On July 17, 1948, Nancy wrote in her diary:
“Bruce and another guy are going to Washington. They’re hitchhiking and coming home tomorrow.”
Apparently, my friend and I were confident about getting rides from Gettysburg, because according to the diary, we didn’t start “thumbing” until late afternoon. Washington is more than eighty miles south of Gettysburg, and a good two hours away by car.
Unfortunately, my only memory of our brief adventure is standing in line to pay our respects to General John Pershing lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. After several hours we passed the General in five seconds.
General Pershing was famous for commanding the American troops, or doughboys as they were called, in World War I (1917-1918). Pershing was a hero back then, but modern historians criticize his use of frontal assaults resulting in unnecessarily high American casualties.
According to Nancy’s diary, my friend and I had trouble getting a ride back to Gettysburg the following day, so we took a bus from Frederick and traveled the same route Reynolds First Corps and Howard’s Eleventh Corps marched eighty-five years earlier prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
I hitchhiked successfully and often when I was a college student in Lancaster, Pennsylvania fifty miles east of Gettysburg, but my biggest challenge using my thumb to travel was a 450 mile hike from Jacksonville NC to Gettysburg in 1953. In all such cases I was motivated by my desire to be with Nancy.