The Beat Generation was in full swing;
Kerouac published On The Road. James Dean starred in Rebel Without A Cause. Rosa Parks
refused to surrender her seat to another passenger, a white man, during a bus ride in
Montogmery, Alabama. General Motors, the worlds largest corporation, managed a
budget equal to that of Communist Poland. The AFL and CIO, separate labor unions, merged:
America produced one-half of the worlds durable goods. One million people quit the
farm and moved to town, or more likely, suburbs. Everyone started using first
names. Mixed marriage meant between Christians and people of other religious
Einstein died. Elvis Presley dressed in gold lamé garments; Liberace and his
mother followed suit, so to speak. Adlai Stevenson was called the countrys
ranking egghead. Americas Interstate Highway System was proposed at a
cost of $25,000,000,000. President Eisenhower suffered a heart attackthe Dow Jones
average dropped to 444.56 points, the worst crash since 1929. Only the military used jet
airplanes. Fifteen percent of Americans had never been 250 miles from their homes. When
traveling, people went by train; one in four Americans spent a night in Pullman cars
during the era. Shopping centers sprang up in wide macadam parking lots. Frozen vegetables
wrapped in DuPont Cellophane awaited sale in supermarkets where National cash
registers figured change, and displayed the correct amount automatically.
A Mallory Pliafelt fedora cost $10. An Alligator brand gabardine overcoat
water repellent and processed for year round wear went for $40.75.
Capeheart advertised its ...spectacular NEW Rhapsody 24-inch picture...only
$299.95; consumers had the option of renting a Crosley ...De Luxe Consul [for]
as little as $4.01 a week. The Polaroid Land Camera, a rangefinder, gave black and
white pictures in 60 secondsa miracle. A new RCA Victor Orthophonic High
Fidelity Phonograph with a panoramic 3-speaker system sold for $129.95; four
attachable legs cost extra.
Women, thanks to Clairol, were blonde. The up-and-coming housewife visited
her hairdresser once a week...and made her own face by 8:30 every morning. By
that time the youngsters were off to school, the house had been cleaned and she was
dressed for the day, free to ...play bridge, attend club meetings, or stay at home
and read, listen to Beethoven and just plain loaf.
Georgie Clark was no such animal. She did not own a whitewalled 4-door
55 Chevy Bel Aire. In retrospect she was, for the place and time, akin to Allen
Ginsberg. And, like Ginsberg, her message didnt hit until later. But when she did
her thing, MAN!, that chick really Howled!
Georgie crawled out of the woodwork. She had been born in Oklahoma and raised
in Denver during hard times. Georgie was taught to never feel sorry for herself or
cryshe had good health and teeth and everything had to be up from there, her Mother
said. She found her way to the river after a summertime bicycle ride from New
York to Los Angeles without a spare tire and one [low] speed and a broken wrist that did
not slow her down. Years later, after she completed training for the Ferry Pilot Command
her daughter, Sommona Rose, was hit by a car and died in front of her during another
bicycle ride. When asked, Georgie said it was the greatest tragedy of her life. She needed
something to do after that, a place to go. Friends talked her into seeing a slide show
given by an upstart organization called The Sierra Club. She went. That led her to Grand
When Georgie took her first river trip, at the age of 35, the
year World War II ended, she swam the Colorados Lower Granite Gorge with Harry
Aleson, the fellow who gave the slide show. They hiked 20 miles down Peach Springs Wash
after sending their good clothes around to the take-out in Boulder City by bus. After some
small talk Harry hopped into the swollen current and disappeared downstream and she jumped
in and followed. The rest is history: Georgie ate canned tomatoes because they gave her
energy and Harry drank milk because of his ulcer. The experience captivated, stunned and
Ten years later, in 1955, Georgie built the first baloney boat at
Lees Ferry, a remote river crossing in further remote Northern Arizona. As seen in
National Geographic, the Colorado Plateau appeared raw, wild, a place filled with dry
desert heat, rough red rocks, and Indians who wore turquoise jewelry.
It took her a week to build the first one. She had the wide, sandy, predam
beach virtually to herself. When finished, what she called the big G-boat was
an inflatable army surplus bridge pontoon 33' long with three feet of freeboard. Two
shorter pontoons, 28s, were laced on either long side, all of it smothered in
rigging. A small Johnson outboard provided what little energy the beast showed. But
Georgies rig fascinated the occasional passerby. No one had ever seen anything like
NPS began counting river people in 1955. First among them were
Bill Beer and John Daggett, young fellows looking for a cheap vacation. These enterprising
individuals swam the entire Canyon, completing their 280-mile Lees FerryPearce Ferry
odyssey in 26 days, no small feat. They were among the original 300 hundred individuals to
complete a Grand Canyon river trip, a total likely surpassed that year. Seventy people
went down the river then, the most of any season to date, twice the number of any previous
year. Twenty-eight [see inset] of those people went with Georgie. They accounted for more
than one-third of the Colorados passengers that summer.
Disneyland, The happiest place on earth, opened in 1955.
At Lees Ferry, Grand Canyons soft adventure tour industry was born.
Then and there came new enterprise on the Colorado. Beer and Daggett showed it could be
done with water wings and gumption. And Georgies big rig said how:
completely padded, there was not a hard surface anywhere on it.
They didnt mean to change history. They were out there doing what they
wanted to do. Serendipity, really. Just like a river trip.