Travel in the 1920's

Travel in the 1920's

By Inez Haythorn

Have you ever heard of a Velie? How about a Maxwell?

Those were two of my grandfather's first cars. Travel was much different in the 1920's. Vehicles and road conditions made transportation difficult and time-consuming.

My mother's family lived in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, close to Wheeling. In the summer they would make trips to Sistersville and on to Ravenswood, West Virginia, to visit relatives. What is now an hour and a half jaunt took a whole day in the 1920's.

They could not make the trip directly down the West Virginia side. There was no direct highway, just farmland. They had to drive into Ohio and wind around some hilly terrain there. Then, at Fly, Ohio, they could cross over to Sistersville, West Virginia on the ferryboat. They would travel to my grandfather's sister's farm outside of Sistersville and spend the night. The next day, both families would journey on to Ravenswood. Again, they went down the Ohio side and crossed over by ferryboat. My mother's grandparents lived on a farm near there.


The roads were two lane, country, dirt roads. My mother and her brother, who was four years older, could reach out the windows and pull leaves off the brush as they went by. They sped along at fifteen miles an hour! The roads consisted of yellow or red clay and got extremely muddy when it rained. Many times they would get stuck in the mud as they traveled. If this happened, my mother and their collie, Prince, had to get out of the car. Grandma would steer, and Grandpa and my uncle pushed the car out of the mud!

One time they had to take a detour, because there was road construction on the main route. The road was a nightmare, muddy and steep. They came upon a farmhouse. Grandpa wanted to stop and ask the farmer permission to stay in their barn for the night. Grandma didn't like that idea at all, so on they drove. They went down a very dangerous, hilly route, but managed to get back to the main road safely.


Grandpa's very first car was a Velie. The next one was a Maxwell. They always had to carry a spare axle for the Maxwell, because it often broke on these trips. Then my grandfather would have to get out and change it.

Flat tires were a lot harder to deal with, too. On those types of roads, it was easy to get a flat. Then they would have to stop, jack up the car, and take off the tire. Then Grandpa had to remove the innertube and put it in water to find the hole. He carried a tire repair kit, and would then put the innertube back inside the tire, and replace the tire back on the wheel. Finally, it had to be pumped up with a hand pump.

The cars were not exactly built for bad weather. They had front and back windshields and a roof, but no side windows. There were doors, but the window openings had no glass in them. If it rained, there were shields to be put up over the side windows. There was one windshield wiper on the driver's side. It had to be operated manually by the driver as he was driving. If the rain got very heavy, they usually pulled over to the side of the road. That is when they would often get stuck. Most people didn't even venture out if they knew the weather was going to be inclement.


Of course, they had to eat and use the bathroom. But how different that was! There were no restaurants or restrooms along the way. So they had to find a cornfield. Toilet paper was either a big corn leaf or newspaper.

There would be a picnic lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and maybe a piece of cake. The food was wrapped in wax paper and kept in bags.


When they finally arrived at their grandmother's farm near Ravenswood, it was well worth the frustrations of the trip. As soon as my mother and uncle got out of the car, they would run to the well. The water was cold and delicious, especially after that kind of journey.

Their grandmother would have a big, country dinner prepared for them. After supper, they would sit on the front porch to visit and tell the famous West Virginia ghost stories!

"It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end." -Ursula K. LeGuin

Article Copyright 2003 Inez Haythorn All Rights Reserved

About the Author

Inez Haythorn is a Christian wife, mother, elementary school teacher, pianist, and freelance writer. Her main writing interests are Christian writing, and writing about lifestyles and memoirs of the past. Her goal is to glorify and honor God, and bless and help others.


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