Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation

My extended family has visited the same sleepy vacation spot for over 100 years, Flood's Cove in Friendship, Maine. Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like, prior to the Interstate, when my mother and her parents would pile into the car in the 1940s to drive all the way from Lakewood to the Atlantic coast. How many days did that take?

When I was a kid, traveling the same route in my folks enormous, brown Chevy station wagon, I looked forward to having a Yes & Know book, a copy of Dynamite, and hope we would stop at either HoJo's or My Uncle Bill's because both had a pool. HoJos, however, meant fried clams.

My children are "deprived" compared to many of their contemporaries. There are no DVD players mounted onto the backs of our seats for them to watch. The girl does not have her own mp3 player ... yet. Last month on our drive to North Carolina, I read an entire book to them - the first Harry Potter book. For the trip to Maine, we are reading the second. We do, however, borrow audio and video "Playaways" from the library so there is video, but it's limited.

What would a driving vacation have been like in 1954? Imagine no seat belts. A child, if they are lucky enough to be an only child or traveling without siblings, would get to stretch out in the back with a pillow and nap, and hopefully not be thrown out the windshield.

Hotels did not have indoor pools, you'd be lucky to get an outdoor pool, a playground would be a bonus. Also, a hotel with an attached restaurant was also scarce. People usually packed their own food, anyway, in a cooler - a big, steel cooler. At least there was room for it, the cars were comically enormous. Keep in mind, no one spent hand over fist the way they do today. They saved money in the bank, and spent what they needed to. It's weird. So going to any restaurant was considered a luxury, even on a road trip.

Of course, if you were black, being allowed to stay in a hotel could also be a luxury. Or downright impossible. Picture this: prior to the advent of credit cards, you couldn't place a reservation for a hotel. Dad just drove until he found a place with a big neon sign reading VACANCY, and then paid cash.

And if you weren't white, perhaps the manager in St. Petersburg would inform you that the going rate is $50,000 a night. Ha ha ha. True story. Many traveling families of color spent the night in their car, after spending hours trying to find a place that would allow them to stay.

Retro Wife
Brigham Young University

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