Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

January 20, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

I grew up in an era when hitchhiking was safe and enjoyable.  In fact, it was more fun to hitchhike than to  take the streetcar or the bus.  You had no fear from the person who would pick you up, and the person stopping seem to express a trust in you.  Present generations cannot relate to those days.  Oh, don’t we wish that was the world of today?

Many people who attempted to hitchhike became discouraged.  You had to know the art of hitchhiking.  You would see a fellow walking toward his destination, back to the oncoming cars, and holding his left hand up with the thumb pointed in the direction he was walking.  That spoke of little confidence in catching a ride.  If you were a serious hitchhiker, you stood still on the side of the road, facing the approaching cars, and holding your right hand up with the thumb in the air or slightly pointed toward your destination.  You would make sure your clothes looked presentable, and you would express a smile of happiness.  You wanted that driver to say to himself, “There is a happy young man.  I would trust him and probably enjoy his companionship as I travel.” 

Hitchhiking was the cheapest way to travel.  People often assumed you could not afford transportation or that there was no bus or streetcar available.  I mention streetcars because much of my hitchhiking was for short distances within the Atlanta area.  Going to a movie just a few miles away, we would find ourselves hitchhiking.  Of course, if there were more than two of us, we would split up into pairs, and one group would walk up the road some distance.  Most people would not have room for more than two.  But if they did and the first pair was picked up, we would ask if the driver would pick up our friends.

There are a few, very memorable experiences from my hitchhiking days. One seemed so routine, but I remember it from the pain I endured.  I was a senior in high school and had owned a car.  But because I liked to hitchhike, and because I was stingy with my gas, I thumbed a ride from Clarkston to Stone Mountain where my grandmother lived.  I remember so well that Propane Gas truck driver who stopped and offered me a ride.  It seemed that the bounce in that truck was something unbelievable.  I did not tell the driver how uncomfortable I was, but I found myself in misery.  I was assuming it was the type truck, and remarked to myself that I will not seek a ride with this model truck ever again.  Later, as I left my grandmother’s I decided to take the streetcar home because I was still feeling the effect of that ride.  But I was to know the next morning that it had not been the result of the truck ride.  I had a kidney stone.  The bounce in the truck had broken it loose.  Within hours I was in the hospital.  I was glad that it had not been something to cause me from hitchhiking again in the future.

The longest journey by hitchhiking was from Texas to Georgia.  A friend and I made the long journey.  I cannot remember the exact time, but we were on the road for more than 24 hours.  Some of our rides were only for twenty or thirty miles, while a few took us for 100-200 miles.  One fellow stopped and offered us a ride.  He even said we could drive for him.  As we got close to him, we realized we needed to drive because he was intoxicated.  But we decided to pass up the opportunity.  What if he passed out and we did not know his destination?

We got one ride in a truck pulling a mobile home (called a trailer in those days).  We tried to get him to let us ride in the mobile home so we could sleep, but he would not let us because of laws and regulations by his company.

The most difficult time was going through Mississippi.  We were in the middle of Vicksburg National Park at about 3:30 a.m. in the morning.  It was cold and misty.  It must have been at least 3 hours before we got a ride.  Very few cars traveled that stretch of U.S. 80 that time of morning.  But at last, we got a ride and continued our odyssey.

As a confirmed hitchhiker, I always felt compelled to pick up others who were thumbing when I was in my car.  During my time in North Carolina and driving to the Atlanta area or other places where I might be doing youth revivals, I had the opportunity to pick up many fellows.  The most memorable was a young sailor.  In the course of our travel, I had the privilege to share the Gospel with him.  I carried a small New Testament that was marked with Scriptures.  At the bottom of the page where he would read, it would have written to turn to page such and such.  As he would read those Scriptures, I would explain  them to him.  The result was that during that ride he came to a personal relationship with Christ as his Savior and Lord.  He asked me if he could have that New Testament.  I did not give it to him because I felt it was so special to me.  I have regretted to this day that decision.  However, the great surprise about a year later came as I was watching the show “Name That Tune.”  This young sailor was on the program.  When they interviewed him they asked what he was going to do when he got out of the Navy.  He replied, “God has called me to preach.”  Obviously he had gotten into a church, grown in the Lord, and experienced God’s will for his life.

Hitchhiking has vanished from the culture of yesteryear.  The interstate highway system has contributed to the demise.  But most of all, fear has been the major reason.  I will not pick up hitchhikers today.  I admonish everyone not to do so.  Do not hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.

But there are pleasant memories of those past days.  Perhaps you can relate and have some interesting stories. 

Again, thanks for letting me share my memories.




  1. Oh, how the world has changed–love the snapshot of yesteryear. Thanks, Dad!

    Comment by jjr, mo — January 20, 2010 @ 9:47 am | Reply

  2. What a fun story, how the days have changed. Johnny has lots of stories of hitchhiking back and forth to Jacksonville when he was in the Navy. Those days are definitely gone.

    Pastor Jolly, you have a way of making stories so “life”…..relating to your stories of past that we fail to think about.

    Comment by doriswhite — December 9, 2010 @ 9:53 am | Reply

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