notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Vacation Time

There was a large old bottle on the floor of my parents’ closet. What it originally held  -wine or whiskey, I don’t remember. The neck of the bottle was just big enough for a dime. Pennies and nickels didn’t fit. Just the dimes.

And when my Dad emptied his pockets at the end of the evening, if he had any dimes and he could spare them…which wasn’t all the time, they went in the bottle. Mom too, I think… once in a while a dime from her purse went in the bottle.

(Mom kept her quarters so we kids could go to the Saturday matinee movie – fifteen cents to get in and ten cents for snacks – and you got a double feature!)

But back to the bottle of dimes. We kids all knew where the bottle was, and during the course of the year, we’d watch the dimes start to grow. None of us would ever touch the bottle. I never once in all those years stole a dime.

Because I knew what it was for.

Vacation!

Yes… that was our spending money for vacation.

The factory where Dad worked would always have a shutdown in the summer – a week, sometimes two, and that is when all the employees planned their vacations.  Families made their plans around the factory schedule.

And when the time came, my mother would pull out the (hopefully) heavy bottle of dimes and give us kids some coin wrappers and we’d count out the dimes. OMG, we were rich! Some years there were THREE HUNDRED dimes in there! THIRTY DOLLARS in there!

Of course, we could never go away for two whole weeks. One week was rare. A few times, my parents rented a little cottage on Highland Lake in Winsted, Connecticut  – only about 25 miles from our home. And those were amazing vacations! A full week on the lake! Swimming right in the backyard! And company! Because it was so close to home, all the relatives would take at least one day and come up. That was the best part. (The worst part was rainy days. With no TV.)

More often, we would travel up to Vermont for just a few days. Staying in a motel instead of renting a cottage was a bit more expensive, so three days was about our limit.

But it was LUXURY!

A Motel With A Swimming Pool!

I did not want anything more.

We had no exotic vacations. We didn’t see the world. We didn’t get on an airplane – although once in a while we would drive to the airport on a Sunday and watch the planes take off. (I was 20 before I flew for the first time.) Trips to restaurants were scarce. The farthest I ever traveled as a kid was to Washington DC. We went by train to attend my father’s military reunion. It was like a dream come true.

But, OMG –  A Motel With A Swimming Pool!

We’d go during the week – to avoid the higher weekend rates. Sometimes my parents’ best friends and their kids would come, and we’d play follow the leader in the two cars.

There was a racetrack near the motel. Green Mountain Race Track, near Bennington Vermont. Horseracing, which my parents loved. (I do too, even now.) My parents would go to the track one evening of our vacation – especially if their best friends had come along. Of course, kids were not allowed at the track. And although I love the horses, not being allowed was… Spectacular! Because:  PIZZA!  For us kids by ourselves at the motel! We were absolutely forbidden to swim at night, but who cares – we had pizza and TV and we were in a Motel!

We ate out for breakfast. We could have pancakes! OMG, pancakes in a restaurant tasted so good! The cream for the grownups’ coffee would come in a tiny glass bottle – like a miniature bottle that the milkman left in the aluminum box on our porch  And my mother would let me keep the bottle!

Lunch was usually a cook-out by the side of the road. My father had a little hibachi in the trunk and charcoal, and we’d have hotdogs. Hotdogs were my favorite thing in the world. Besides pancakes. Lunch would take a really long time, because it took forever to get the coals going, and then another forever to cool off the grill enough to put it back in the trunk. Our day often consisted of breakfast in a diner, driving to a good spot for those take-forever hotdogs, and then back to the Motel With A Swimming Pool!

We did some sightseeing. A musuem or a monument. Vermont is not exactly the museum capital of the world. But we’d find something. And we could buy a souvenir! Oh those dimes! I liked little change purses with embossed leather. Or colored pencils. Or a miniature monument. My sister Claudia leaned toward tiny dolls made of brittle china dressed as Indians. Christine liked charms for her charm bracelet. I don’t remember what my little brother liked. Anything, I’d guess. He was always really easy to please – happy with anything he could hold in his hands.

We all liked this:

numbergame2.jpg

 

So did my parents, since at least one of us would be quiet in the car. I was not allowed to play with this in the car, though. If I looked at anything but the road, I threw up.

We sometimes went out to dinner. Usually it was a Howard Johnson’s, or any restaurant that was almost identical to Howard Johnson. I had a hotdog. But this was different than the hot dog I had for lunch. It had a grilled roll. And it came with french fries rather than the potato chips we had for lunch. And the best thing of all: we were On Vacation – in a Motel With A Swimming Pool – so I could have a hotdog for lunch and a hotdog for dinner if I wanted. Because: Vacation!

Sometimes other relatives came too – I remember my great-aunt and uncle, Catherine and Rocky, came once. We went, I think (I can check with my Mom, but I love remembering it in my eight-year-old mind, and so I don’t really want to be corrected), to see some property that my Uncle Rocky had bought or won, sight-unseen. We drove through wooded nothing for miles and miles until everyone had to pee so bad we had to stop the car and pee in the woods – which I had never done before and so was both mortified and enthralled. And when we got to this “resort” property there was nothing there. The swimming facilities that were promised in the brochure turned out to be a muddy hole dug in the dirt.

The grownups laughed themselves silly. Which was just wonderful. How I loved seeing adults laugh like that!

And, so that the trip was not a total waste, we went to a local ski resort that ran their ski lift in the summer for a ride up the mountain. A ski resort!  I had never heard of such of thing, except in a Bing Crosby movie. The ride was amazing – better than any ferris wheel for a great high-up view and a cool breeze. My uncle Rocky was so scared, he would not get back on the lift for the ride down, and the operator had to go up in a golf cart and bring him down. It did not upset me to see a grownup so terrified – somehow, it felt reassuring –  that it was okay for everyone to be afraid once in a while – even when you grow up.

My father had my brother with him in his chair lift, and my mother was on the chair behind them with me. And she hollered the whole time for my Dad to hold my little brother tight and not let him fall to his certain horrific death. Miraculously, Dad managed to keep my brother alive.

And my father had the opportunity to save my little brother’s life later too. Back at the Motel With A Swimming Pool, enjoying said pool, Tommy inadvertently waded to the drop-off at the deep end, and went under – and Daddy jumped into the water fully clothed and fished him out.

So sometimes grownups are afraid and sometimes grownups are heroes.

That’s what I learned on vacation.

car ride

Me, sitting between Mom and Dad, greenish and car-sick, of course, from Daddy’s cigar.

 

34 Comments

  1. Great story – times were so much simpler then. My dad sold cars (Volkswagons) and we would pile into a Beetle – three or four adults and four kids – and drive eight hours to my Aunt and Uncle’s place. They lived on the St. Lawrence. There are old home movies showing us getting out of the car – looked like a circus act. Of course, seatbelts were not a thing back then. Sweet post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • i can picture it! Whose lap did you sit on?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I sat on the floor. My baby sister sat on my mom’s lap in the front seat.

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  2. Donna W.

    Nancy, What a great story. Thank you for sharing a slice of your simple yet wonderful childhood vacation experiences with us. As always, your descriptions are vivid and alive. You take us, your readers, right along on your journey. Still loving your writing style after all these years; probably always will!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How I loved those little vacations!

      Like

  3. Ellen

    What wondrous memories of your childhood! My parents owned a log cabin in the Pocono Mountains when I was a child. It was really my Dad’s hunting cabin … no indoor plumbing and no heat other than the fireplace. To say it was rustic is an understatement. But, every summer we went to the cabin and we children loved it (my Mother, not so much)! Hiking in the woods, boating and swimming in the lake, cook-outs, sometimes even sleeping in tents. It took so little to make us happy. Thank-you for sharing your magical vacations and prompting my trip down memory lane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ellen

      P.S. I remember that toy, loved it!

      Like

    • Yes…. we had simple experiences that gave us great and lasting pleasures!

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  4. I love this. All those wonderful memories….. I was more than twice the age you were when I took my first flight.
    Oh, and we lived about 12 miles from the nearest grocery store when I was a child. There was this one little country road off the main road….it was the perfect spot to stop for us kids to pee in the ditch when we just couldn’t wait til we got back home. (Long before there were fast food places with rest rooms!) It’s a wonder we didn’t all have ticks….

    Liked by 1 person

    • i still can count the times I peed outside on one hand. I just can’t! (I have, however, used the men’s room on more than one occasion.

      Like

  5. What great memories.

    We had only one vacation when I was a kid — to Lake Winnepesaki for a three day weeken. Somehow I think I remember it better than my son does all his travels in Europe!

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    • It’s because those times were so rare and special. There is very little that is special anymore.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Although that sounds like the kind of vacation we take with the grandkids now! Just this weekend…we are away at my late father in laws cabin. No tv except dvds, no internet except my phone (at night like now). Nothing but walks and swimming at the beach and reading and fishing. Hope you keep your life simple and satisfying too.
    .

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    • That sounds like a lovely vacation – for both the kids and the adults!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t get on a plane until I left for my honeymoon. I so remember being carsick. I honestly think it was the fumes from the gas tank because once cars had catalytic converters I stopped getting ill.

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    • It was my father’s cigar… but also a very delicate equilibrium. One of my first managerial positions required a lot of air travel, and I thought for the first few months that I would have to quit the job. But my body adjusted …(and I learned a few tricks.)

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  8. Wow, it’s like we grew up in the same family!

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    • I think a lot of lucky kids did!

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  9. Christine

    I remember the trips to Vermont with Aunt Catherine and Uncle Rocky. It was exactly as you described it. And I remember cooking those hot dogs in the rain with someone holding an umbrella over the grill so the fire wouldn’t go out. Mom always made us order a big breakfast so we wouldn’t be too hungry at lunch. I seem to remember a couple of times when we just had ice cream cones at noon — we all thought was great.

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    • And there was always peanut butter and jelly.

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    • Bonnie

      My parents liked to go camping on the weekends, in the rainy Cascades, so my memory is of powdered hot chocolate, made by boiling water on a backpacking stove (a pox on those things) with soggy pine needles floating in the liquid

      Like

  10. Oh the thrills of childhood vacations! It’s like you were writing about my past vacations – so similar and so absolutely wonderful. Great post!

    Like

  11. I myself remember a lot of driving vacations whose destinations ended with the word “Dam” and my mother, my brothers and I would pile out of the car and watch my father fish. We’d eventually eat something like sandwiches we’d brought or perhaps grill hotdogs at a park somewhere. Once in my childhood we actually drove to Florida and had a proper vacation which of course, did not include Disneyworld since that would have been out of our budget.

    As an (over-compensating) adult, I took my own family to Hawaii (a week), to Portugal (a month) and practically every cool thing you could think of in the contiguous states.

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    • I have no children but I can certainly understand just wanting to give them everything in the world!

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  12. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I too was a late flyer. I was in my thirties. And now I’m a pro. Although lately I’d prefer to keep my feet at home. To be honest. I sure remember those cheap movies and snacks. Oh that was fun. I will say we never grilled beside the road but ate plenty of picnic sandwiches at the picnic tables set along roads for just that purpose. I rarely see that anymore except along the NC Mountains. And those hotels pools were the greatest.

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    • My mother always made sure we traveled with a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie

      Crackers and Cheese Whiz. And soggy baloney fished out of a cooler

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  13. Elizabeth Bullard

    Oh my, yes! A hotel with a swimming pool. Don’t forget it was AAA rated! And those Howard Johnson hot dogs were the best! We sometimes rented a cottage on one of the lakes in Michigan and could fish, raft, grill our fish on a small Hibachi grill. Oh the memories!

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    • Those Howard Johnson hotdogs were amazing! What was in them????

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  14. Best childhood memories..vacations. I don’t know how my parents did it. Packing up 7 kids in the car and hitting the road for 8 to 10 hours. No videos or video games in those days. Only homemade games such as Duck when a car comes!! Great post. Thank you.

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    • It is truly a miracle our parents did not leave us on the side of the road.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My kids went all over the place for hols…trains planes and automobiles. But they just adored motel pools☺

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  16. Bonnie

    The only family vacations we had when I was a kid were trips to visit my grandparents. We were very lucky because my grandparents lived in Florida. But they weren’t family vacations in the sense of spending time someplace fun just as a family. In fact, on some of those visits, my father didn’t even come because he needed to work. We did travel a lot but it was always for job purposes – the yearly cross country trek for my father’s consulting work out west for example. And we were never allowed to visit the motel pool because we didn’t stop at the motel until late in the evening and then we had to leave by 6am. All of my friends families did have family vacations – in KY that usually meant a week in Gatlinberg or Myrtle Beach – and I was jealous. So now we definitely do family vacations!

    Like

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