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Across the pond with Rex Wailes: Chicago to Minneapolis

Extracts from Rex Wailes’ 1929 diary of his trip to the USA and Canada. Part 23.

Poster Image

4. 6. 29.

On Tuesday the 4th, I had tea with Miss Young at the E.S.U. This was my first introduction to cinnamon toast. Toast is made, buttered while warm after steam has come off and a mixture of equal parts of cinnamon and sugar is sprinkled on from a shaker. The whole is put back in the oven to warm just before serving, and served on a hot covered dish – excellent!

I left Chicago by the “Oriental Limited” at 11.30 p.m. standard time, going on board at 10.30. p.m. and turning in at midnight. I had a good berth in the centre of the coach. Ones “grip” and shoes go under the bed, on which one has to dress and undress – no easy matter. The attendant is supposed to shine the shoes overnight. Washing arrangements are three hand basins in the men’s smoking room – a small place about 6 x 12ft. There is also a small tooth-cleaning basin. Iced drinking water from a tank, and paper cone cups are provided outside in the passage.

I slept well until 5.45 when we stopped at Prairie du Chein. From the berth we appeared to be skirting a huge stone cliff running N.W. – about 150ft in height and increasing. It was well wooded. Below was flat country, well cultivated with black soil – the Mississippi Valley.

Lake Pepin

The railway follows the course of the river and the scenery constantly changes. In places the valley widens out so that one side or the other is unseen through the trees. At other times it narrows down to a bare ½ mile wide. The sides are broken with little re-entrant valleys, all thickly wooded. The Mississippi river here is not very wide, but is a slow sluggish stream bordered with swamps and shewing every sign of regular flooding. In one place it widens out into Lake Pepin where are scores of clam boats, which get fresh water clams – like coarse lare oysters. Rough pearls are occasionally obtained from them.

Wisconsin bluffs

After passing the Minnesota or Wisconsin Bluffs, we arrived at St. Paul. Here we had a 25 minute wait, so I went into the town to stretch my legs and get some Mistol and Ponds Cream – the first for my nose and the second for my face, which was getting sore. We were banked out of St. Paul by a locomotive.

The first things one noted about Minneapolis were the enormous concrete grain elevators and the storage dams on the Mississippi for power generation. A “gas-electric”, switching loco, was used to drag back the observation car, put on another sleeper, and bank the train out of the station. As we left we had a good view of the town. A tower known as the Foshay tower, and two other business buildings were very fine, but otherwise it was not very remarkable from what one could see.