In the summer of 1937, 17-year-old Phyllis Jeanette Hughes set out with her family to make a cross-country trip from Santa Barbara, California, to the East Coast and back. They rode by train along the northern route to Michigan, where they continued by car in order to explore the South and visit her father's family in West Virginia. They ventured into Virginia, visiting Natural Bridge before heading north to New England and back south to take the southern route back to California. Hughes kept a daily journal of the trip, adding the type of colorful commentary only a teenager could provide, which reads like a modern-day social media feed. She made a scrapbook from the photographs taken throughout the trip and added her journal entries to the corresponding photographs and ephemera. This exhibit will highlight excerpts from her scrapbook.
July 18, 1937
"Out to see Washington in a day. Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial. It is twice as big as we expected it to be. Next we drive out the lovely Memorial Highway to George Washington's home, Mount Vernon."
"We went to Arlington National Cemetery, where is located the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. An armed guard marches back and forth before it all the time. It was hot in the sun and this poor fellow's shirt was wet clear through in back, but he marched on."
"We next waited our turn on the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument. We got up the 555 ft to the top. We had a splendid bird's eye view of everything. The buildings were toy buildings in a toy city--the cars, toy cars--and the people, crawling ants."
At the U.S. Capitol "we had to climb steps amounting to a regular mountain to get up to the entrance. Mother said she never expected to climb so many marble steps this side of heaven! I counted the 'endless' steps coming down-only amounted to about 115!"
"The new Supreme Court building was not open but it was just more marble on the outside and reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial. Our capitol [is] a beautiful but seemingly unhospitable city. Everywhere we went we found 'No Parking' signs!"
July 19, 1937
"Annapolis is a quaint little city. We asked at the Naval Academy if they allowed visitors. They told us yes. We went to the observation gallery with 5 big modern guns like on battleships. I call them cannons, but daddy insists they are rifles, so rifles they are."
"Our next stop was Frederick, where daddy worked in a drug store for his uncle for a few months when he was a boy. We saw Barbara Fritchie's house and the flag that looked old enough to be the one she waved at Stonewall Jackson."
July 20, 1937
"At the Gettysburg Battlefield are a great many plaques and monuments and statues in honor of people and events in the war. At another place we saw where Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address."
July 23, 1937
"As we wound down the dirt road that led to the cottage, the trees are so thick around that one would never know that there are cabins here and there. Our road is marked with a big sign 'Hart and Kellog.' It is a nice big house with plenty of room."
"The first thing I did was to run over next door and find Helen Hart who had come up for a few days with some friends. We went swimming. The water was warm and very nice. It seemed queer to get a mouthful and not have it salty, but just like drinking water."
July 25-26, 1937
"Both days it rained, and the wind blew, and it was cold as a California winter, so I had a dandy time of reading, writing, playing the phonograph, and sitting by the fire all day."
July 27, 1937
"The sun shone, but a cold wind was blowing, so we went to Alpena to shop. We drove by the cement works but were too late to see any action. We drove to Long Lake then to Grand Lake. It was interesting to see because it had several tiny islands out in the middle."
July 31, 1937
"This morning we all climbed sleepily out of bed bright and early. Why? We were going to the 'Soo.' And what's that? Only the common abbreviation for Sault Saints Marie where are located the locks between Lake Superior and Lake Huron."
"At Mackinaw City, after waiting in a line that was blocks long for about an hour, we finally got on the auto ferry that crossed the Straits to St. Ignace. It was fun. It seemed just like I remembered the San Francisco Ferry being. We walked over to the lock. Two hours flew by while we watched this fascinating process of up and down. One of the officials said that an average of 90 vessels went through every 24 hours."
August 1, 1937
"It was a bright and lovely Sunday morning, but it was regretful that it seemed just like any other day of the week. We went back across the ferry to Mackinaw City and went to Petoskey. About 50 miles south we headed to Alpena, which was rolling, hilly country."
August 2-3, 1937
"August 2 and 3 I spent most of the time reading and writing. On the third, Daddy went trout fishing with Mr. Warde and his boys, our very nice next door neighbors."
August 4, 1937
"After breakfast on the morning of the 4th, we all started on a hike to Hickey Hill. Uncle Clarance, Aunt Like, Mother and Daddy dropped out and turned back. Grandpa and I tramped on alone, lost the trail, and plowed through lots of under brush and grass."
"We followed a trail most of the way down passing through some pretty spots of woodland. Two and half hours from the time we left, we trampled in, very hot and tired, and I immediately sought the cool and restful comfort of the lake."
August 5, 1937
"'Niagara Falls via London' has a rather strange sound-but that was our route. We ferried the short distance across the St. Clair River to Sarnia, Canada. After being asked the formal questions at customs about our citizenship and baggage, we entered Canada."
"We saw very few billboards and no speed limit signs, except in a few towns, some would merely say 'Drive Carefully!' We were amused by one sign that read 'Church-Drive Slowly!'It was also interesting to note the change in road number signs from (example) 'U.S. Hwy. 22' to 'King's Highway No. 22.'"
"A hundred miles from Sarnia and halfway between there and Niagara, (via Paris!) we found the beautiful city of London, luxuriant with lovely trees, beautiful old homes and wide streets. It was pleasant to stop for the night at such a nice town of His Majesty's."
August 6, 1937
"Niagara Falls, the beautiful, the magnificent, the breath-taking, the gigantic, truly qualified for the title of King of the Seven Wonders of the world."
"The falls to our left were American, to our right, the more marvelous Canadian Falls. The two super forces of these falls united in the bottom of the canyon in a foamy, rushing, tangled green river, in which are power houses furnishing electricity to millions."
"High above the whirlpool were wired over which swung a giant cable car, packed with the more curious and adventurous spectators. Finally it was necessary to tear ourselves from this fascination and retrace our steps back by the rapids, the falls, and upper rapids."
August 7, 1937
"Detroit, which is laid out like a wheel with the streets radiating from Cadillac Square like spokes, is one of our greatest manufacturing cities. We saw the Vernor Ginger Ale Plant, the Stearns Manufacturing Co, and the Chrysler, Plymouth, and Hudson Plants."
"The Shrine of the Little Flower, Father Coughlin's church, is a very beautiful and interesting place. Across the street we found Paul Weyer's restaurant, where I had a new experience with food. We had frogs' legs, roadhouse style."
August 8, 1937
"Sunday afternoons, Helen sings over the radio, so our next stop was the broadcasting station. The announcer looked like what I always thought an announcer would look like-tall and lanky with tousled hair; tie loosened at his neck, his coat off, sleeves rolled up."
"For dinner we visited an Italian restaurant where I learned to eat spaghetti Italian fashion. You pick up a few strings on the end of your fork and lift it above your plate to loosen it from the rest. Hold against a spoon and roll up the spaghetti. Very simple!"
August 11, 1937
"Cousin Milton Northrop came early to take us to Fort Wayne, and reluctant and grateful goodbyes were soon over. Fort Wayne is much larger than we expected to find it and is also quite pretty. After devouring Cousin Vera's luscious dinner, Cousin Milton took us to see the town. First we went through the high school of which he is principle. There is a swimming pool and a rifle range, two features which impressed me especially."
August 12, 1937
"After a super-special breakfast, Cousin Milton, Vera, and Bobby decided to go with us on the train to Chicago. It was Bob's first train ride, but the only sign of excitement he displayed was in his wide eyes. After dinner in Chicago, we took the elevated out to Wrigley field to watch a real major league baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was rather disappointing to have the Pirates beat the Cubs 16 to 6. We whiled away the intervening time before the train left with eating and window shopping, then bid the Northrops farewell, and truly headed for home."
August 13, 1937
"Nearly all the day was spent in KS through long stretches of flat, barren, mountainless country. We came quite close to the dreadful dust bowl, and could see a cloud of dust in the distance. It was a poor, pitiful country, and we were thankful for our lovely CA."
August 15, 1937
"We knew we were nearly home when we woke up this morning-in California at least-we were enshrouded in thick, white, pea-soup fog, the first we's seen since we left. We were soon in Los Angeles where we made the switch for our last lap. 'Santa Barbara! Next stop, Santa Barbara!' bellowed the conductor, and then we really did begin to get excited as the train eased slowly into the station, and we searched eagerly for familiar faces. There was Grandma! My but it was good to see her again. Gee, but the town and everything in it looked good-just as it did before. And our home-what a wonderfully nice, comfortable, modern, beautiful, and homey home we have! Coming back home was the most real part of our whole adventure."
Research, text, and arrangement by Dana Puga, Prints and Photographs Collection Specialist, Manuscripts & Special Collections Department. Editing and assistance from Sonya Coleman, Digital Collections Specialist.
Images from the Visual Studies Collection, Manuscripts & Special Collections, Library of Virginia.