My Senior Trip To California

It was a trip that I will always remember. While it was a trip that took place during my senior year, it wasn’t “The Senior Trip”. Our “Senior Trip” wasn’t quite so exciting or far away. It was an all day trip to San Antonio.

Since I was working across the street from the school at Luther-McDuff Chevrolet, Buick and Oldsmobile, I was offered a chance to help get some vehicles out to California. I was in a program that allowed me to get out of school at noon in my senior year and work at the dealership. It was about as good a job as a kid could ask for. There was always some nice automobile that needed to be delivered someplace or a car that just needed to be driven to keep the battery up.

The manager of the dealership was Cecil Rhoades. He was going to take some pickups out west to get a premium price for them. At the time, California was experiencing tremendous growth and the desire for the ownership of a good pickup, mostly for recreation purposes was high. Texas being not much different then than now, was where most pickups were bought in the whole nation. So, a glut of used pickup trucks in Texas and a shortage of same in California made transporting them out west a profitable endeavor.

Picture from my senior yearbook – Mustangs 1970

This springtime 1970 trip was a test run for the dealership to check out the possibilities of capitalizing on the market trend. I just needed clearance from the school to miss a week of school. I went to the principal, Sam Potts with my best pitch for why I should go. It was an easy sell. I don’t remember any hesitation at all.

Cecil and I pulled out, each driving a pickup, with a tow bar hooked to a second one. It took two days to reach San Diego. We sold two of the trucks there and then made our way on up to Los Angeles. I had told Cecil that I had an aunt and uncle in LA and would like to stop and pay them a visit. My Aunt Rene and Uncle Herman Lackey ran an auto glass business on Rosecrans Ave. Their house was next door to the glass shop. They had left Texas in the early 60’s like so many others did, looking for a better life.

My mother and my Aunt Rene had always been close. They were constant companions back in Austin prior their move to California. They missed each other so very much that I doubt a week went by they didn’t write each other letters. Long distance phone calls were expensive back in those days, but they would call each other, waiting until the rates dropped at 9:00 PM so they could talk longer. Of course the Lackey’s would make a yearly trip back to Texas to visit all the folks.

Surprise“, here was their nephew and a tall Texan standing in the office of their shop. They were thrilled and always glad to see anyone from Texas. I hadn’t told them I was coming, because who knew whether we would actually ever make it there. We didn’t have a real itinerary planned out.

Nothing would do them, than we’d stay for supper. They had an extra bedroom so we ended up staying the night. We set up half the night drinking beers and telling stories. That one night stay stretched into two nights. We sold the other pickups but then held over another day to attend a big auto auction where we bought a car to drive back to Texas. We didn’t even consider flying back. We had the tow bars that we had to get back home with. Of course we had the use of my aunt and uncles vehicles to get around.

We hit the road back after we had spent our second good long night with the Lackey family. We took turns driving and sleeping and came straight through. With the test run over with, it was seemed to be a profitable venture. For the next several years Cecil Rhoades would make several trips each year out to L.A., duplicating our first trip, including staying with the Lackey family. They always seemed happy to see that Texan come through the door. I always felt like maybe I’d opened a real can of worms taking him by, but they insisted that seeing him reminded them of home, and while they enjoyed living in California for many years, they always longed to get back to their Texas. Which they finally did and lived out their final days down in east Texas fishing and enjoying life.

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