Road Trips ~ Montana or Bust

3.26.2023 [archived ~ originally published 5.31.18]

By 1922, the overall economic prospects improved for many, including families in our area.  More people bought automobiles and ventured further from home, creating a new pastime – auto touring.  Tourists could plan where, when and how fast to travel, as they were no longer limited to train or bus schedules. Auto touring literature at the time described automobile transportation as a revival of the stagecoach and carriage travel. 

In fact, Frank Brimmer, author of Autocamping stated: “autocamping is by far the most popular and fastest growing outdoor sport.” [Autocamping by Frank Brimmer 1923.]  According to the United States Touring Bureau, a 1922 survey disclosed there were 1200 cities and towns in the country offering camping grounds and facilities to auto tourists, many without charge. Most provided conveniences such as police protection, electric lights, toilets, cooking facilities and permanent shelters.

So, it should not surprise you that more than a handful of Deer Riverites traveled west to the highly publicized Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Not all of their adventures made the news, but here is a handful that did get press between 1925-1927.

To Yellowstone Park 1925

“Laurence Olson, Darrell Smith, and Nels Olson, who sign themselves as “Ole, Easy and Swede,” left Sunday morning by auto for Yellowstone Park.  They will camp enroute and sleep in the car.  Their first day took them as far as Fargo.  Monday noon they were at Jamestown, N.D. They expected to reach the park Wednesday.  They are taking two weeks for the trip.” [Itasca News 8-13-1925]

Darrell and Joe Write 1926

Darrell must have had an excellent experience at Yellowstone, as he planned another trip, this time with Joe Rydrych, the following June. Before the pair left Deer River for Glacier National Park, they, or perhaps well-intentioned friends, decorated their automobile with the words Montana or Bust.  Darrell and Joe sent a postcard to the Deer River News.

“The editor received a card this morning from Darrell Smith and Joe Rydrych, who “went west” last week in an elaborately decorated Phord.  The card was mailed at Benchland, Mont., on June 15th.  It says:

‘We arrived at Windham Saturday night at seven, and it has rained ever since.  We are now in the Little Belt mountains.  Everything is honky tonk.  Plenty of wild “cow girls,” two for us. (That’s just as Darrell wrote it, make your own guess.) “No can Catch,” (evidently the boys have been trying.)  Will be leaving for Great Falls in about a week.  Will write from there.” [Deer River News 6-17-1926]

When I interviewed Dick and Fern Jurvelin earlier this spring, I was thrilled to see photographs in their collection of the Darrell and Joe!  The railroad might have been feeling a bit of a pinch from the autocampers as they began placing substantial advertisements in the local papers.

Great Northern Railway Northwest Special “Make a complete trip through the Northwest Special Round Trip Summer Fares to the Pacific Northwest include stop off privileges at Glacier National Park, which is still unspoiled and primitive. Fine hotels and comfortable chalets await your visit.  Come out and live in Adventure Land.  The food is excellent and plentiful.

Your opportunity to travel on transportation’s thoroughbred, the deluxe ENTIRELY NEW Oriental Limited.  The Great Northern is the scenic, low-altitude, river course route across the continent.  Inquire today from your local Great Northern Agent.

At least one person living in Deer River decided this was a worthwhile adventure.

Hilda Steffens Goes West 1926

“Miss Hilda Steffens, cashier at the Great Northern station, left Saturday for an extended vacation in the west.  After visiting at her home in Bemidji, she leaves this week for Glacier and Yellowstone Parks and Salt Lake City, Denver, and Colorado Springs.  She may possibly go on to the coast.  She will be absent about two months.  Louis Gimpil of Kelly Lake will serve as cashier in her absence.” [Deer River News 6-24-1926]

A two-month train trip!  Oh, how I would love to the gift of such travel.  Years ago, Amtrak had a writer-in-residency opportunity, but from what I can tell, it didn’t last long and is now defunct.  I am saving my hard-earned paychecks from Reminisce and will take a train trip to write within five years.  Now that I have shared this with you hold me to it!

Harlow Herreid Working in Yellowstone 1927

In the early spring Harlow Herreid, the sixteen-year-old son of businessman Henry and wife Bessie, applied to work at Yellowstone National Park for the Yellowstone Park Company.  The Park Company was incorporated in Minnesota in the 1880s as a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which explains how Minnesota young people were hired.  “Harlow Herreid received a contract for employment the coming summer with the Yellowstone Park Hotel Co.  He expects to leave June 13th.”  [Deer River News 5-12-1927]

And three weeks later, school was over, and he was ready to go. “Harlow leaves next Sunday for St. Paul, where he will join a caravan of employees going to Yellowstone Park, where he will spend the summer.” [Deer River News 6-9-1927]

I do not know what Harlow was hired to do, but the Yellowstone Park Company operated the very elegant Lake Yellowstone Hotel.  Also, in 1927, according to the National Park timeline, Charles A. Lindbergh barnstormed over Yellowstone Park in September, only months after his historic transatlantic flight.  Harlow regretfully missed this historic event, as he returned to Deer River on September 3rd.  

Harlow did have a chance to make a long-distance telephone call to his parents, as this was the first year telephone exchanges were installed in the Park. “The H.H. Herreid family had a pleasant surprise Sunday evening, when Harlow, who is employed in Yellowstone Park, called over the long-distance telephone.  In spite of the great distance, the conversation was very plainly heard.” [Deer River News 8-18-1927]

The last story I found in the Deer River News was about the trip of brother and sister Nels (23) and Mary (21) Olson, and friends Mildred and Carl. I thought this was interesting because it was both males and females traveling together.  According to, there were no marriages to transpire among them.

Return from Yellowstone 1927

“Nels Olson, Carl Norberg and Misses Mildred Sweum and Mary Olson returned last Saturday night from a two-week motor trip that took them through Yellowstone Park. They went west through Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismark, N.D., and returned through Cody, Wyo., Pierre, S.D., and east to Ivanhoe, Canby, Granite Falls and St. Cloud, Minn.  The route out took them through the Badlands of North Dakota and the return trip through the Black Hills of South Dakota.  All report a most interesting trip.” [Deer River News 8-18-1927]

More road trips were made west before the Great Depression, but I’ll save them for another column.  Until then, safe travels in whatever direction you go.

1 Comment

  1. youngv2015 says:

    I have a book called Ford Tramps that is about two young men from Ashland, Wisconsin, who went auto-camping in a 1919 Model T Ford in 1924. I bought a copy of the book for my father, who loved it, and then asked for another copy for his friend, who loved it. I’ve yet to read it, but I am going soon! I was inspired by your column to get it out and put it on top of my TBR pile of books.


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