(The following is the fourth part in an ongoing series recalling a 17-year-old boy’s cross-country trip to California taken with his high school buddies in the summer of 1958. The, story, by Stan Kornafel, was told to Managing Editor David Bjorkgren.)
They made it to Alburquergue, New Mexico where the people were “very friendly.”
“One place had an original old covered wagon with a cook and we had lunch out on the praire, with cows and horses, steak, beans and potatoes,” Kornafel recalls. “Flagstaff beer, by the way, is a good beer.”
As they neared Las Vegas, a motorcycle policeman flagged them down. With the mud and rain it was hard to recognize the car.
“We were getting ready for a brawl,” figuring police wouldn’t take too kindly to kids traveling alone heading to Las Vegas. The police lieutenant checked their licenses and finally called their parents. He let them go with a warning that they would be in big trouble if they were caught gambling.
“Bill thought they were going to kick us out of town, but he helped us find a reasonable place to stay.” And so, with a police escort that included lights and sirens, they were checked into the Hoseanda.
“There were cow girls with hats and boots, all shooting guns off,” he recalls.
The manager didn’t believe their story about how they organized their trip to California.
“He has to see the car, than he cuts us a break on a large room at a very reduced rate.”
They ended up playing blackjack as much as they could at nights, “six hours at the black jack table. Nobody got busted.”
There was a woman.
A woman, who looked to be in her 40s, comes walking over wearing a diamond ring. “The woman could see I was winning. She moved her chair over and started a conversation.” That was when Dave came over. He looked underage and that put an end to the conversation.
After getting themselves kicked out of Las Vegas, they made their way into California and arrived in Granada Hills to drop Larry off with the family where he would be staying while attending college.
They stayed two-and-a-half days, than the three remaining boys continued their trip, leaving Larry behind.
The night before they left they found a Mexican-American joint. They decided to have a couple of drinks to toast Tom’s absence and Larry’s departure.
“The place was swinging. Word got out about us being from Pennsylvania”.
There were people from the Midwest, the East Coast. People were dancing and the place started to heat up.
“I got involved with a woman whose husband was right there. He broke us up before there was any trouble,” Kornafel says. “I was in love.”
Leaving Granada Hills, they decided to check out the LA freeway.
“We got pulled over for going too slow.”
One of them had a brother at a Jesuit seminary in California so they worked out a plan to stay there for three days. “We played cards and got an introduction to religion. We wanted to experience everything.”
Having made it to California, their western journey now arced east. It was near Reno when they were stopped again by police.
“They got us out of the car and said we were under arrest. The way they said it provoked us.” In front of the police car was a jail cell on top of a truck. A judge comes out.
“The sheriff was bringing people over. Casino people were yelling ‘Lynch them.’ Turns out they were part of an elaborate fund-raising event. “If we made a donation to the J.C.s, they would let us go.”
They continued east and made it as far as Wallas, Kansas. “The car was giving off sounds we hadn’t heard before.” Finally, the timing chain went.
“Wallas was where old Nellie died. Bill got out and shot her, kicked the door.”
A man bought the car for $5, than gave them another $15 for the sleeping bags and the cooler.
They made it to a neaerby freight terminal in Sharon Springs but now they stranded.Their only option: Go back to Rt. 40 and hitchhike.
(Part 5 appears next week. Know someone who might still have one of Stan’s 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.)