Florham Park, NJ- July 10, 1939, seven 16 year-old boys, left Florham Park on a journey of a lifetime. After convincing their families, constructing a cross-country vehicle from an old school bus, a chassis from an ice truck and rebuilt engine, and working all kinds of odd jobs, they set out from The Briar Patch Inn ( currently AAA) to the Golden Gate Bridge which had been declared a Wonder of the World.
The courageous crew included Bill Browne, Werner Holly, Joe Phair, Bob Proctor, Elliot Ryder and his brother Fred, and Johnny Wick. They all lived with in three miles of each other and none had been further from home than New York City. Their amazing journey full of adventure, is chronicled in The Spirit of ’39 , written by Bill Browne as told to Lee Brooke and Marcy Kubat.
On July 10,2017, Nancy Browne, Bills daughter arrived in Florham Park with her daughter, Lauren Herbine and her co-adventurer Erica Schneider. Herbine is Bill Browne’s granddaughter and a Monroe Scholar at William and Mary. The scholarship is covering the cost of the journey, which in 1939 cost the boys $212.00.
They met up with Mike Northridge, also grew up in Florham Park, who researched the entire original journey and gave the girls a tour including, the Little Red School House, the schools, and AAA , formerly the Briar Patch Inn, where the journey began. They visited the home they believe Bill Browne grew up in and then a quick great meal at the Florham Park Diner for some nostalgia and a proper sending off. The final destination was Fort Nonsense, it was there that the boys first stopped on the tour to make sure their “home made” vehicle would make it up the hill.
The story chronicles everything from the curtains donated by a friend of Bill’s mom to the break-downs and mini-adventures, and of course arriving at the Golden Gate Bridge on August 9. The girls are chronicling their journey on Instagram complete with photos, excerpts from the book and their own adventures. Follow along here.
At the time of print, the journey has taken Lauren and Erica to Nebraska, stopping in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa. They are travelling the “Lincoln Highway” , a winding twisting rambling road, once travelled by Laurens grandfather and his crew. The book, Spirit of 39, can be reserved at the Florham Park Library and the Morris County Library.