Key West: cross-country drive

1955 US Highway System

We had a breakthrough in the last week on the route my Dad took to Key West. He had 30 days leave after finishing instructors school in San Diego. I assumed he spent that time with his parents. But this last week my Dad remembered that he went to the Bay area to visit a friend and her family. We are pretty sure that he drove from there to Key West not from San Diego. We also think that he picked up his car in San Francisco. His transfer orders show him flying from Barbers Point in Hawaii to Moffett Field in the Bay area to San Diego and then checking in at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.

He remembers taking a train from San Francisco to Palo Alto where his friend Pat lived and a couple of outings while there. So he must have picked up his car there. He remembers once picking up a car and having to replace the battery. This time makes the most sense because of how long it would have been since he had driven it. You had to turn the car in a couple of weeks before your departure. Then it would have come by boat and sat waiting for him for at least 4 weeks. That would have been 6 weeks and maybe two more weeks of his leave before he picked it up.

Yesterday we got together and plotted his most probable route and likely cities he might have stopped in each night. Her remembered a couple of things along the route. He drove near a small town in Arizona where Pat’s family used to live. He wondered if he had taken the now famous historic route 66. He knows he didn’t drive through New OrlĂ©ans until a few years later after my parents were married. He also remember taking what was then known as route 41 down through Florida. Adding all of that together we are pretty sure of most of the route.

We know he arrived two days early. He had 13 days for travel. So assuming he left 13 days before he was due in Key West we figure he made it in 11 days. I thought it was his first time really driving cross-country by him self but I found out that when he was in Key West before he drove his motorcycle from Key West to Chicago where his parents were living at the time. On that trip he rain into some cold wet weather. So even though this trip was hot (being early September) it must have been much easier physically than a couple thousand mile road trip on a motorcycle in March.

Here are our current guesses at his stops each night and the number of miles it takes to get there on today’s roads:

  1. Bakerfields, California (261 miles) 29 August
  2. Needles, California (272 miles) 30 August
  3. Holbrook, Arizona (298 miles) 31 August
  4. Silver City, New Mexico (230 miles) 1 September
  5. Pecos, Texas (364 miles) 2 September
  6. Cisco, Texas (239 miles) 3 September
  7. Shreveport, Louisiana (323 miles) 4 September
  8. Meridian, Mississippi (306 miles) 5 September
  9. Albany, Georgia (336 miles) 6 September
  10. Lakeland, Florida (340 miles) 7 September
  11. Miami, Florida (279 miles) – 8 September
  12. Key West, Florida (156 miles) – 9 September

This is pure speculation of course and we ended up with one more day than we think it took him but also a theory on why. My Dad check in at 0915 on September 9th. There really isn’t any place he would have likely stayed past Miami and yet to get from Miami to Key West that early in the morning means he would have to get up really early. So maybe when he got to Miami late he just decided to keep right on going and got to Key West the next morning. Hopefully some more memories will come back to him and we can have more confidence in this trip.

My next task is to look up the historical weather data for the days we think he was in each of these towns so we can use it to flesh out more of what his trip was probably like. I’m really enjoying the time that I get to spend with my Dad working on this project.

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Key West: update

Well, I don’t have total success to report but I did get some writing in (about half of the days). My parents are coming down on Friday, so I should get some time with my Dad over the next couple of weeks. When he called today he wanted me to find a road map for the 50s. I was glad I could tell him that I already had one. I even had it out on my desk from today’s attempt at writing about his cross-country drive to get to Key West from San Diego.

I also called about setting up a SCUBA class. Not surprising there isn’t anything available for October but they haven’t set up November yet. So they will contact me when they get that arranged. I have mixed feelings about taking the class. It’s just an hour so how bad can it be. But I think it will really be helpful in writing this history, so I’ll do it. Maybe it will be more fun than I expect.

I hope I’ll be reporting more writing progress with next weeks update than I did this week.

Key West: update

Progress made this last week but somehow managed not to write anything. I finished going through the “Buddy Line” newsletter for the Underwater Swimmers School last week. So far this week, I took the info I pulled from the “Buddy Line” and filed it in the folders I have set up under different subjects as reference when I actually start writing. I think this information will really be helpful. I don’t know of anything else I should gather or research so no more excuses for not to get started. Hopefully once I start writing it won’t be so painful to keep going. I’m committing to have some writing done by next week’s check in. In a perfect world I’d get at least 500 words written five times by then. Wish me luck!

Key West: update

To tell the truth I haven’t done much in the last week on this project. I need to jump back into writing and I’m procrastinating. At least I think that is the problem. I used a bit of a delay tactic today and started scouring the 14 years of the “Buddy Line” (a quarterly newsletter for the Underwater Swimmers School). I found one really good find that goes across multiple issues. A student shared his diary for 1957 while he was at the school. My Dad was an instructor at the time. He is only mentioned by name once but I think reading the daily entries we give me more insight into what it was like. I hope I’ll have more to report next week.

Key West: update

I met with my Dad again yesterday to work on his history about the three years he was an instructor at the Navy’s Underwater Swimmers School in Key West, Florida. The goal was to try to make sure that I understand all the equipment etc. that he used. I’m amazed at how much I have learned about SCUBA and what he did there. I’m sure there is still more to know, but it is time for me to get back to writing. That is where I will figure out what I need to know.

Someone started a Facebook group for the Underwater Swimmer School. I created a Facebook account for my Dad so he could be apart of it. Not too many members yet but one was a student while my Dad was there and he remembers him. He even remembers that my Dad was known as Red in those days. He commented on how he lead them in PT drills (I think that was the term he used). I’m not sure what that means. Looks like I already have another question for my Dad.

Key West: update

This week I got to meet with my Dad twice to talk about his memories of Key West and the Underwater Swimmers School. On Monday we went through some letters and documents, making sure I understood what they were about. I recorded most of that meeting for future reference. At one point we were talking about a TAD (temporary additional duty) and he asked me to turn the recording off. Then he told me some details about that assignment that was very surprising and very off the official record. Not sure how we are going to handle that story. I’m pretty sure all the people who might be adversely effected have died and it is a story that I really want to include so I hope we can figure out a good way to include it. I’m not sharing any detail here in respect for my Dad.

We got together again today and worked on getting things in chronological order, if we end up writing it that way. I put together some hanging files in a file box to organize it. I’ve got most things organized on my computer but that doesn’t help when working with my Dad. He wants and needs to see the things and seeing it on the computer just doesn’t seem to work for him. I’m really glad about how much he is involved in this project. I’m learning more about him and the interesting things he did when he was in the Navy.

Key West: update

My Dad and I got together today to talk more about his memories of Key West. It was good to talk and ask more questions. I recorded most of it for future reference. Part of the discussion was about how to approach the writing and the perspective to write it from. Gradually I think our vision is becoming clearer. I must have hope that we will figure this out if we just keep working at it and learning how to do it. Friday afternoon we will be getting together again. My parents are in town for the next couple of weeks.

Couple of other developments on Key West. Last week when I was researching I came across a book called “The Streets of Key West.” It included a 1950’s street map of Key West. I got the copy ordered through Barnes and Noble from a Goodwill in Florida. I think it will have some interesting bits of history. Found out today that someone as created a closed Facebook group for the Underwater Swimmers School. They emailed me because my address it their contact with my Dad. I joined the group and then realized that I really need to make a Facebook account for my Dad. No one knows me and there is no way for them to easily tell that I’m his daughter. So I’ll be getting a new email address for him and set up a Facebook profile for him. It could be a great source of information for this project and a good way to share what we are doing with those who would be interested.

Now I just need to get back to writing. I haven’t gotten to it so far this week and with a new puppy coming tomorrow it will be challenging to focus. But I must find a way. Anyone have any tricks or suggestion?