Car Travel during WWII

By Keith Gibson

Traveling by car during the years of WWII, (for the benefit of some younger folks, WWII is World War two, not eleven), was a lot different than now.

A lot of things were rationed by the gubbermint at that time, like gas, oil, tires, anit-freeze (Prestone or Zerex), windshield wiper blades, etc. etc.

In the case of tires, it was almost impossible to get any new ones.  We raided the dumps and put boots (large pieces of thick material) inside the tire to cover breaks and holes. Everybody carried a patching kit to fix flats.  Tires had inner tubes in those days.  Each car had a jack, lug wrench, set of tire irons (to get the tire off and on the rim), inner tube valve gut tool, extra valves and a patch kit.

The tire patch glue had a distinct smell. Kinda good actually. Another necessity was a hand pump to inflate the tire after repairing a puncture.  It wasn’t the easiest tool to use.

Driving speed was limited to 30-35 MPH to save on tires and gas.  The gas was rationed and each car had to have a sticker in the windshield.  The stickers had A,B, C, if I remember correctly.

A was for general public, B for salesmen and C was unlimited for doctors and other officials.  Each group was allowed a certain amount of gallons per month.  A record book with mileage and gallons was kept in each vehicle and had to be shown, along with the proper number of gas stamps for the gallons purchased.

My mother worked in the Standard Station in McGill and salesmen would tip her with gas stamps as they were considered more valuable than money. Gas was priced at around 15-18 cents a gallon. Oil was hard to get.  My grandfather when he changed oil would take the dirty oil and put it in a large can on a shelf in the garage.  He then put a cotton rope with red diamonds on it in the oil and hang the rope down into a bucket on the floor. The rope would cleanse the oil as it wicked down to the bucket.

The only road trip we took was to Salt Lake to Grandma’s house for a week’s vacation in the summer. The car was checked for extra oil, tire changing tools and of course the important spare tire and sometimes a spare inner tube.  The suit cases were loaded and sometimes a lunch.

The last thing to do was take a bathroom break as it would be a long trip.  It usually took about 8 hours driving time plus several stops.  The first stop was Lage’s Station (Stage Stop) that was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lage.  The next stop was the Alizeges (sp) at Boone Springs.  They were very nice.  I remember the Coleman lanterns.  Sometimes they would run a Whitti (sp), diesel generator.  The other thing was the stucco outhouse in the back of the station.  Dad would get some gas as he always believed in helping the folks.

The next stop was Wendover or “leftover” as Bob Hope called it.  There was the State Line station and café.  They had running water and regular bathrooms. Sometimes we ate at the café on the Utah side just as you leave Wendover.

The little town was buzzing with the Army Air Force men training on the many bombers.  The atomic bomb crew of the Enola Gay trained there in secret.

Then it was across the salt flats.  My brother and I counted discarded tires alongside the road.  There were plenty, but they were totally worn or shredded.  The next short stop was the station by the dunes, which is still there.  Then the next two places were Lows and Delle.  There was a large cement plant on the south side of the road just before Grantsville.  The road from there was that cement one that had the tar expansion  spacers that clacked.  The Kennecott slag dumps were high and black near the road.  Soon we passed the Saltair amusement park with the old wooden roller coaster that scared the heck out of people.  Then past the small building that was the SL airport and eventually to Grandma Hazel’s house.  It was quite a trip.