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ERBzine Volume 6020

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Adapted from our Joan Burroughs Bio at ERBzine 1102
The Burroughs family trip to California -- by auto caravan in the summer of 1916 -- was incredibly adventurous and somewhat roundabout. Ed spent weeks gathering supplies, vehicles and planning the route. While many thought that the main reason for the author's trip was to gather inspiration for his writing, more likely the reason was Ed's love of family togetherness. That and his near-obsession with motor travel which was always high adventure in those "pioneer days" of travel on America's road system. Ed's writing inspiration actually came from the fantasy world of his imagination. "The less I know about a thing the better I can write about it."

The trip really started off as a trip to Maine via Michigan in two vehicles: a Packard Twin Six 1-35 touring car and a converted Overland delivery truck, "Happy Thought," with a trailer, "Calamity Jane." They left Oak Park during a late afternoon rainstorm on June 14, 1916:

"The party leaving 414 Augusta street, Oak Park, upon this fateful day consisted of Emma Hulbert Burroughs, Joan Burroughs (8 1/2), Hulbert Burroughs (6 1/2), 'Jack' Burroughs (3 1/2), Theresa Witzmann, maid, Louis J. Ziebs, chauffeur; Edgar Rice Burroughs, Emma Hulbert's husband; Dickie, canary bird; and the Jinx."

Tarzan, the airedale terrier pup, also went along. Jinx was the name for the 'bad luck spirit' that seemed to follow them at every turn with breakdowns, bad roads, rain and mud, wind and dust, heat and cold, sickness, bugs, snakes and wild animals, etc. Things got so bad that they abandoned Calamity Jane and Happy Thought. On June 19th, Ed purchased a new 3/4 ton Republic Truck in South Bend, Indiana, sent down from the factory at Alma, Michigan. The load from the abandoned vehicles was then transferred to the truck: an enormous refrigerator, an oil cook stove, a fireless cooker, a hat box, galvanized iron tanks for kerosene and water, a phonograph, folding cots, stools, tables, a bath tub, two trunks, countless suit cases and bags, seven rolls of bedding, toys, a flag, tent poles and stakes, and a great tent. The Burroughs family travelled with all the comforts of home.

By the time they reached "Camp Branch" at Morrison's lake, near Coldwater, Michigan, they had made the impulsive decision to cancel the trip to Maine and head to California instead, after returning to Oak Park and hiring a new chauffeur. Concern for the children's health had played a major part in the decision as word had reached them that there was an outbreak of infantile paralysis in the east.

"Undoubtedly I shall always roll, at least as long as I have the price of rolling, and drag my family with me until they are old enough to anchor for themselves..."

NOTE: Read more in our ERBzine 1102 entry.
The following account is from ERB's journal entry made during his
Camp Branch stay at Morrison Lake


In the summer of 1916, Edgar Rice Burroughs determined to take his wife and family on a memorable camping trip to Moosehead Lake, Main. The trip, called "Auto Gypsying" by Burroughs was indeed very memorable but not necessarily in the fashion that ERB anticipated. A caravan of vehicles were used by the family including a Packard twin six I-35 touring car, an Overland delivery car, (Happy Thought), a trailer that appeared little capable of handling rural roads, (Calamity Jane and later a Republic three quarter ton flat bed truck. Loaded on the vehicles was an extraordinary array of camping gear that was thought necessary for the trip.

Set up and take down of each camp was an hours-long process. Also following the family on this trip was bad weather, bad roads, mechanical breakdowns and just plain bad luck. En route to the East Coast, the family stopped at Coldwater, Michigan and established Camp Branch. A total of 37 days were spent at this camp site, the most relaxing time the family would have on this camping tour. Ed kept a journal of the entire trip, that would eventually become a 37,000-word accounting of the trials and good times experienced by the family. The following is taken from ERB's unpublished journal and describes the 37 days spent at Camp Branch.

~ Michael Hatt's Introduction to the Diary Pages handed out at the 2017 Dum-Dum

Undertaken in 1916
Emma Hulbert Burroughs
Joan Burroughs
Hulbert Burroughs
Jack Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs

June 20, 1916. Tuesday. Had steering rod straightened at Mishawaka. Got off the road once on the way to Coldwater and truck got into soft spot, digging herself in to brake drums. Packard towed her out. Reached Coldwater 3 P.M.  Just beside city limits truck motor commenced to pound and Louis stopped her. I went on and sent garage man back to tow him in to camp at Morrisons Lake, about four miles beyond Coldwater. Found we had burned out a connecting rod bearing. Made about 90 miles to-day. Much better than Happy Thought and Calamity Jane could make in the five days.

June 23 1916 to June 25 1916. Wired for new bearing for truck. Louis put it in Sunday. Kodak No. 5 shows entire caravan en route between Camp Disaster and South Bend. Kodak No. 6 is of CAMP BRANCH at Morrisons Lake, Michigan. It rained the day we arrived before we got the tent up, and all the first night. It was a terrific storm and we feared the tent would go, but she held.

June 26 1916. Monday. Louis and I started for Alma, Michigan, about 1 P.M. in the truck, as we found while replacing one bearing that others were in bad shape. The damage was due to running without oil in crank case. Agent at South Bend had assured us that car was ready for road and oil gauge had shown FULL; but it was not full and the gauge was not working. We were caught in hard rain just after leaving Jackson where we had stopped to buy a new lantern, having lost ours on the road.

It was not a pleasant trip. An empty truck scarce compares favourably with a Packard touring car in ease of riding. We bounced around like a couple of peas in a bass drum. Tried to sleep in bottom of truck at Lansing, where we arrived about 10 P.M. I could not sleep and got up about 10 P.M. Louis could sleep anywhere. Dressed and drove into town where I got something to eat at lunch counter and brought something out to Louis who was still in bed in the bottom of the truck. Two policemen espied him and investigated. I hoped that they would pull us so that we could have a place to sleep; but they wouldn't.

We started out again about 1:30 A.M. Driving a new road on a cloudy night without headlights is thrilling to a degree - the barn lantern was all that saved us. Reached Alma about 9:30 A.M. They told us it would take two days to repair the truck so we started back for camp by R.R. at 11 A.M. It is about 140 miles from Alma to Morrisons Lake by auto; but it took us twelve hours to make it by train, taking four different lines of road. I had slept a little over an hour the night before and to say that I was tired would be putting it mildly.  I was expiring all along the road and dead when we reached Coldwater. The normal wait at Hillsdale for the next train to Coldwater is four hours; but the train was a full half hour late, adding insult to injury.

The last hour we spent standing on the platform as I had suddenly imagined a bite, and from bites I ran the full gamut of all vermin one may collect in a pubic waiting room I commenced to scratch, nor was it long before I had Louis scratching, too. Michigan is a great state but it is through no fault of the railroads -- they are doing and have done, always, their best to keep people out of Michigan. As far back as I can recall Michigan has had the poorest train service of any state in the Union, when her size and importance are considered. I went to school at Orchard Lake, Michigan for five years and travelled about the lower peninsula playing foot ball in the Fall and as manager of the base ball team in the Spring, and about the only unpleasant feature of those trips which I can recall is the railroad service. Anyway it is quite proper and usual to damn the railroads.

June 30 1916. Saturday. (Actually Friday). Started for Alma in Packard with Emma and children, taking Louis along to drive the truck back to camp. We got through nicely and found truck ready.

July 1 1916. Saturday. Had Louis get an early breakfast and start ahead with truck. Told him we would overtake him before he had gone far; but did not again see him until Monday afternoon. Packard would not start when I went to garage for her. Republic Truck people were as nice as people could possibly be. Mr. Bates of the service department sent two of his best men to help me.

They worked until afternoon but could not find the seat of the trouble. Twin Sixes are so new that few mechanics know anything about them -- not even in Packard service stations. Finally they wired and telephoned Detroit and Bay City and at last the Packard factory at Detroit sent a man. The Republic Truck people were about as decent to me as men can be to another. They put three new bearings in the truck without charge. Of course it was in line with their guarantee to do this; but nothing in their guarantee required them to put two men for half a day on my Packard, or to telephone and telegraph Bay City and Detroit and then refused to be reimbursed. It is easy to see why the business is growing so rapidly for such a policy toward Republic owners combined with the making of the best truck for the money this side of Alderbaran is mighty likely to produce a number of enthusiastic boosters.

Kodak No. 12 shows CAMP BRANCH from the rear with Packard, and Republic fitted with prairie schooner top mad by W. H. Schmedlen of Coldwater. At right of picture is my cot with shelter tent and mosquito netting. The uprights are bamboo poles about four feet long, the ridge rope passing through holes bored near the upper ends. The lateral guy ropes pass through other holes bored just beneath and at right angles to ridge rope holes. The lateral guy ropes are stayed to cot corners by means of loops which pass under projecting end braces of cot. Only one extra stake is required. It is the one showing in picture, the other end of ridge rope being stayed to one of the big tent stakes. Unfortunately the mosquitoes found their way under my netting and I have been driven to the front porch of the Branch cottage.

Continued in PART II: ERBzine 6021
Ed in Morrison LakeEd's Republic Truck with Joan, Hulbert, Judson Branch and Louis J. Ziebs ~ July 2, 1916
Copyright ERB, Inc. ~ Not for reproduction
Photos from George McWhorter and Danton Burroughs
Ed in Morrison Lake  ::  Ed's Republic Truck with Joan, Hulbert, Judson Branch and Louis J. Ziebs ~ July 2, 1916

Moon Men ~ Father and Son

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