#50YearsAgoToday. #CaliforniaTrip. Day 3 of our trip from Missouri to California. After two days of driving, we finally made our first real tourist stop at Dinosaur National Monument. I remember the quarry face with exposed fossil bones that forms one wall of the Quarry Exhibit Hall.
This is pretty much how I remember it, but the photo is from the current website.
According to Mother’s notes, we spent $1.57 on souvenirs in Vernal, Utah. Piecing that together with some vague memories, I’m going to say that was for two plastic dinosaurs for Dale and I to play with in the car and to remember our trip to Dinosaur National Monument.
Dale and I both confess to confusing all memories of plastic dinosaurs from this age with the game of spotting the Sinclair Gas Dinosaur. But that dinosaur was green and we remember having tan dinosaurs around this time, so I’m pretty sure that I’ve got that memory correct.
While thinking about the Sinclair Gas Dinosaur, I started to wonder how we managed money during this trip to California.
We never stopped at a Sinclair station because Mother and Dad both carried Standard Oil credit cards in their wallets. I’m guessing that it was important to the financial planning of this trip that the gas money not be spent until the next month, when the credit card came due. And, that we weren’t carrying enough physical cash to spend too much of it on gasoline.
This is back in the days before credit cards were ubiquitous. At some point, Dad got an American Express card, but I’m not sure we had it for this trip.
What we did have were American Express travelers’ cheques. Those were somewhat safer than physical cash because they could be replaced (eventually), if lost or stolen. They were widely accepted, especially in tourist locations. Back then, regular bank checks were often used for store purchases, but they were always more acceptable in your home town than in other locations. We would have used the American Express cheques to pay for bigger expenses like lodging.
I suspect one reason that Mother tracked our daily expenses for the first few days was to make sure that our physical cash was going to hold out for the whole trip. You could cash an American Express travelers’ cheque at a bank or a bigger hotel, if needed. Our budget would have been worked out so that cash was for food and incidentals, travelers’ cheques were for lodging, and the Standard Oil card was for gasoline.
According to Mother’s trip diary, we saw three herds of antelope while driving 410 miles on Saturday, June 5, 1971.
After our visit to Dinosaur National Monument, we went to Salt Lake City where we stayed with friends.
We’d lived in Salt Lake City for a couple of years before moving to Louisiana, Missouri. I went to kindergarten and started first grade when we lived there. In 1971, two and a half years later, we still knew people from Dad’s work, from our neighborhood, and from the church we attended.
I’ve been thinking about what it was like to arrange to be house guests in 1971, without emails or cell phones. Long distance calls were expensive. I imagine that it was all done with an exchange of letters, with possibly one phone call before we left home to finalize the details.
Dinner that night was a potluck at Westvale Presbyterian Church, where we attended when we lived in Salt Lake City. I remember it as a bright modern building with a triangle of glass forming the front wall. I found the building on Google Maps. It still stands, but is now the Trinity United Methodist Church of West Valley City, Utah.