(The following is the sixth and final part in an ongoing series recalling a cross-country trip to California taken in the summer of 1958. The story, by Stan Kornafel, was told to Managing Editor David Bjorkgren.)
They survived the tornado and ended up looking for an open box car in a freight yard in Kansas City. The train comes. No open box car.
“The only thing left was the tanker car.” They jumped on. “This train is picking up speed. We sit down and we’re holding on.” So far the train was only doing 30 mph. What if the train picked up speed and was doing 60?
“We were holding on to each other and we were so scared. There was no where to go.”
This time somebody saw them. “They stopped the train. State police showed up with shot guns and rifles and arrested us.”
The police chief didn’t believe a word they said about their trip to California. “They thought we were escaped convicts out of Leavenworth.”
The boys were put in a jail cell, but a call to their parents confirmed their story. They were released and put up in a hotel with the stern warning, “Stay away from all railroad property.”
Now there was nothing left but to hitchhike home. Around Columbus, Ohio, they ran out of money. Once again, they’re picked up by the police.
“By now, we’re starving. We haven’t eaten in days, no showers, shaving, clothes.”
The police got them to a phone booth where they wired home for money. The three of them grabbed a bus that took them to Philadelphia. They had to transfer to another bus, but in their condition, they weren’t allowed on. “We found out what park benches were like.”
By now they were tired of being pushed around. They had a ticket to ride and they weren’t taking no for an answer.
“The driver comes back with a guard, a superintendent.” Finally, they reach an accommodation. “They put us on the bus as far back as possible.”
One last ride and at long last, they were home, their journey at an end.
“Dave’s mom was out on the porch waiting. Then did we get an ear job, but we were back in one piece.”
(Know someone who might still have one of Stan’s trip fundraising raffle tickets? He is asking anyone who has a ticket or knows anything about them to contact Managing Editor Dave Bjorkgren at email@example.com, or call 610-915-2251.)