Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Those Places Thursday–Webster Family Road Trip: California or Bust!

This is part of a series of posts dedicated to the immigration story of Debs Webster and his family.

On July 7, 1952, my Grandpa Debs Webster and his family boarded the S. S. Brazil in Santos, Brazil on their way to a new life in the United States.  When they arrived in New York, they bought a car and traveled across the United States to their final destination in Southern California.

Here is the car Grandpa Debs purchased in New York.  It’s a 1951 Chevrolet Sedan.  My mom just recently showed me this awesome photo of the car with my uncles standing in front of it.  The car is parked in front of their new house in Pomona, California.  The lumber on top of the Chevy indicates to me that my Grandpa was working on some kind of project.  He was a very handy guy and always liked to have projects to work on.


1951 Chevrolet Sedan
1951 Chevrolet Sedan
Click to Enlarge

My uncle (the boy on the left in the photo above) wrote an email to me about his memories of their immigration to the United States and subsequent road trip from New York to California. As you read what he said, please keep in mind that they were traveling during the summer.  Here's a little snippet from his email:
"The trip was long—made longer by the heat!  We rolled down the windows and tried to be cooled by the wind as it passed through the car.  Unfortunately, the air was usually hot and we got little relief from it.  At the time, some people had a device that hooked on to the top of a window on their cars which they filled with a quantity of ice or dry ice (I really don’t know which).  This served as a scooping device that would chill the hot air from outside and circulate it inside.  This served as air conditioning in those days.  We had no such device!  Evenings were more comfortable, except that I found the concept of sleeping outdoors to be uncivilized.  After all, people were meant to sleep inside, or so I thought!  As I grew up I learned to enjoy camping out until being in Korea in the Infantry cured me of it forever!  Typically Pop would find a wide shoulder on the side of the highway where we could pull over and set up for the night."
I was intrigued by my uncle’s description of the cooling devices attached to car windows.  I had never heard of such a thing.  I did a little research on the internet to see if I could find anything about these cooling devices.  And, to my surprise, I found not only information about them, but photos too.

Wikipedia referred to this device as a car cooler.  The website stated , “A car cooler is an automobile window-mounted evaporative air cooler, sometimes referred to as a swamp cooler.  It is an early type of automobile "air conditioner."

If you’d like to read more about this fascinating early air conditioner for cars, just click HERE.

Below are photos of these car coolers from
Wikimedia Commons.

Car Cooler on 1950 Chevy From Wikimedia Commons Photo by Doug Coldwell
Car Cooler on 1950 Chevy
Wikimedia Commons - Photo by Doug Coldwell
Click to Enlarge


Thermador Car Cooler Wikimedia Commons Photo by Doug Coldwell
Thermador Car Cooler
Wikimedia Commons - Photo by Doug Coldwell
Click to Enlarge



Car cooler front view Wikimedia Commons Photo by Doug Coldwell
Car Cooler Front View
Wikimedia Commons - Photo by Doug Coldwell
Click to Enlarge

As “cool” as these early air conditioners look, I’m so happy for the modern air conditioning systems we enjoy today!

The next installment of my Grandpa Debs and his family’s immigration story will find them arriving at their sponsor’s home in Glendora, California.


Thanks for reading!


Copyright © Jana Last 2012

15 comments:

  1. Well, those are new to me. Thanks for finding the pictures. I remember traveling and living without air conditioning. It was no fun. That is a great picture of your uncles and the car.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Yep, I'd never heard of them either. It's amazing how much we learn from doing our family history research!

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comments! I really appreciate it!

      Delete
  2. I'm with you, Jana: I'd much rather have our current air conditioning systems any day! But I guess you take what you can get. When I was growing up, we didn't have air conditioning in our car, either. On a particularly hot summer day, I remember we'd beg our dad to take us for a drive--which invariably included ice cream, by the way. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jacqi,

      Oooh! What a great way to get ice cream!

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate it!

      Delete
  3. I loved the cars in the 50's. The models changed every year. When I was in High School in our small town we couldn't wait to go downtown and see the new Chevy and Ford models. Some of us were Chevy people and some Ford. I remember the Edsell. I thought it was pretty cool, but it didn't do too well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Grant,

      Ya, those 50's cars were really nice looking weren't they? Of course, I wasn't around yet to see them in person, but they did look pretty cool.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. I have never heard of the car cooler either and am pretty sure I never saw one. It looks like the jets of a plane. Your uncle's description of just riding until Debs found a wide spot along the road to park for the night shows how this trip was both planned AND left to chance. I'm sure people still travel that way, but sleeping in the car would be too risky today. Did they have a house lined up, or did they just ride around to find one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wendy,

      Those vintage cooling contraptions really do look like jets on a plane! Great observation Wendy. I hadn't thought of that.

      The "stopping on the side of the road for the night" thing my grandparents did as they traveled across the country sounds so scary to me. Perhaps it was safer back then? I don't know. Or maybe they were just a bit on the naive, trusting side since they were new immigrants.

      They did have a place waiting for them at the home of their sponsor.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really do appreciate it!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for taking the time to find the photos of the car cooler. These things would have been handy growing up in the south.

    I used to enjoy the name collecting when I first started genealogy. Now I enjoy filling in the context and tidbits like this even more. It provides a much richer genealogy experience, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rorey,

      You're very welcome. It was fun to actually see what my uncle was talking about with these vintage air conditioning units.

      Yes, I agree with you. Knowing the stories about our ancestors really does enrich our genealogy research. Those names on paper represent real people who lived real lives filled with happiness, sadness, likes, dislikes, trials, etc.

      Thanks so much for your kind comments!

      Delete
  6. I keep thinking that must have been the ultimate road trip! I also had never heard of these cooling devices for cars. I learn so much from reading other people's blogs. Thanks for sharing their story with us ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi ljhlaura,

      I think you are right about the road trip. It must have been quite the adventure.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate it!

      Delete
  7. Some of those air coolers were so wild! It's the fans that are funny too, although I think some big rig haulers still have them floating about too! Great post- I really enjoyed all the car photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen,

      Those early air conditioners really were interesting. I didn't know some big rig haulers still have them today. Wow.

      Thanks for your kind comments. I really appreciate you stopping by!

      Delete
  8. I'd never heard of those coolers, either. I wonder where they put the ice? I do remember not having air conditioning - ugh, that was miserable when we drove to Fresno (HOT!) to visit my grandparents.

    ReplyDelete

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