Hitchhiking: Summer 1930 - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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The College
October 3, 2018

Hitchhiking: Summer 1930

by John O. Edgar '31 (1908-2006), Reformed Presbyterian Pastor and member of the Geneva College Board of Corporators (1969-1994)

In the Depression years, hitch-hiking was a common means of transportation. We had a kinder and gentler world then, and there were not the dangers that are associated with hitch-hiking today. In the summer of 1930, on my way from Geneva College in Western Pennsylvania to my home in Colorado, I decided to hitch-hike. One day of travel stands out in my memory.

From Nebraska City, Nebraska I set forth on foot. I was surprised at how quickly I was given rides and was able to cover great distances. Shortly after noon I stood waiting for a ride. It was an extremely warm day, with a strong wind from the south that filled the air with dust. Soon a “beat-up” old truck appeared and pulled up alongside me. The truck had a fabric top but no cab, and had air conditioning, but the air was hot. The driver was a bronzed farmer about 65 years of age. He motioned for me to get in, and I put my suitcase in the back on top of some sacks of feed and got in beside him.

As we pulled away from the side of the road, he said to me, “Young feller, I ain’t one that usually picks people up, but you look all right to me and I am goin’ to take a chance on you.” I told him who I was and that I had grown up on the farm.

It wasn’t long until I discovered that he had a problem. He chewed tobacco, and there was no way that he could expectorate into the strong wind on the driver’s side. So, at intervals he would slow down, lean over me, and spit out the passenger side. I may say that he had an aim which had been perfected by years of experience, so there were no ill consequences for me or the truck. We traveled about 15 miles before he turned onto a side road.

Walking again along the road, I quickly picked up several rides. About 4 o’clock, I was hot and weary as a big black Cadillac drew up beside me. It was a hitch-hiker’s dream. The man, who lived in Denver, had driven back east to pick up his son who had been attending one of the Ivy League colleges. The son and I were soon conversing about the merits of our respective schools. Furthermore, the car had real air conditioning. For more than 100 miles I rode in cool comfort, the lap of luxury. It was the first time I had ridden in an air-conditioned car.

These memorable experiences demonstrate that people during those difficult years, regardless of their situation in life, were ready to give a lift to others in need of a ride.

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