Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Road Trips: Part II

I did promise a playlist of road trip songs for today, but it will have to wait till tomorrow, except for the one below. Why?

Two comments I received on yesterday's post talked about family road trips remembered from childhood. Then, today, Onkel Hankie Pants and I attended the annual luncheon of his memoir-writing group. So, I was inspired to recall as best I can the first family road trip I remember.

The year was 1955, probably April or May. My father had received orders for a new duty station in Wiesbaden, Germany, but we would not be able to join him for several months. He was due some leave time, and we had to get from El Paso, Texas to Bowdoinham, Maine. Brother #3 was just short of a year old; the twins were 2 1/2; Brother #1 was 4, and I was just finishing first grade (it was the Year of Three Schools for me, as we arrived in Maine in time for me to attend a few weeks of school there.)

I'm not sure what exact car we had (maybe Uncle Nepco remembers), but I'm pretty sure it was some kind of American sedan. So, my parents filled the space between the front and back seats with Army footlockers, padded the tops with blankets, and that was where I and the three little ones traveled. Brother #1 was in the front seat with my parents, as he was prone to carsickness. No seatbelts or carseats -- I'm not sure seatbelts were even an option, as I don't think our car was a new model, and the closest thing to carseats was a folding canvas carrycot for babies. Mama may have used disposable diapers (a new and expensive item then) for some of the trip, but I think we also traveled with a diaper pail and made stops at laundromats.

I can only remember bits and pieces of this trip. I'd love to find a 1955 road atlas and try to figure out our route. We headed northeast, of course, and traveled through the Ozarks. I know this because of two specific memories. One was the disgust my mother felt when a grilled cheese sandwich she ordered in a diner came reeking of catfish, which was probably the most popular menu item; the other was the ashtray in the shape of a coiled rattlesnake that we bought for my aunt Frances. I think one of my siblings has it now, as Frances and Pike gave up smoking years before they died.

Whether it was in the Ozarks or earlier, in Texas or Oklahoma, the one touristy thing we did really has stuck in my mind all these years. We visited a snake farm -- that is, a place with many varieties of snakes displayed, sort of a snake zoo. Now, you must know that I am afraid of snakes. My mother was afraid of snakes. My grandfather was afraid of snakes, and for all I know, all his ancestors were afraid of snakes. This was totally illogical, since the family has lived in Maine since 1635 and there are no poisonous snakes here. All the same, snakes give us that feeling of "zero at the bone." So it was very brave of my mother to give us this educational experience!

We did not take the most direct route to Maine, for we detoured to Norwalk, Ohio to visit my aunt and uncle and their 5 children. The twins had been scolded a bit during the trip for continually bouncing against the seat back (I'm sure I, for one, was heartily sick of it). Other Aunt Frances (not the one who got the rattlesnake ashtray) kindly said they could bounce on her sofa all they wanted. I'm sure the accommodations were a bit crowded, but I also think my parents, and especially my mother, must have been very appreciative of this break in the seemingly ceaseless round of driving, diner, motel, driving, hastily made sandwiches, driving....

The last memory of the trip is from the very end of it; we were almost home, perhaps even on our own road (honking the horn as we passed each relative's house). I remember my parents pointing out to each other the missing trees and other damage from Hurricane Edna, which had come through Maine in the fall of 1954.

I do think we may have passed through Louisville, Kentucky, though. I remember my father singing this song:

I'd love to hear some of your road trip memories!

1 comment:

Diane said...

great memory! Of course, you have to take a roundabout way!