Loaded and ready to go!


Their lives crossed at a dance in San Francisco, where Pop was stationed. Discharged on August 24, 1921 and married his chosen in The City the next day. And the great adventure two-years later was forged. Marie and Albert were on their way to Worcester, Mass., to see Albert’s family and introduce his new bride. While mom’s “Memorandum” ran some 60-plus pages, the following are many of the highlights – and lowlights – of this momentous journey, reminisces Al Auger.


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{Outside Kyburz on today’s Highway 50}: “Started up (our) Ford, but started was all. Mr. Wheeler and I pushed (with little effect) and then a Ford work coupe towed us a couple hundred feet just to get us off the road. Albert looked and looked, but couldn’t find out what was wrong with the car. Finally we had to send for a tow car. It was a Hupmobile. He towed us to Twin Bridges (where) the man put in new ignition wire and a new spark plug. The next grade was 15% we were towed over and the next grade was 22% (and) we decided to be towed up it. Everything cost us $8.00.”

Our camp outside of Salt Lake City.

Our camp outside of Salt Lake City.

– Marie Auger
Wednesday, July 19, 1923

Her maiden name was Venetia Marie Smith, a stay-at-home Mom. Albert Auger (Pop) was a legendary butcher whose creativity curing hams and making sausages with the flavor of Italy, France, Spain and other spicy locales drew customers from the farthest corners of the Bay Area. My brother, my sister and I grew up nurtured by seemingly typical parents in the Norman Rockwell mode. Our home in Alameda, across the Estuary from Oakland, California, was the archetype middle-class abode wrapped in dark, warm shingles. We were, as most working families in the 1930s and 1940s, the absolute cliché where family reigned supreme. That world of conformity was disassembled with the discovery my sister, our family historian, had a day-to-day journal Mom described of this long-distant test of fortitude and ingenuity.

Born in a small town in Oregon, Mom and her family moved to San Francisco in her teens. At 19, her world was Oregon and San Francisco. Pop joined the Army during WWI and, speaking fluent French, he spent the war as a translator. After the war jobs were scarce and he joined the Navy and spent his Boot camp in San Diego. Their lives crossed at a dance in San Francisco, where Pop was stationed. Discharged on August 24, 1921 and married his chosen in The City the next day. And the great adventure two-years later was forged. Marie and Albert were on their way to Worcester, Mass., to see Albert’s family and introduce his new bride. While mom’s “Memorandum” ran some 60-plus pages, the following are many of the highlights – and lowlights – of this momentous journey.

They were joined by Sterling (Stubby) Wheeler, a close friend of Albert‘s. Their cross-country transporter a 1921 Ford Model T, popularly called a “Flivver or Tin Lizzie.” The intrepid trio, their Flivver packed high with camping gear, food, tools, etc., followed, for the next 22-days, the legendary Lincoln Highway. Reading Mom’s daily journal of the trip, “A Memorandum of Our Trip From Oakland, California to Worcester, Mass.”, I could only summon up a mental picture of a mini-Donner Party trek in reverse packed with misdirection, mechanical failures, daunting mountain traverses and a treasure trove of Good Samaritans and just nice people. In those “medieval” days of motor travel, the renowned Lincoln Highway was a trans-continental passage of asphalt smooth 2-lane roads, dirt and gravel, heart-throbbing clamber over seemingly impassable heights, calling for youthful foolhardiness and bravado plus a lot of luck.

A Piaute woman in South Utah gathering fuel.

A Piaute woman in South Utah gathering fuel.

Day One-July 18, 1923: “(We) ate lunch on the other side of Vacaville. …saw some placer mining on to Folsom; it was very interesting. Stopped for water and drank a root beer (at Folsom) No more than got out of Folsom than I threw up the root beer. Got lost and had to return to Folsom to start on the Lincoln Highway again. Placerville at 7:05. Bought a lot of stuff there for supper and went 2-miles further to Brewsterville Camp. Hit the hay at 9:30 p.m. First day: 146 miles.” So far, so good.

The next few days began with their first experience with mountains high and maze-like passes. From Kyburz (now Highway 50) it was a frustrating go.

Day two-July 19: At the hamlet of Bijou, the beauty of Lake Tahoe helped wipe out the memory of the day.

“Listened to a little bum music and then we walked down to see the Lake at night. It was beautiful. Back to camp and went bed about 9. Set the alarm for 4:30. It was a little cold, but what of that? Mileage: 65.”

Highway 50 along Lake Tahoe, as it is today.

Highway 50 along Lake Tahoe, as it is today.

Day Three, Bijou, CA: “The lake scenes were marvelous. After leaving the lake we started climbing. Pretty stiff pull, but we made it in low (gear) fine, but coming down!!! (T)he road coming down was just like a shelf. ‘The scene was awe-inspiring,’ as Stubby said. The mts. in the distance and the trees thousands of feet down; was sure glad we got down. 127 miles mileage made.

Photos by Marie Auger, Albert Auger & Sterling Wheeler
Archive photos courtesy of Patti Auger

Note: The Great Adventure continues in Siliconeer next month.