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When I posted a 1955 Halloween photo on Facebook, I began thinking of my younger brother, Rick, and my two cousins, Wayne and Bob, who are all in the photo. In 1952, my family made the big move westward—from Detroit, Michigan to California’s Imperial Valley. What follows are some of my remembrances from that journey:

“Auntie Honey, I t’ink your baby chit in his pants,” said my brother, Rick, in the most serious of tones for a three-year-old. It turned out that he was right. Barely a year old, our cousin Bob had indeed messed his diaper, which was good reason for Uncle Ernie to look for a place to stop the ’50 Dodge occupied by three adults and four little boys.

“Wooo, that stinks. Let me outa here!” I yelled, rolling down the rear window, sticking my head out, and grabbing my throat like I was choking. I was a very mature six and just loved to dramatize, especially when it came to my two cousins’ bodily functions.

“Stop that yelling and get your head back in this car right this minute,” ordered my mom, Betty. “Uncle Ernie is going to stop as soon as he can. Just hold your nose.”
Like a good boy, I squinched my eyes, pinched my nostrils, and blew out my cheeks. That lasted about ten seconds, until I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and collapsed atop Rick, who yelped and flung up his arms, smacking our two-year-old cousin Wayne right in the snoot. Wayne screamed, and chaos ensued. Kids screaming and yelling. Moms screaming and yelling. What always amazed me was how calm Uncle Ernie remained in the not infrequent free-for-alls. This time, without a shout or a scream, he pulled into a neatly kept red, white, and green Texaco station that advertised “Clean Restrooms.”

Auntie Honey disappeared into the Ladies with the baby, and Uncle Ernie got the rest of us out of the car. I grabbed Rick’s hand and headed for the Gentlemen’s door. After we’d all “rested,” we had lunch in the little café next to the Texaco, where I ate a hamburger and Rick puked up his pancakes, which he did a lot, and then we piled back into the blue Dodge and continued our trek to California.