asking me questions about it. Not knowing much about it at all, I bluffed out a lot of nonsense – and he bought it. I was then approached by the rep of the company who supply them, who happened to be watching, and was congratulated for ‘that beautiful presentation’. If he had known how much rubbish I had spouted he wouldn’t have been so impressed.

Still, as I was saying, we are on the move again. We are taking a car down to Florida, to Miami, and as I write this we are speeding south and at the moment are going through Virginia. (It is now Wednesday by the way).

We have done this through a firm who advertise for drivers to drive private cars all over the States for people who prefer to fly or go by train, but need their cars when they are there. We contacted this firm called Auto Drive-away, and he was a bit doubtful about us, and insisted on seeing all our documents, and having pictures and fingerprints taken, and finally okayed us, and commissioned us to drive this car to Florida.

I worked at the store yesterday while Colin went to fetch the car (and we split my day’s wages) and Colin arrived home about 7:30 with THE CAR!!

It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a bright red Thunderbird Galaxie, 8 cylinder V8 engine and it is 18 ft long. It has power steering, power brakes, electrically operated windows, power operated boot lid, power operated hood (which automatically folds up and stows away into the boot). The driving seat moves up and down, and back and fore, and also reclines electrically at the press of a button. It’s the last word in motor cars in America and we are very lucky to have it.

We have three days to get it to Florida and they pay all the petrol and oil, which is refunded when we deliver the car. We set off at 9 this morning and immediately got lost, and spend ages going round and round great cloverleaf inter-junctions trying to find the right road. We finally got sorted out and are now well on the way – a journey of 1,400 miles.

When we left Philly it was snowing, and when we arrive in Miami it should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

We get no accommodation allowance, so we don’t know where we shall sleep tonight. We are going to try to sleep at a truck stop, which is a place where truck drivers can sleep. You can sleep at these places (in a bunk) for 50 cents all inclusive. If we can’t get into one (because let’s face it we haven’t got a truck) we will go into a motel.

We feel very grand in our car which is now flying two Union Jacks.

Herb and Vi will be coming down in Vi’s car in time for Christmas.

The drive down so far has been wonderful. So far today we have travelled through the states of New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, and we passed very close to Washington DC.

Travelling in this car is a pleasure. It’s so powerful and comfortable. We have to keep up an average of 360 miles a day to get there in the time allowed. So far today we have done 300 miles and we don’t feel a bit tired. The car will go on all day at 70, and the speedo  goes up to 140. The roads are incredible, we can go at 70 for ever, there is so little traffic and the roads are so wide and straight.

We crossed some huge bridges this morning. I don’t know if you have a map of America, but if you have, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay (just north of Washington) on one of the biggest bridges I have ever seen.

Chesapeake bay bridge

Photo from Wikimedia commons. Credit: By RCraig09 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47982075 

Bridges don’t seem to mean a thing to the Americans, They will build a bridge across anything it seems, without the slightest trouble. We have seen some massive ones. The one I just mentioned seemed to be miles long, and when we were in the middle of it, it seemed as though we were in the middle of the sea. There were even huge ships passing underneath.

We have passed through mile upon mile of pine forest, and with all the greenery and the clear blue sky it seems just like summer.

I’m sorry that my writing is even worse than usual, but I am writing this in the car.

As we pass through the countryside and go further south, we pick up new radio stations all the time on the car radio, and the accent is now changing to a really southern one.

We have seen lots of eagles, and even saw one picking at a dog which had been killed by a car. We have not taken our camping gear down to Florida because we have been advised not to camp there, due to the many dangerous snakes and especially spiders which are in the area. So, we shall look for a room in Miami.

We have even brought an electric stove with us. We have left most of our gear at our place in Collingswood, and our landlady says we can go back there for the week when we shall be back in Philly working for SKF. So we shan’t now have to look for a accommodation when we return.

She was terribly disappointed when she heard we were off, as we have had some good fun with her since we have been there. Apparently she had all sorts of things planned for us around Christmas. However we shall be with them from January 4th for a week, so we shall probably have a few parties then!!!

To be continued… 

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