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 Crossing the USA 1954



My reason for going to the USA was to visit the American couple that I had met in Scotland several years before and who had asked me to come to the USA. They lived in the town of Marysville in the Pacific Northwest State of Washington.


Since day one, after getting off the ship at New York, I was to find that wherever I went, my Scottish accent was an instant passport to great welcomes and friendship. Scottish people who had gone before me had paved the way.


After getting off the ship and being wined and dined in New York for a week by friends that I had made aboard the "Neptunia", I was ready to move on. I had promised, Beejie, one of the young lady school teachers who I had met on the ship, that I would come to spend a few days with her and her parents at their home in the suburb town of Plainfield in the State of New Jersey. BJ  had told me that it was easy to get to her home from New York as a high speed shuttle commuter train continually went there. The first thing I had to do was  exchange my hand held suitcase for a hiking back pack. As luck would have it, near the ship board friends that I was staying with in New York was an Army Surplus store where I found exactly what I needed to become a man of the road. As a graduation gift from college,  BJ's parents had  given her the present of a new car. BJ had been talking with a car dealer and had picked out a model that she liked but she was getting nowhere with the car dealer's salesman. BJ asked me if I would step in and do the negotiating. Knowing what she wanted, the next day I went to the car dealer's showroom to buy the car. That event must have been hilarious. Here was a young Scotsman right off the boat dickering with a Yankee car dealer. The salesman shed crocodile tears but the deal was made and a satisfied BJ drove the car off the car lot, ha, ha.  BJ offered that since the school that she had been hired to teach at was in the town of Painesville in Ohio and was right on my way  going west that we should drive this distance together and take turns driving north on the freeways to Painesville. What amazed me on this drive north was the speed of the traffic that I was not accustomed to. However I soon mastered the art of keeping up. One thing that was very noticeable to me was the fact that I never saw one car broken down at the side of the road.  I had been brought up to believe that American cars that were  built on high speed assembly lines were not the equal of British made cars. How wrong I was.  I was accustomed to British cars often breaking down for one reason or another and needing to be towed for repair. Also at that time due to low octane grade petrol these cars had to have accumulations of carbon scraped off the tops of the pistons and the cylinder heads and the valves reground after about every ten or twenty thousand miles, I was to find that American built cars were highly reliable and that the need to remove built up carbon from the heads of the cylinders and the regrinding of valves was never needed to be done, even to cars that had two hundred thousand miles on their clocks. These run of the mill American cars were precision machined and built to a very high standard of quality. When BJ and I got to Painesville we said our farewells and I started out to become a hitch-hiker, something I had never done. I was amazed that within five minutes of standing alongside of the road I was picked up and taken right to Cleveland in the State of Ohio. 

On board the Neptunia





Lower righi in the gingham, Professor Elfleda Seelbach. On her right Betty Jean Smith.

In the center is Joan Schaber.  Me on Joan's left.

 The other two are an Australian couple.


Another one of the trio of school teachers who had befriended me aboard ship was named Joan. Her parents had driven from their home town of Elyria in Ohio to pick her up  when the ship docked in New York. I met her parents at dockside and they invited me to break my journey west and stay with them for a few days. When I got to Cleveland they picked me up and took me to their home in Elyria Ohio. On the first Sunday Joan's parents put on a garden barbecue party and invited many of their friends to meet me and to welcome me to the USA. Their sincere and earnest welcome was overwhelming and I had several job offers which I had to refuse as my pathway led to the Pacific which was over two thousand miles to the west of Elyria. One of the things that was barbecued was corn on the cob. Corn that grew on a cob was something that I had never seen before and I had no idea as to how it was eaten. I had to hold back as I watched others to see what they did with it.  ha, ha.


After a week in Ohio I was ready to move on and I made a phone call to Chicago in the State of Illinois where lived a Scottish girl who had lived in my home town of Earlsferry in Scotland. She had become a GI bride and was now living in Chicago which was right on my way west. Again, within a few minutes of holding up my thumb I was on my way to Chicago. I spent the weekend in Chicago with her and her husband. What is most memorable about my weekend in Chicago is that was the weekend that the U-505 German submarine that was captured in the middle of the Atlantic in World War II was dragged out of Lake Michigan and across Lake Shore Drive to end up its days in the Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. That was quite a sight. (50 years later in 2004, the U-505 was moved again)  In the U-505  when it was captured was an Enigma code communications machine. Unbeknown to Germany this machine was used by the allies to decode naval messages that were being transmitted from Germany to the German wolf pack submarines that were stalking the allied shipping convoys in the Atlantic. The information so gained as to the  locations of Germany's subs brought about the end of the German subs being the threat that they had been.


In the Chicago Sunday morning newspaper I thumbed through  the want ads. There  I spotted this advertisement, "Drivers wanted to deliver new cars from the  Nash Rambler factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin."  On Monday morning I was on the phone and was invited to come in to the Chicago office for an interview, which I did.  I was told that my British driver's license was as good in the USA as it was for the length of time that it was good in the UK and that as I had no record of a traffic violation I would be a perfect driver. The AAA Drive-Away Agency had a car that needed to be delivered to the town of Bellevue in the State of Washington which was just a few miles from my destination of Marysville.  I was finger printed, given a money allowance for my travel expenses for motels and fuel and made aware of  the date and time to pick up the car at the Kenosha car factory. At the factory my assigned vehicle was a station wagon and I was given road maps and the time allowance of ten days to deliver the vehicle to its destination. I was also told that it was OK at my discretion to pick up hitch hikers, which each day I did.  This was in the day that "hitch-hiker" was not a bad word and those I picked up were good travel companions. I decided to take all ten days to sightsee as I traveled across the United States which was a great experience. The most memorable event was the late afternoon that I rolled in to the town of Missoula in the State of Montana. Missoula is surrounded by mountains and I was in the most terrific and violent thunder and lightning storm. The rain was coming down in torrents and running like a river down the main street of the town. With the windshield wipers going full bore, visibility was down to almost nil. I spotted a restaurant, where, when I pulled on the brake, I had to make a mad dash from the car to the restaurant's door to prevent getting totally soaked to the skin. The restaurant was one that catered to the appetites of mountain men and cowboys and the smallest steak on the menu weighed one pound.  I ordered a top-sirloin, medium-rare with a baked potato etc. That was the best steak I have eaten in my lifetime and I wasn't about to not polish off every last morsel. The cost of my dinner was a little over one dollar (changed days) but when the restaurant owner heard me speak and he asked me where I was from and I naively responded, Earrlsferry in Scotland, he said for all to hear, "Son, this one's on me." When I got to the car dealer's place at Bellevue there were my Marysville friends whom I had previously called with my anticipated time of arrival.  It had been almost a month since I had left Earlsferry.


My Marysville friends went to great lengths to show off their home State of Washington to me and also the State of Oregon. Both Washington and Oregon are beautiful states  in which to live and make a life. Both have great cities, ocean beaches, majestic mountains and rivers, wilderness areas and places of employment. At that time I could very easily have said, I've seen more than enough, and thrown out my anchor.


While I was staying with my friends in Marysville I met a group of salesmen who lived and worked in the nearby town of Everett. This group invited me to join them which I did for about one month. The product and service they sold was home additions, renovations and reconstruction. I'm sure it was because of my Scottish accent that in that one month I made over three thousand dollars in commission which was extremely good money for just working a casual job that wasn't of my calling.


While on my travels across the country I had kept Joan, one of the trio of young school teacher that I had become friends with aboard ship and who lived in Elyria in Ohio, informed by postcards as to my doings and whereabouts. One day I received a "Hey There" card from her saying that since I had as yet no time constraining  restrictions, she and her parents would like me to come back to Ohio to spend my first Christmas in the USA with them. I looked up the Greyhound bus schedules and found that Greyhound coast to coast  travel coaches went twenty four hours a day and made very few stops. With tears my Marysville friends wished me well and I was on my way back to Elyria. From what I had seen of the State of Ohio on my way west, Ohio was a pleasant and a very prosperous State and a State were my mechanical abilities could well be utilized should events transpire that would cause me to stay there ---which , for five years they did. 


In 1955 national security levels were not what they are today and even though I was not an American citizen and did not have security clearance this did not prevent the cosmopolitan management of a Cleveland company whose door I had knocked on and who then invited me in and gave me a tour of their facility from persuading me to join them.  I had good credentials and had said all the right words and was offered the job of Process and Liaison Engineer and to participate at the top level in their contract machining program whereby the company machined precision high strength structural components for the North American Aviation Company in Southern, California, for the then highly classified and super secret F-86 Sabre jet fighter.  And that is another story.


In 1954 when I came to the USA, Ohio at that time proudly boasted that just about everything that was manufactured in the world was either made in Ohio, was also made in Ohio or could be made in Ohio. 



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