From the first car we had until the last, we went on vacation. My mother and my grandparents owned the car together. The first car I remember was a 40 something Buick. Then, we got a 1949 Plymouth. From that we bought our first new car a 1955 two-tone Plymouth. My grandmother’s brother worked for the local Dodge and Plymouth dealer so he helped us pick them out.
Sometime in the 50s we took a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. I am not sure how long we were gone, but it took quite a while to get there. I remember going to the Corn Palace on our way out there. Other than that, I remember corn field after corn field. There was literally nothing to look at.
I amused myself by flying a Kleenex out of the window. I would see how long it lasted before all of it was gone. There were few cars to count, and even fewer houses and barns.
We got caught in a sandstorm. While we were safe in a motel, the sand filtered into everything. Our suitcases were full of sand. We had to remove all of our clothes and shake out the sand. There was sand in my suitcase for a very long time.
When we got to Yellowstone, there was a line of cars going into the park. There was also a line of cars exiting the park. Low and behold didn’t we meet a family from our church on that stretch of road. Traffic was moving so slowly that we had a chance to talk.
We stayed in a cabin at the park overnight. We were cautioned not to leave food around because of the bears. Old Faithful was a sight to behold. We also walked through some hot springs. I remember buying a silver belt at one of the souvenir spots. I wore that belt for a long time. It was able to be adjusted just by fastening it in another loop.
Another thing that I recall about this trip is that we were stopped somewhere in South Dakota I think by a serviceman. He and his family were stationed out there. He noticed our license plate was from Chautauqua County and he flagged us down. Things were much safer in those days. He spoke to my grandfather, then gave us a tour of his base. We visited quite a while. For him it was seeing folks from home. We were happy to oblige. It turned out he was from Silver Creek which was just a few miles from us in Dunkirk.
On that same trip we saw the Bad Lands and Mount Rushmore. I still remember looking up at those giant replicas of the presidents.
On another trip we went to the New England states. We traveled through Vermont and New Hampshire. We stayed at Lake Winnipesaukee. What a beautiful spot that was. I got to swim in the lake and we took a boat ride. My grandmother did not like the boat ride very much. She was content to stay ashore. That was a relaxing vacation.
Another vacation was spent in Massachusetts. We saw the forge where Paul Revere worked. We saw the Boston Harbor where the Boston Tea Party took place. We went to some of the old churches. I was surprised to learn that families had boxes. They sat in their box and could not see the other families except when they were on their way in our out.
We always took a lot of photographs. I did not dig them out as I wrote this, but I think just having those pictures made the trips memorable. I could recall various pictures as I thought about our vacations.
On another trip we went to Williamsburg. That was certainly an educational journey. We took a tour and listened to reactors tell about the history of each place. I think that was where I got my interest in history. It was fascinating. When you take a child to a spot in history it really sinks in. I wanted to be a history teacher. Sadly, a couple bad professors killed my love of history. They were both Jewish and focused on the Jewish portion of World War II. That is not to say that was unimportant, it was just not all that was going on. No matter what I did I could not get a good grade from them. I did fine with another professor who taught about our government. I quickly switched to the elementary curriculum and never looked back.
I thank my grandparents and my mother for giving me all of these wonderful, memorable experiences. No, we did not go to theme parks, but we saw the U. S. in a different way. We traveled through small towns. We were on the back roads. The Interstate system was not well developed in those days.
There were no theme parks in the days when I grew up. Visiting Disney was not an option.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.