Tidewater Traveler - February 2011


Remember When?
George W. Sellers


Travel has changed! Or, have we changed?
Remember when – every time you drove your car into a service station to fill up with gasoline, a uniformed attendant popped out of the station, started pumping the gas, then lifted your hood to check the oil and washed your windshield. And while all this was going on, he would actually talk with you. Every time! Remember when?
At that same service station you could get full-color detailed maps for just about any part of the country – and they were free! Once opened, they could never be returned to their neat, flat, original folded condition.
You could travel by train from the Claiborne steamboat dock in Talbot County all the way to Ocean City, crossing many creeks and rivers on railroad bridges. Remember the train bridge across the Nanticoke River at Vienna? I don’t – but I have seen a picture of it.
School buses had wood-framed bodies; students sat on long benches down each side, and in the center of the floor was a small coal stove. I don’t remember it, but my mother and her father had such a bus, the body of which had been built for them by Jim Richardson, who later became a renowned Eastern Shore boat builder.
On road trips in the family car, small children stood on the floor-hump in the back and rested their arms and chin on the back of the front bench-seat. People rode in the car trunk; it was called a rumble seat. It looked romantic, but I bet it was a bumpy ride. Seat belts? No such thing!
All male passengers on airplanes wore suits, ties and hats; the ladies dressed up too, and there were no screaming kids!
You could travel by bus from almost any little town along the route to almost any other little town. And if you were not in a little town, you just had to wave and the bus would stop and pick you up.
To cross the Chesapeake Bay for a road trip to Baltimore you drove your car onto a ferry for a peaceful 45-minute cruise from Matapeake to Sandy Point.
You could stand on the running board of a car or truck and hang on for a short ride. Some kids would hang on for a ride even when the driver did not know they were there.
Picking up a hitch-hiking sailor in uniform and toting a duffle bag was the right thing – the patriotic thing to do, and no one considered it dangerous.
Families were so large that it was not uncommon for someone to be left behind in the service station restroom; and, of course, none of the other children would mention that little Johnny was missing because it gave them more space.
Ocean cruising was for the very wealthy or for the very poor. The very wealthy cruised for business and vacation; the very poor cruised to escape their conditions and to seek a new life in the Land of Freedom. Cruise ships had physical barriers to separate sections of the ship for various classes of service.
A person of color had to use a separate restroom – if any; and had to eat in a separate section of a restaurant – if at all. They had to ride in the back of the bus, if at all, and had very few places to stay while traveling– if any! Some travel memories are nostalgic, while some are just painful.
A “big trip” was driving from Federalsburg to Denton, or from Denton to Cambridge.
Back in the day you parked your car along the curb in front of Friendship Airport and your family walked all the way to the gate to say goodbye and watch you board the plane. And then you walked out onto the tarmac and climbed a set of stairs to board the plane.
In the pre-McDonald’s era the family car had a pee jar under the seat, and in the trunk was a picnic basket and drink cooler. Roadside picnic tables were abundant and fairly clean. They were called “wayside picnic areas.”
Airplane meals were served with real china, silverware and cloth napkins.
Airplane meals were served!!
A network of steamboats covered the Cheasapeake Bay and most of the inland rivers on DelMarVa. Most river towns in the Mid-Shore area had steamboat wharves. Steamboat was the travel mode of choice to reach Baltimore from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Overnight accommodations for a road trip were little individual cabins all lined up in a row.
The supersonic Concorde flew a regular, nonstop route between New York and Paris, making the trip in just over three and a half hours, about half the time of a conventional jet liner. The Concorde made its last passenger flight way back in May of ’03 (2003, that is). The Concorde has been relegated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Annex near Washington-Dulles Airport.
Even the average person would freely eject trash paper and cigarette butts from the car window, not thinking there was really anything wrong with doing it. I’m glad we got that one under control – most of us, anyway, although some people still live in the past.
Suitcases were made of thin cardboard and had no wheels. And, they were called suitcases because they actually held suits.
And, speaking of travel accessories ...
The whip socket was a travel accessory on nearly every type of wheeled transportation. First-class vehicles were equipped with brass ones, while the whip sockets used by us regular folk were wooden. Now, in case you do not remember this, or you have never heard of a whip socket, I am going to leave you hanging. See if you can find out what a whip socket is. Perhaps you have one.
In case you cannot find the answer anywhere else, on February 12, 2011, I will post a description and some pictures of whip sockets on my Facebook page. If you already know what whip sockets are, go to my Facebook page and tell everyone else; post a picture if you have one.
Ah, yes! Travel has changed, but maybe we have too!
May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel website and travel planning service www.SellersTravel.com. His Facebook and e-mail addresses are George@SellersTravel.com.