The bridge over the Apalachicola River, a few miles east of Blountstown, was new in 1947. This photo was taken in 1950.

The Trip to Tallahassee

by Frank Howard
August 1, 1996

Tallahassee was only 50 miles away from Blountstown and in 1947 it was safe to hitch-hike over. Foy and I had planned for weeks then to go over while school was out for the Thanksgiving holidays. Tallahassee was the only place even that close where one could buy engines for flying model airplanes.

Mama was understanding, sometimes. She said we could go and she would supply the small fares for us to go on the Trailways bus. Great! I had arranged with one of my brothers to take care of my Friday chores (for a small fee, of course!) and off we went. It was mid-morning when we finally went toward the bus station.

On the way there we spotted Mr. Jones in his new Chevrolet. He frequently goes to Tallahassee on business. He wasn't going there that day but he could give us a ride across the river to Bristol and he was sure it would be easy to get a ride out of there.

It was easy as we were in Tallahassee in about an hour. Straight to the hobby shop we went. We needed two .049 glow plug engines with fuel tanks , tubing, and hardware. But look those engines on sale! We thought if we add in the unused bus fares, we can get the larger .065 and .095 engines that we really wanted.

Done! Very nice except for a small miscalculation. The larger ancillary equipment also costs more! We have spent the return bus fare also. Also we have spent our lunch money. We have 22 cents left. We leave hurriedly and quickly walk from downtown out the then deserted highway 90 to the intersection of highway 20. (The intersection was a simple "Y" affair then as both roads were two-lane.) We put our thumbs out.

But alas, it was soon nearing dark and no sign of a ride. Some may recall this was an age when one could walk on the pavement for long periods of time without having a car pass by as "traffic" was not yet a concern.

We hurried to walk back to town. It really was dark when we got back to town! We went to the bus station for two reasons. One, if mama needed me she would try there first and two, we could sit up and doze in there. We spent 10 cents on two Cokes and sat down to doze.

No such luck as a policeman came in shortly and tapped on the feet of those napping. If they showed a ticket, they went back to sleep, if not they were told to move on.

1950 photo of model airplanes (and a model ship or two).

We didn't wait, we moved on. Right on downtown where we had noticed a small park full of benches. We had just dozed off when WE were tapped on the feet and told to produce ID. Our names were written from our driver's license (yes, 15 year olds had them then) onto his Police report "in case something happens I'll have a starting point." He smiled and wished us a good trip home. Thoroughly unnerved by this we left to "go catch our bus" and began walking back toward the bus station.

We did not go many blocks before we passed a grave yard. Aha, nobody goes into a graveyard at night. But we were desperate, so in we went, found a large oak tree and settled in among the exposed roots. Frigid! Soon we needed a warmer spot. We tested a large granite vault top. It was not only colder but far less inviting as it was after all, a grave! Back to the tree, no ghost was going to be disturbed by us.

Unable to sleep, for whichever reason; cold or ghosts, we bounced from foot to foot, "joggled" around and talked. Talking about the hours we had put into cutting all that balsa wood into small parts with a single-edged razor blade and then pinning the little parts to the plans (and floor!) while the glue dried. He had built a small 16" free flight model, I had gone all out with my largest model to date; a 38" free flight model of a piper cub airplane (like the real one my Uncle Ray flew to work).

We didn't tell ghost stories, or at least not after the street lights had gone out around midnight. After no small eternity, a faint red glow foretold morning, a new day! What were we to do? We started out walking the then bleak stretch of highway 90 (FSU did not border that area then - but, neither did anything else!) out to highway 20. We had 12 cents remaining, so, no breakfast!

The few cars we saw were all on the other side of the road coming into town. Sometime around 11 A.M. a nice young lady stopped and, thinking us to be local, offered a ride to Holland. We thanked her and continued waiting. Shortly after noon a newspaper bulk-delivery man stopped. He is going to Greensboro.

We take it, we had rather try walking 30 miles than fifty! There we spent our money - two Cokes and two peppermint sticks. The store owner where the newspapers were dropped off took some pity on us and gave us the crumbs out the big candy jar.

Around 2 P.M. the rural Mail delivery man stopped and spoke to us. He lived near Bristol and would pick us up if we were still there when he finished his run. We were and he did. But "near" Bristol was still a few miles to Bristol and we could not walk across the 2 miles of bridge over the Apalachicola River. We walked on to and through Bristol on down near the bridge. Finally an old pickup truck carrying slop to feed some hogs over near the other end of the bridge picked us up. For 3 miles we sat in the back of that truck and smelled slop ( and later still smelled it on each other!).

Foy wanted to go straight to his house, but I insisted he first go with me as his mother would not spank or paddle him and mine certainly would get me. Maybe he could help get in some explanations before she got me. He did but I don't think it helped. I didn't die from it, but I sure thought I was going to especially during the tongue-lashing part of it! Teenagers never think about the worry they cause their parents.

And that wasn't even the end of it! About a week later, Elga, an older friend and fellow airplane enthusiast, took us and his starting equipment out on the still mostly deserted Highway 20 near the bridge where the little airport is now located. That location was then a smooth plowed field and the perfect spot to try our planes. The Highway surface was some 8-10 feet above the field, just right for our "runway"! Placing just enough fuel in them to get them up to altitude so they could glide back to the soft field, we were ready to fly. Foy flew his first. It behaved as planned. Then, finally, MY turn. My plane took off from the pavement just as his had except that upon gaining about 12 feet of altitude the engine began sputtering. Elga yelled something about trash in the fuel. My beautiful well-decorated yellow -doped (painted) paper-covered balsa wood-framed airplane pointed its nose downward just as the engine caught back up and headed at full power toward, not the ditch, not the plowed field, but the wire FENCE around the field. It hit so hard the wing broke and tore at each wire in the fence and the engine broke away from its mount to bury into the hard unplowed ground next to the fence.

My plane never flew again as it could only be repaired to a "wall-hanger" or to display only condition. Perhaps it was at that point I remembered, they had some of those new kit planes (you know, the ones where the balsa wood is all pre-cut!) on special sale back over there in Tallahassee!

YESTERDAYS, Simpler Times

Sometimes its fun to revisit Simpler Times! The events of those days which have been relegated to the deep recesses of one's memory, especially when one chooses to remember only the good parts and to continue to relegate the unpleasantries to an even deeper recess of the mind. While none should be forgotten, there are those which should be reviewed in the mind far less frequently than others. Let us review these old "mind movies" of our past ALOUD more frequently so that the younger generations will know there were some times and things that were much nicer back when we had so many "taboos" and far less freedom and more control than with similar times/events today.

The above chronicle of an event was such a major departure from the usual that it seems to fit routines of kids today (not under complete control) but it is a single incident with no other even close to it in departure from the normal habits. The unpleasant parts of that memory are also relegated to a deeper recess and although only hinted at here, are non the less still well remembered along with the lessons learned.

Those lessons are about such as parenting, keeping the feelings of loved ones in perspective and, most importantly, a lesson which still serves me well today; communications among family members.

more articles by F. Howard
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