14 March 65 : On the road (and unwashed!) from east to west : Kentucky, USA

This continues the letter dated Tuesday 9th March 1965, which began – 

Dear family,

Sunday 14th March

V and I finished up our job in Washington on Friday at 3:30, and went and did a bit of last minute sightseeing and photography, and were just able to squeeze in a visit to the Capitol Building.

Tony at the Capitol Washinton March 65
Tony at the Capitol Building
V in Washington March 65
V at the Washington Monument
Tony's photo of the Capitol Washington
Tony’s photo of the Capitol


This is a very beautiful building and of course a very historic place, and I was sorry we weren’t able to have a good look around. It had to be a very fleeting glimpse but it was better than nothing. Colin is very anxious to see Washington, so we shall be going there again, and then we shall have more time.

I set off for Philadelphia to go to a motel where I had arranged to meet Colin, who was driving down from the north. We each arrived within half an hour of each other, and swapped stories about where we had been etc.

The fellow Colin had been with was a fanatic on cleanliness, and took a shower each day and changed his vest, pants, socks and shirts every day. Colin said, when he realised that he (Colin) changed his once a week, he was horrified, and said to Colin ‘Don’t you smell?’ Colin said he made him feel really dirty.

(NB: In Britain, pants refers to underwear, not trousers.) 

On Saturday morning we set off for Covington, which is in Kentucky. We went along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (you can drive 900 miles without turning or stopping) and we went through some beautiful countryside, rolling hills and forests for mile after mile.

We passed through the Pennsylvania Dutch Country where the ‘Amish‘ people live. These are a large community of people of Dutch origin. They live 100% in the past. They plough with horse and hand ploughs, and ride around in horse and buggy, and dress in olden clothes. (Their dress is like the fellow on the front of the Quaker Oats packets). They don’t believe in education or any of the modern day inventions.

1960s Quaker Oats packaging and logo

Gradually the countryside became more hilly, and soon became mountainous as we approached the Allegheny Mountains.

The road wound down through valleys and vales, and on four different occasions the road went right through the mountains via long, long tunnels, an amazing feat of engineering. Without a shadow of doubt the Americans must be the greatest civil engineers in the world. We have seen roads and bridges and now tunnels which are fantastic, and need to be seen to be believed.

We saw from the map that we were passing the Blue Knob State Park, so we decided to leave the turnpike and go up into the mountains. These state parks are fabulous, they are large areas of unspoiled countryside and are maintained by the Government. We went up and up and gradually entered brilliant white snow which got deeper and deeper. The day was perfect with a brilliant blue sky and the view was breathtaking – mile upon mile of snow covered hills and forests, and everywhere there were crystal clear mountain streams.

We wandered around in the hills for a while, winding up and down, and then headed back for the turnpike, stopping first at a small trading post to drink some cider (all you can drink for 10 cents!!)

We stopped at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the night. Not a very inspiring place, a bit industrial and grimy. We went to a drive-in cinema, quite unique, two giant screens, one at each end, you could face either way to watch either screen, and could see a choice of six big films (all good ones). It’s great to be able to sprawl out with your shoes off, and your feet up on the dashboard with a bottle of beer.

The car we have is a Ford Custom (not a Galaxy) and is the biggest car I have driven so far. It’s gigantic and seems to be miles long. It will seat eight in comfort, so you can imagine how lost we look in it.



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For contrast, Tony’s company car in Britain had been a tiny green 1963 Hillman Imp. No wonder the giant American cars seemed so immense after this!

We set off this morning from Pittsburgh and entered a new state – West Virginia, and then another, Ohio, which soon levelled out to very flat farming country – towns becoming very infrequent.

The further west we went the more typically American the scenery became, with large farms surrounded with white fencing, and with animals (the first we have seen) – farm animals I mean, cattle, sheep, pigs etc.

The roads became smaller (by this time we had left the turnpike) and the towns smaller too. We ran into a very severe blizzard of snow, which was a bit of a surprise, and then rain and then sunshine again.

It should have been getting dark, but, as we were speeding west, we were following the sun and at 7 o’clock it was still light, which was very odd. At 7:30 we arrived in Cincinnati, which is a much bigger place than we had imagined, and crossed the river into the state of Kentucky, (our third new state today) to a motel, which is as luxurious as ever.

A few miles further to the west is the change line in the time. There are 3 time sections in America – Eastern Standard Time, Central Standard Time and Western Standard Time.

We are very curious to know how it is worked as it is a dead straight line on the map, and we are wondering what will happen if we have to cross the line to do a job. If we finish there at 5 p.m., and go back to the motel, it will be 4 o’clock – which will suit us down to the ground!!

Prices here are considerably cheaper than in the east. We travelled 800 miles yesterday and today, and with our journey on Friday included, we have each travelled nearly 1,000 miles over the weekend, and we don’t feel a bit tired.

I had a letter from Mam on Friday and a card from Carol, and also the letter you forwarded from Alan a friend of mine in Birmingham. I don’t know if I have told you but I have had the socks from Mum. My mail may take a little longer from now on due to the extra distance, but don’t worry, it will arrive each week sooner or later. Mam tells me the weather is pretty bad at home with snow and gales. I hope by now it has improved. The weather here in the daytime is quite spring like, but at night gets very cold.

We are in a good position here as we are the only ‘changeover men‘ in the Mid West, so if anything new crops up out here, we are likely to be sent to do it. It’s a real relief to be away from the East Coast area. The people here seem much more friendly, and of course an Englishman is more of a novelty here, than in the east.

Well, that brings you up to date with all the events of the last week, which has been quite hectic I am happy to say.  I hope you are all well and happy. Must end now.

All my love, Tone xxxx

PS Mam is under the impression I am now 26. I think you had better break her the sad news!!!

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NOTE: A very, very happy 80th birthday to Tony, who celebrated by travelling to the Arctic circle with Jackie (the Dictator) to watch the Northern Lights. Amazing stuff!

You can see a celebratory photo of Tony on his travels at our facebook page   www.facebook.com/Tones1960stravels  🙂 

Tony is equally surprised by the fact that he and Colin appeared to only wash themselves and their clothes once a week, and seemed to consider this entirely normal. Ewww! 

The Amish do educate their children, running their own one-room schools – usually with a young single female teacher – which children attend until age 13-14, before they are home educated until 16.

Amish child running into corn
photographer Thomas DeFeo


In November 65, Tony may have become aware of these Amish schools when a controversial event in Iowa caused national headlines. At this point, Amish families were breaking the law by refusing to enrol their children into the compulsary national schooling system, and instead educating them in their own one-room schools, in accordance with their religious beliefs (not teaching science, etc).

In 1965, Iowa state tried to enforce this compulsary education by fining and jailing Amish parents for their children’s non-attendance. When this did not work, on 20 November 1965, education officials and police officers arrived with a school bus to collect the Amish children and take them to the local public school.   Horrified, Amish parents tried to stop them, and one father yelled to the children: ‘Run!’ A photographer from the Des Moines Register, Thomas DeFeo, snapped an iconic image of the children fleeing into the cornfields to escape, which was then published across the country, causing widespread outrage.

The incident triggered widespread support from the Amish and the creation of a popular and powerful religious liberties movement. This led to the 1972 landmark ruling in the Wisconsin v. Yoder Supreme Court case which effectively allowed the Amish to limit schooling to eight grades, based on their religious beliefs.

You can find out more about this fascinating incident HERE and HERE.  


3 thoughts on “14 March 65 : On the road (and unwashed!) from east to west : Kentucky, USA

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