A few weeks ago, I wrote about remembering your childhood memories, and I included a small discussion about family vacations. This week I want to focus more on this great topic: family vacations. It is one that can usually brings some fun happy memories of your parents and brothers and sisters.
When I was young and living in New Jersey (my Dad worked in NYC) we would load into the family station wagon and drive 800 miles through Pennsylvania and Ohio to northern Indiana. It was an all-day trip (the speed limits were 70 mph), leaving early in the morning and arriving in late afternoon, usually in time for dinner. Crowded into the car all day, it was such a long trip for four kids and my mom and dad. I can’t remember how many times we heard, “If you kids don’t behave and keep quiet, I‘m going to pull this car over and let all four of you have it!” Hah — I wonder if they really would have! How many times have told your kids the same thing? Write about your own family vacation stories.
Since I grew up in New Jersey, and not on a farm it was so much fun going to Indiana to visit our cousins who lived on a farm. We stayed at our grandparents home very near my uncle’s farm. Every day we would walk down to the farmhouse and play with our cousins. They were both girls. One was just a bit older than me and the other was younger. They had one horse, that we had to catch in the pasture. Once we caught it we rode bare back. I fell off that horse so many times — what fun. We chased the cows and pigs, and we fed the chickens. To us it was fun, but my cousins were glad they could get someone else to do their chores! It seemed like a real Tom Sawyer story.
Growing up, living in New Jersey, we had no family living close. Our trips, usually two weeks long, were our main vacations. I remember so distinctly those long car rides. It’s funny what you remember — we always brought milk and some of those individual cereal boxes (remember the assorted kind). You could open the box along the perforations, pout in the milk and use it as a bowl. Since I was the oldest, I claimed it was my choice of which kind I wanted (everyone wanted the sugar kind) however, my mother did not agree with my claim of seniority! We would stop at a road side picnic table along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s they were no nicely built rest areas, just a wide spot along the turnpike where a car could stop and eat at a picnic table. Cars were zipping along going 60-70 miles per hour! Holy smokes — how dangerous was that. The roadside table was maybe only 50 feet from road. We didn’t care — I don’t think my parents cared — it was fun.
How many of you remember “Stuckey’s “roadside stores” They seemed to be everywhere, throughout the country on every freeway exit. Do you remember the pecan log rolls and divinity?
Living on the east coast we often took trips to visit historical sites. It seemed like everything was only a day’s drive away. Colonial sites, Revolutionary War, and Civil War battlefields could all be visited on two or three day trips. In school, it seemed like US History started with the pilgrims and ended at the Civil War. We never learned anything about the west or Native Americans! I remember taking elementary school field trips to nearby revolutionary battlefields, “Jockey Hollow” and Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, NJ. We could tell you all about Molly Picher and the battle of Monmouth Court House.
If you ask my own children, they will tell you we always visited every historical site we could. I think they really loved it but they might not tell you that.
Mystic Village in Connecticut was another favorite site we visited. Located along Long Island Sound it depicted a nineteenth century whaling community. I still have souvenirs collected from many of these places.
Today we collect refrigerator magnets from all the places we have visited. My children are now carrying on this tradition.
The Beach and Mountains
We did not have mountains but the Jersey Shore was a favorite place to go. At least two or three times during the summer we all loaded into the car for the trip to the beach. This carried on into high school where my friends and I would go to the beach all the time during the summer.
As you begin your life history journey, be sure to take the time to think about your childhood family vacations. Maybe all you did was take short trips to visit family, or long trips, write about them. Be sure to write about all the happy and funny things that happened. Find any photos that you have of these vacations and include them in your story!
Here are some topics that might help you recall family vacations:
- Did your family have a summer place you went every year?
- Where was it located
- Have you been back there recently?
- Can you describe some of the changes that that have taken place since your family visited?
Have fun on your life history journey, your family will love you for the effort!