Two Mennonite Girls: a Cross Country Road Trip, continued


1964_Monkey postcard_Orderville UT

The postcard says Metzie and Molly if you look closely, but Joann and I were unofficially known as Mighty Metz and Sister Styx, the dashing duo that rode in the back seat of a Chevy Impala on a road trip with Joann’s parents, John and Mary Metzler.

Feeding a hooded squirrel at a stop off in Glacier National Park

Web_1964_Marian feeding squirrel_Close up

Our Southern route included the cotton fields of Alabama . . .

Web B_Joann-and-cotton

. . . and Rock City, Georgia with a view of seven states


 . . . and a tapering Falls

Web B_Marian-at-Falls


How I Paid for This Trip: I wrote an adult study series for Herald Press during May and June of 1964 for which I was paid $500.00. I brought cash and Traveler’s Cheques. Credit cards like the Diner’s Club Card were in circulation back then, but we didn’t have any. Actually, like many Mennonites, we thought credit cards were a little shady because of the possibility of misuse.


Frugality, Joann’s and Mine: 

  • Joann says to her mother in Canyonville, Oregon: “Mom, give me the map, let’s stop at some little hick place for dinner. Then I’ll have money to buy some more myrtle wood!”


  • In Oregon, I remark to Joan: “Boy, oh, boy, my future husband will have a wife who can keep on a budget, thank goodness!” Little did I know my future husband Cliff was living not so far away in California at the time.        

 1964_Marians Out West_Meals+Motels

Joan and I alternated weeks in paying room costs. I paid tolls and park entrance fees  instead of gas, which was probably less than 30 cents per gallon then.

I remember paying 50 cents to drive through a redwood tree!


We both kept diaries and photo logs. Mine looks battered and torn. Still, there’s a record.

1964_Marians Out West_Photo notebook

Church: We attended a service at the Mormon Tabernacle but the choir was missing, gone to the World’s Fair. Ugh . . . so disappointing!


  • I was accosted by a Mormon guy in the tabernacle gift shop: He thought I was Israeli and mistook my black bonnet for a feminine yarmulke and tried to convert me to Mormonism.
  • We also visited Sweet Home Mennonite Church in Oregon with Rev. Orie Roth, pastor.


Sin: We drove by garish casinos and hotels down Main Street, Las Vegas. Among the glitter and glitz of sky-high, flashy neon lights, we noticed advertisements for $ 10.00 weddings. Do you think people got married drunk? we wondered.


Western Hospitality: On our way to Sequoia National Park we pulled off the road and discovered a friendly guy mowing his lawn. Thus we met the Shaefers. Mr. Schaefer showed Uncle John his orange grove, and Mrs. Schaefer loaded us up with a 12’ x 15’ box of peaches, oranges, two bags of grapes, 2 bags of oranges, and a quart of raisins she had picked/dried herself.


Thanks to the miracle of “General Delivery,” I got mail from home at planned intervals. Here’s a note from Aunt Ruthie with a cascading series of cartoons

PNG1966_0722_Birthday card and letter to Marian_from Ruthie_Cooke City_MT_3x3

And a birthday card from my sister Jean with a letter . . .


. . .  and a note from Mother chiding Jean for not leaving any space to write: “I don’t know who she thinks she is . . . didn’t leave any space for Mother!”

Two letters sent to me addressed simply as Los Angeles – General Delivery came back with a note “Unclaimed – Return to Sender.”  Imagine that!


I brought back gifts for all the family. Janice received a myrtle-wood vase from Oregon, brother Mark a table lamp with a cactus base, and Daddy, a polished piece of petrified wood. My ledger shows I bought Jean a pretty blouse for $ 4.10, but alas no picture here!

Web_1964_Janice receiving gift


Web_1964_Postcard_Petrified-Forest+Ray-receives gift_AZ


Aunt Ruthie, brother Mark, and Mother Ruth
Aunt Ruthie with Christofferson paintings from Albuquerque, brother Mark with lamp, and Mother Ruth with a myrtle-wood pedestal dish

And something for myself too

I'll still using the bookends I bought in Tijuana, Mexico
I’m still using the alabaster bookends I bought in Tijuana, Mexico


The strangest thing I brought back: Water in a Gerber’s baby food jar (Aunt Ruthie’s suggestion) from The Great Salt Lake, where we floated with no danger of sinking.


Photos   I took almost two hundred photos on Kodak Ektachrome color slide film and sent home film rolls in heat-resistant pouches to be developed. Joann took photos and movies.

We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.

– Ansel Adams


Two Mennonite Girls Survive a Cross Country Road Trip

Yes, imagine two Mennonite girls tripping across the country . . .

  • In a blue-gray 1958 Chevy Impala sedan
  • With a chauffeur and navigator
  • Through 47 states + Mexico
  • Five weeks in 1964: July 18 – August 24


My Travel Partners: The Metzlers, whom I call Aunt and Uncle, and their daughter Joann

Unlike John Steinbeck who wrote Travels with Charley about his one-man, one-dog travelogue in the 1960s, we were a four-some, Joann Herr, my new best friend, her parents, John and Mary Metzler, and me. But like Mark Twain, we were “innocents abroad,” leaving our cozy Mennonite countryside and venturing through the wild and wooly West to the Pacific coast, eyes agape with wonder.

Best Bud: Joann Metzler (Herr) whom I met while she was student teaching at Rheems Elementary School, where my Aunt Ruth Longenecker was principal. “She’s such a nice girl. You ought to meet her,” Ruthie said about Joann. She was right! I even thought so at the end of the trip.

Chauffeur Extraordinaire, Uncle John: One day he drove 748 miles! John Metzler, who raised crops and cattle, is related on my mother’s side of the family through a common ancestor, Valentine Metzler, whose immigration to Pennsylvania was celebrated in the reunion in 2013. During this thousands-of-miles-odyssey behind the wheel, he sometimes came up with quotable expressions:

“Oh, schmatza (PA Dutch for pain),” he frets when there are too many switchbacks on mountain roads.

“Now we’re caught with our pants down!” when he makes a wrong turn.

“I thought I’d be hen-pecked with three women around and by golly I am already!” he exclaims 11 days into the trip.

Navigator with a Built-in Compass, Aunt Mary: With only a road map and keen sense of direction, Joann’s mother “Aunt Mary” was quite a trooper. She made sure we were ready to roll between 6:30 and 7:00 am every day. When I felt road sick, she doled out Chiclets. She was eager to see her spry, 81-year-old Aunt Susan in Los Angeles.

In Cheyenne Uncle John was taken for a German because of his PA Dutch accent, and Mary tells him “ta be more English!” Here are the two smiling at Crater Lake, Oregon.


The Big Loop – Like Steinbeck, we did follow a northern route across the Mid-west, angling down through California and sweeping across the Southwest into Texas and further east to Florida and then north back home to Pennsylvania. Along the way, we sometimes fancied ourselves in foreign lands: Parts of Utah looked like Greece to us, the Rockies like the Swiss Alps, and some of Oregon, the Holy land because of myrtle trees.


In the Rockies, I make a snowball on my birthday!


We were entranced by presidents, puffy clouds, national parks  . . .


Yellowstone, 12 million acres of gorgeous scenery - even bears want a part of the action
Yellowstone, 12 million acres of gorgeous scenery – even bears want a part of the action

And the Magnificent Grand Canyon



Oregon and California: Myrtle trees, Joshua trees, Dates and Olives!


Joann and almond tree
Joann and almond tree
Navajo Indian Reservation: Family was pleased to pose in exchange for some pesos
Navajo Indian Reservation: Family was pleased to pose in exchange for some pesos

Tijuana, Mexico: sombreros, a heady substitute for our prayer caps. Joann had no idea she was inviting kisses!


What We Wore

The photos prove our plainness. We always had something on our heads: prayer coverings, black bonnets on top of our caps for Sunday in Salt Lake City, Utah. Accordion pleated plastic wind-breakers for stiff breezes or rain. Dresses or skirts – absolutely no slacks or shorts.

Grandma Longenecker gave me a travel iron – no permanent press fabrics yet in our wardrobes in the Sixties.

Closeup of prayer covering and bonnet like Joann and I wore on the trip with Kodak Ektachrome slides, letter home and post card from the Petrified Forest, Arizona
Closeup of prayer covering and bonnet like Joann and I wore on the trip with Kodak Ektachrome slides, letter home and post card from the Petrified Forest, Arizona

Days were HOT!

One day it was 110 degrees in a car with no AC. Our Boontonware cups melted in the rear view window. Our backs made puddles on the seats, so we tried the feet-in-air position, backseat monkeys! Here below are the Boontonware cups before they melted! And, yes, photos at state lines were staged – part of our ritual.


Uncle John couldn’t wait to get to Cheyenne, Wyoming to see the Rodeo, The Daddy of ’em All during Frontier-land week.

*1964_Wyoming Rodeo_newspaper_300pix

What We Did at Night

Sometimes Joan and I disturbed the peace of the Metzler pair next door in the motel. Once I kicked down a picture on a motel wall in Wisconsin and nearly fell on my head to try to retrieve it. Daily we wrote in our diaries and totted up our expenses down to the last penny.

Usually we snacked and read books. One night I lowered the hem on a skirt with my sewing kit to comply with standards of Lancaster Mennonite School, where I would return to teaching in the fall. Here I’m making a feast of boysenberry bread near Kanab, Utah.


Many thanks to photo-enhancer Cliff for bringing faded memories back to life!

How did I pay for this trip on my slim school teacher’s salary? What secrets did my diary and expense book reveal? Did anyone from home remember my birthday? Find out in my next post!