from The News Leader
Thursday August 29, 1963.
When Leon Gillis’ neighbors asked him the purpose of the covered wagon he was building in his back yard he answered, “I’m going on a hayride.”
Thus began what is the longest hayride in history. Four thousand miles have passed under the hoofs of the two horses which pull the wagon. And the ride is not over yet.
The Gillises first trip from Richmond, Va. to Santa Monica, California, was made in 294 days. Time consumed in making many side trips does not bother the Gillis family. Mr. Gillis said the purpose of the trip, “is to slow down from the fast pace of modern life and see the country.”
Their California trip which saw Mr. GiUis, his petite brown-haired wife, and six children pass through nine states brought them national attention. Welcomed throughout the United States in some 300 towns and cities they have raised funds for many charitable organizations. Amidst this active life the Gillises have had their story on TV over 200 times and have also gained international fame through the Voice of America.
Mr. Gillis and family, passing through Laurel last week, expressed an intense desire to travel in Europe. Their objective on the European tour is to teach and tell of America.
In many towns the Gillis children make speeches in schools about their trips and have been welcomed by educators everywhere. Their schooling, by tutors, has not been neglected, and the educational benefits of America’s Longest Hayride have been immense.
Sickness has been no problem as the total medical expenses of $65 will attest.
Mr. Gillis, who acts as blacksmith and horse-shoer, reported, “Despite wearing out 72 pairs of shoes the horses have never had a sore foot.”
The Gillises travel six days a week, resting on Sunday. Mrs. Gillis stated the only obligation we make is, “church on Sunday and we have never been refused admittance to any church because we were dressed In Jeans.”
Although Mrs. Gillis and the children sometimes tire of their trips they are most excited at the prospect of seeing Europe. Their plans then call for settling down, but we won’t bet on that- there’s still South America, Leon.