It was fifty years ago today…

The tale of a six-week family cross-country trip during the summer of ‘67

It was fifty years ago, during the summer of ’67, that the Heller family of Port Washington, New York, loaded up our Pontiac station wagon and headed west for a six-week long vacation. Dad and Mom and four boys, ages 16, 15, 14 and 12, travelled through almost half the states from coast to coast and back again. Apparently, the summer of ’67 was chosen because it was the first year without one of us having a bar mitzvah (there would be another the following year). Dad had recently been discharged from the hospital, where he had undergone surgery, but we kept to our trip schedule.

We’ve always been a family of collectors, and this trip was no exception. Fifty years later, we still have photos, postcards, hotel receipts and my personal journal (I was the 14 year-old). Please join us as we recall the trip though ephemera and personal observations.

Place — Home

Date — July 14

Weather — Rainy

We leave tomorrow. It’s about 6:00 o’clock and we still haven’t finished packing. We’re going to the Stack’s house for supper. The refrigerator is almost empty except for the stuff that we’ll bring tomorrow. It’s a little hectic but I’m sure we’ll have a good time.


Day 1 — July 15

Place — Port Washington, NY-New Stanton, PA

Weather — Rainy, changed to sun

We got up early but we left at 7 o’clock. It was raining when we left and was cloudy up until the Penn. Turnpike, when the sun came out for a few minutes. Then we had a terrible downpour. The sun then came out to stay. We got here at about 3:30. We’re in a Howard Johnson’s in Greensburg, outside of Pittsburgh. We’re watching TV now. For dinner we went to Col.Sanders Fried Chicken.

Howard Johnson’s New Stanton, PA


Day 2 — July 16

Place — New Stanton, PA-South Bend, IN

Weather — mostly sunny

I woke up around 7. We had a liquid breakfast and left at 8. We travelled on the Ohio Turnpike till about 3, when we arrived here in South Bend, Indiana, but we lost an hour so we got here at 2. We went swimming. We went riding around at Notre Dame and for supper I had salisbury steak. It wasn’t so hot. We drove around again into Michigan* and then came back.

*One week later, race riots exploded in Detroit.

Holiday Inn, South Bend, Indiana. Built in 1963, it later became a Baymont Inn & Suites. Most recently it was an Econo Lodge and was demolished last fall.


Day 3 — July 17

Place — South Bend, IN-Rockford, IL. Weather — beautiful

We left early and had a delicious pancake breakfast. We took the short ride to Rockford where we had lunch and stayed at Howard Johnsons. The motel is beautiful, with remote controls for lights, radio and TV, and even a color TV in one room. We drove around* and then came back to take a refreshing swim in the indoor pool. For supper we went a nice place and I had a steak.

  • We drove through Chicago and on the Lakeshore Drive which is next to Lake Michigan. The drive was beautiful and so was downtown Chicago.


First four days — 958 miles

Day 4 — July 18

Place — Rockford, IL-Council Bluffs, IA

Weather — Nice

We had a light breakfast and left early. The 375 mile trip was pretty boring. We stopped off for lunch at a rest stop. We got to the Howard Johnson’s in Council Bluffs and went swimming for a while. For supper, we had a buffet. We drove around a little and went back to the motel.

Dad went to Camp Grant, Rockford, Illinois, in July 1943, when he was put on active duty after having enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942.


Days 5–6, July 19–20.

Place — Council Bluffs, IA-North Platte, NE-Denver, CO.

July 19 — We got up a 7 and had another “bread and water” breakfast. We left at 9 and stopped off for lunch at 11. We had hamburgers at a nice place and arrived at North Platte at 3. We’re staying at a hotel called Travel Lodge. We went to a steakhouse for supper. I had roast beef.

top, North Platte TraveLodge, 1967. bottom, same location, different hotel, 2012

July 20 — We got up at 7 and had another one of our (ahem) dainty breakfasts. We left at 8 and in a few minutes we went into mountain time, so it was 7. As we rode across the manure infested pastures, the odorous stench of the cows filled our nostrils. It was awful. We stopped off for lunch at 10:30 at a so-called rest station (complete with outhouses and bugs). We had ham sandwiches again. While riding to Denver, we noticed that under the clouds it was darker. It turned out, that as we came closer, to be the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. We came into Denver at 2. All the hotels seemed to be filled, but we got a nice one. We went swimming again in the small pool.We picked out of the many restaurants, one called The Apple Tree. It was very nice and I had spareribs. At night we drove along a brilliantly lit strip. It was really beautiful.

left, The Apple Tree Shanty was opened in 1949 and closed in the late 1990s.


Week two continued at