Travels with Bill: A Wonderful Photo Collection That Document the 1963 USA Tour of an American Couple

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Here below is a wonderful photo collection from John F. Ciesla that shows his 1963 USA tour with his close friend named Bill.

“Travels with Bill.

USA trip, April through June 1963.

Close friend, William J. Armstrong passed away in March of 2013 at the age of 80. I came in possession of his many travel slides which he had taken through the years, and felt it would be an honor to share these many fine photos for all to see. One of Bill’s many interests was in transportation, and included almost all forms, from the streetcar, to the Jet plane. Early on, he could be found with a simple box camera taking photos of 3rd Avenue Railway streetcars in his native Bronx and nearby southern Westchester County. As he matured, the circle of travel increased to all of the New York metropolitan area, and then to other cities. Bill loved to travel, to see and experience not only his native New York, but the country as well. His interests went far beyond just transportation, but included history, geography, geology, and photography.

Arizona State Route 64, East of Grand Canyon

In April of 1963, a thirty year old Bill Armstrong set out on a two and one half month journey to see the country. He had just purchased a new 1963 Ford Falcon four door sedan, teal green in color and equipped with a rare 4 speed manual transmission mated to the base six cylinder engine. The car would take him across the plains of Texas, through the searing heat of Death Valley, along the Pacific Coast, and to Crater Lake where snow was still packed higher than his car. He drove north to Vancouver, Canada and then south along the eastern front of the Rockies. He and his trusty Falcon would visit many of the fabled National Parks such as the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, and Yosemite. Cities such as Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Most of the driving was done on the old network of US highways, as the Interstate highway system was largely to be built.

Viewing these slides we are seeing our nation as it was over fifty-five years ago. JF Kennedy was President, but would only live a few months longer. Our nation was engaged in a war in Viet Nam that would go on throughout the decade. The civil rights movement was growing as the decade progressed, and then Martin Luther King would be killed. But our nation was still optimistic for the future, and in six years we would land on the moon. Ours was a different nation then, and looking at these photos we see how styles have changed, and just look at all the “old” cars.

Bill loved to share his photos, and presented many evening slide shows during the years. I’m sure he would be pleased, and humbled, that his photos have been preserved and restored as much as possible. Time has not been kind to his color slides. After fifty years the colors have either faded or have changed tint. Bill shot many of his slides using Kodak Ektachrome, which faded very rapidly after developing. Many of those slides could only be saved into a black and white format. Fortunately during the 1963 trip he began to change over to Kodachrome slide film which held up far better. Although Kodachrome turned somewhat purple and darker over the years, a quick session with Photoshop managed to restore much of the color and sharpness. I have included several of the original Ektachrome slides as “before” images for comparison purposes.

This trip served to take Bill from a basic photographer to a highly competent scenic photographer. One can see his mastery of the camera improve as the trip progresses. Note how composition improves, and the use of foreground elements becomes evident during the trip. These photos were all taken with a relatively basic 35mm rangefinder camera with manual focus, lens and shutter adjustment. Bill never used a light meter, instead using the simple instructions provided on the inside of the film box, and let’s not forget the very slow speed of those old color slide films.
So enjoy the trip through Bill’s USA….I’m sure he is smiling.

John F. Ciesla ”

Alabama. Birmingham, view from hotel room

Approach to 25R United Airlines DC8 at LAX

Arcata Redwood logging

Arizona. California State Line near Yuma

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