The year was 1926. Roads were not all paved, so a cross-country trip by car would be quite an adventure.
I had seen a photo in my mother’s early photo album from her high school years (Waterman Class of 1925) showing my father Vernon Schrader and his friend Ivan Keene standing in front of an open top roadster. I assumed it was taken somewhere around Waterman.
But then a few years ago I received a newspaper clipping from the Waterman Leader dated Nov. 11, 2016, sent to me by DeKalb County historian Sue Breese, about a road trip my father had taken.
I didn’t connect the photo and article until recently when consolidating our family memorabilia. Now I know more about this cross-country adventure of two young farm boys.
To quote the short news item: “Recent word was received by relatives of Vernon Schraeder [sic] and Ivan Keene, who recently started west in a little roadster owned by Schraeder, states that the boys are getting along nicely and both well and now working at Amerilla [sic], Texas, where they will probably remain for some time as they expect to work along the way earning expenses enroute to their desired destination, Los Angeles, California. They have rented a small cottage, one room fitted with gas and lights, and are keeping bachelor quarters, which is helping to keep down expenses.”
I found no further news reports if and when they reached Los Angeles and how the car held up. But looking at the photo I noticed it was an open car (canvas top folded to the back, which is why they were both wearing goggles and covered with dust. It also shows the wheels with wooden spokes and suitcase tied on the outside. My father always played the ukelele and had it with him on the trip.
He was just one year out of high school and working on his parents’ farm so must have finished the harvest, then took off with Keene on this trip. I would say he deserved a break, since at age 16 he was placed in the county sanitarium when the doctor believed he had tuberculosis.
He was kept there for a year, missing school, so had to fall back and join the Class of 1925 to finish and graduate. My mother happened to be in that class.
They were married in 1928. He never talked about his hospitalization, but it must have been very lonely and confining for a teenager who should have been enjoying his junior year in school.
The only positive note he was tall and more mature when returning to Waterman High School so was one of the better players for the Wolverines basketball team.
According to a newspaper clipping about one game that read in part: “Schraeder (sic) with six field goals and and a free throw was quite the whole works for Waterman. He easily won the long distance flinging contest with his one-handed overhand toss from the middle of the floor…” Teammates listed were well-known local family names: T. Schultz, Hipple, M. Schultz, Kaufman, and Hayes.
I never made the basketball team like him, but did learn to play a few tunes on the uke. Singing along with my father and mother, my favorites were “Dark Town Strutters Ball” and “Five Foot Two.” But I preferred the cornet while playing in the Genoa-Kingston High School band directed by Roy Hubbell (second chair behind classmate Paul Buzzell and next to Donna Ewald).
So a century-old photo album and a news clipping are making it a sentimental Thanksgiving weekend, poring over my parents’ and grandparents’ memorabilia, including some diaries.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at email@example.com or by writing to P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. Past columns can be found on his website at www.dekalbcountylife.com.
Source: The Daily Chronicle