Another thing of the past is the “art of the thumb”. In the 1950’s, it was not uncommon to see many guys standing alongside the road with their thumb out, hoping to get a ride by some passing car. The practice had many advantages for both parties. The driver of the car had company on a possibly long trip, and the rider got to where he wanted to go at no expense to him. The majority of riders in those days were sailors from Norfolk. They didn’t make a lot of money, and a free ride was appreciated. Most of them didn’t have to wait long before some car would stop and pick them up.
One thing you never saw was a woman or girl hitchhiking. They just didn’t do it, at least, not around here. That all changed in the 1960’s when the “hippie” movement swept the country, and girls became more a part of mainstream culture. Nowadays, the dangers of anyone being on the highway alone are enough to keep people from seeking the benefit of a free ride.
The practice had pretty well stopped by the 1970’s. It seemed that even the poorest of the poor had a car, or knew somebody who did, and didn’t need to seek a free ride. The idea of picking up some stranger by the side of the road is so foreign today. The sailors of yesterday were always clean-cut-looking young men, and you never had any fear that something bad would happen. Their conversation was always positive, and they were more than glad to share their experiences with you. And the company and conversation on a trip helped to pass the time away.
The occasional hitchhiker of today does not instill in you a great sense of safety to your well-being. So, most of them get passed by. Besides, who wants to take a chance that you are picking up some fugitive or crazy that will add grief to your life.
Along with the steady prospects along Route 13, there was always the road to Ocean City. It was always full of young people trying to get to the ocean. Even kids from Salisbury would hitch toOcean City without a dime in their pocket. They seemed to think it was exciting to do it. Once they got to Ocean City, they would beg for quarters to subsist. This practice was utilized by kids that were more affluent and could easily afford to do things differently. But they thought it was exciting to experience how the “other half” lived. I could never see it myself mainly, because I never liked being dirty – or broke.
Times change, as we all have witnessed. Hitchhiking now has developed into a fine art. Generally, the truck stops are the best place to get a ride. Befriending a trucker can lead to a ride to some far-off destination, and they are usually good company. Some of them are glad for the chance to not have to travel alone. It does take a certain amount of desperation to entrust your life with a perfect stranger though.