The following is the second 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.
The four boys weren’t having much luck selling their raffle tickets to fund their cross-country trip to California, even with a lucrative prize of a table top radio.
Then they come to the house of a “huge black guy,” a football player and track and field athlete who had to duck when he answered the door so he wouldn’t hit his head.
“As it turned out, he was a salesman. He gave us a lot of hints on how to move the tickets,” Kornafel recalls.
So the tickets started to sell. Things were looking up. If only they had stayed away from one particular house in Sun Village.
A woman answered the door while her husband sat reading the newspaper.
“We backed up because we thought he pulled a gun. He was the chief of police for Sun Village,” Kornafel says.
The chief was skeptical and demanded that he see the prize before he let them sell any more tickets.
“If we didn’t come back with the radio, we would be arrested for theft. He wanted to know our names, addresses, phone numbers,” Kornafel recalls.
Serious threats, but as the boys reached the door to leave, the chief asked them how many tickets they had and gave them some money.
“I’m not buying tickets. I’m contributing,” the chief told them.
They put all the sold tickets in the back of a jacket, tied the jacket, then drew out five, then three, then one ticket. They had a winner.
They also had a combined total of $900, enough to buy the car and finance the trip.
But the trip still wouldn’t be possible without a fourth passenger to help with expenses and driving. They needed to replace Tom.
“We advertised in the papers, printed up flyers and hung them around the school,” Kornafel says.
And they found Larry, from Brookhaven. Larry was a big boy, on the football team.
“We talked to his family. That was a big scene,” Kornafel recalls.
Turns out Larry was going to college in California and his mother knew people in California that he could stay with, so it seemed like a good fit if Larry wanted to join them on their journey west.
The only glitch came when Larry and his parents initially thought “Nashie” was a girl traveling with them. They forbid him to make the trip.
Things changed when Larry realized Nashie was the car they would be traveling in.
“The first words out of his mouth were ‘You’re not going in that are you?’ We told him to apologize to Nashie and the rest became history,” Kornafel says.
Larry added to the trip fund the money he would have spent on bus fare and became an associate.
“He really wanted to be part of the crew. It became a real, tight bond,” Kornafel says.
They had the crew. They had the car. They had some money. Now they needed an itinerary. It was difficult to plan because the guys wanted to go to so many places.
Then there was all the stuff for the trip. How could the Nash carry it all?
“We had so much stuff from picking trash and what we could scrounge from our families. The car just wouldn’t hold it all.”
They had extra tires, 3- to 5-gallon cans of oil, sleeping bags, an ice chest, two cases of beer.
“By the time we got done [loading) the car was sitting on its frame,” Kornafel remembers.
So they started to cut down on everything. No suits. They would bring detergent and wash their socks. A rack for the roof of the car would help, but how do you fit a flat rack on an oval roof?
“Bill’s mom had a bedspring. It was the exact size of the roof. Uncle Henry, who had been in the war, provided a war surplus tarp. It was weatherproof. It covered everything.”
And so they were off on a road trip to California.
(Part 3 appears next week. Stan Kornafel is searching for one of the raffle tickets the boys sold to fund their trip. He is asking anyone who may still have a ticket or knows anything about them to contact Managing Editor Dave Bjorkgren at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 610-915-2251.)