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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF FRANK DAWSON BLILEY
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA


Born: April 29, 1906
Died: May 17, 1955
 

F. D. Bliley, 49 in 1955

A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS LETTER
December 21, 1929

May 16, 2011

Collage of Letter

 CONTENTS:


Introduction

In the spring of 1929, my father graduated from Pratt Institute in New York City, New York at the age of 23. No doubt, like most new graduates, he was filled with optimism and the economy was booming. He apparently decided to seek his fortune in the western states where several close relatives lived. He spend time in Boulder, CO as a teenager (14-16) when his family they moved there to aid in his father's health. The climate did not make a difference, so after two years, they moved back to Erie, Pennsylvania. His parents soon built a new home at 649 West 9th Street and hired a housekeeper named Bridget.

In 2010, I discovered an intriguing letter my dad wrote home to his father while documenting the family archives in Boulder, CO. This letter, and other documents, indicates he drive west and spent several months in the west, but could not find work and decided to come home. He decided to return home, a 1,500-mile trip, in the middle of winter with a car that could only do 40 MPH on a good road and probably had no heater! I know that he made it home safely, but nothing else about the trip.

I would also like to know what he brought back home with him. The car was very small and a considerable amount of space could have been taken up with a back-up fuel canister that I am told was often carried on long-distance trips. Did he use a fuel canister? Did he take along his ham radio equipment from the rented room? The radio equipment probably would not have been much larger than a couple of shoe boxes.

Apparently he could not find work in Erie. With his parents financial support he started his own business, based on his hobby interest of ham radio, in the spring of 1930. That business is still doing well and still bears the family name as this is written, 81 years later. Perhaps, it was destiny calling him home.

You can read the original letter online, or my transcription below. I suggest reading the original, as it shows his handwriting pattern and corrections. No doubt he was very anxious about the trip and eager to get the letter out, so he made several grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. I also was blessed to find some actual photos of his car from 1929, and the similar model in 2011 on an auction Web site.

Enjoy the ride just as I did while researching the story behind this letter.

Chuck

Frank Dawson Bliley

1929 Pratt Institute
Yearbook Portrait

Click Here
for Larger View

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The Letter

 

 

 

Collage of Letter
Click to View
Actual Letter

126 W. Main St.
Florence, Colo.
Dec. 21, 1929

Dear Father:

As far as I can remember this is the only the second or third time since 1926 That I have ever addressed a letter directly to you! However, this is not for money!

By the time this reaches you I will be started to Erie. Wait—Please don’t tell mother she would worry would worry herself sick. And tell Joanie. But under no consideration tell mother (or Bridget). I am leaving Dec 26 which aught to get me home before New Years.

I may be a darned Fool, but it seems the best thing.

Have that on the thing for several weeks. Believe me it has been very notty problem to work out. I will always regret going back and it almost breaks my heart (If a fellow has a “heart”.) There is nothing definite in Calf. And probably wont be any. Of course I will get a job immediately. Will use “travelers checks”. (about $75) That should be enough. Am coming by “Old Nat. Trails”. K. City, St. Louis, Indi. Columbus, Pgh, Erie. I have thoroughly over-hauled the Ford. Should be there day or so before New Year’s.

Leaving then in good humor.
                     Your son,
                     Dawson

P.S. Recd $52.90 check.
P.S. Will write an indefinite letter home.

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Starting Place -- Florence, Colorado

Things that we know:

  • He resided at: 126 West Main Street, City of Florence, Fremont County, Colorado September to December, 1929. (Known period.)
    (RE: Ham radio license, W9AAF, effective: 9/20/1929–9/19/1930 )
  • First cousins living in the area:
    • Harry Bliley (31), 221 East Main Street, Florence (One block away). Family: Wife, Mary (26); Mother-in-law, Hulda (78)
    • Charles A. Bliley (43) at 724 College Avenue, Canon City (two miles away) Family: Wife, Rebecca (42); Daughter, Hulda M (17)
  • His cousins operated an electrical supply and service business in Canon City.
  • Both cousins owned their own homes.
  • Charles and Harry are children of Alexander and Hulda Bliley (Dawson's Uncle and Aunt)

Main Street, Florence, CO
Main Street, Florence, CO
Circa 1930s.

Larger View

Other Relationships:

  • He took photo of his car in front of 515 North Pike's Peak, Florence, Colorado. The home was owned by: Alpha (school teacher) and Katherine Buickle with two daughters.
  • His relationship to owner and family is unknown, but they had a single 21-year-old daughter, Dorothy, who worked in a beauty shop, perhaps near his apartment--then again, this is a small town. Did he date her?

515 North Pike's Peak, Florence, CO
515 North Pike's Peak
Larger View

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The Route Home -- "Old National Trails Highway"

Old National Highway
Click for Larger Image

There was a series of roads stretching from San Francisco to Las Angeles, California across the U.S.A. to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, NY. It was a hodgepodge of roads that would ultimately be the basis of more modern roadways of Route 66, Interstate Highways 40, 25, 70 and 76. In 1929, this was at best a two-lane asphalt highway.

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The 1926 Ford Model T Coupe 

Specifications

  • 4-Cylinders Engine
  • 3-speeds (2 Forward; 1 Reverse)
  • Maximum Speed: 40 MPH
  • 20 Horsepower
  • Fuel: gasoline, kerosene, or ethanol
  • 10 Gallon Fuel Tank -- 150 to 220 mile range (15 to 22 MPG)
  • Long-distance drivers often carried an auxiliary five-gallon gas container on the running board.
  • Hand-Crank Start
  • Windshield Wiper--Driver's side only, Manual (vacuum optional)
  • Heater (Optional--Unknown if it was installed)
 

Letter_Home_12.21.1929/1926_Model_ T_Ford/Bliley_F.D._Standing_by_1926_Ford-LRG.jpg
Dawson with 1926 Model T
Larger View

 

1925 Model T in 2011

If you would like to view a gallery
of photos of a similar
1925 Ford Model T, click here.

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