Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Past spring breaks

I got to thinking a while back about the various spring break travels my family and I did, and what I could remember. Four stand out in my mind, in chronological order (as best I remember):

Atlanta/Everglades/Disneyworld (I think that was when I was 10)
Massachusetts - Stockbridge, Cape Cod, and Boston (I think that was the following year)
Harper's Ferry/Williamsburg (Maybe...sophomore year of high school? Or freshman?)
Montreal (High school, I think later than the Williamsburg trip)

For the first one, we flew in to Atlanta. Spent a day or two there (Maybe my dad had meetings? Maybe? I remember my mom and my brother and I went on a Grey Line bus tour, but he didn't come along - very often that was the pattern of our trips; we went somewhere he had meetings and we spent a few days without him, and then when his meetings were done we did stuff together).

I mainly remember the Cyclorama (big thing like a diorama of Civil War stuff) and the historic houses. I remember my brother and I both got little figural erasers of a peanut with a very recognizable grin (this was when Carter was president, and of course he had been a Georgia peanut farmer). I think I still have mine somewhere....After that we drove (rental car) to the Everglades (or maybe we took a short flight? I don't remember).

I liked the Everglades; it was interesting. I remember the boardwalks through the swampy areas to look for alligators, and the forests (so different; palm trees). My favorite part was one of the visitor's centers (I think it was the Flamingo Center, though I don't remember it being pink). It had a bridge between the two halves and there were those big binocular things mounted on them. (As far as I can remember, they were free - I would have been a broke little kid and unlikely to keep feeding quarters in to them). The park was not crowded; I don't know if it was an off time or just if not a lot of people went there, but I remember I was able to grab one of the binocular things and look at the birds (anhingas and roseate spoonbills and maybe there were others) for what seemed like a long time with no one bugging me. (Or it could have been that we went there early in the day - we stayed at a motel in Homestead - and we got to the part as early as it opened).

As I remember, there was a restaurant there where we ate some of the meals - I remember getting Key lime pie, which I had never had before.

After a couple days there, we went to Disney World. That may have been just for one day, I can't remember. It seemed hectic. (Part of the issue was my mom - unbeknownst to me until a year or two ago - was going through perimenopause and was sick to her stomach much of the time.) We didn't go on a lot of the thrill rides; the lines were long and with a small child (my brother) it wasn't possible. And anyway, I didn't like roller coasters (still don't). I remember the Dumbo ride; I liked that - they were Dumbo-shaped "cars" that would go up and down, there was a button in them to make them go up and down as they went around. And we did "It's a Small World." And I remember some kind of submarine ride; I didn't like it because I'm kind of claustrophobic (yes, was, even back then) and didn't like deep water (even though the water really wasn't deep, it seemed to be). I think my parents have a photograph of me with the costumed Miss Bianca (from "The Rescuers") but I was 10 at the time and I couldn't quite enter into the fantasy of it in the way I might have when I was younger.

The following year we went to Massachusetts. First, we went to Stockbridge. I think part of it was it was a convenient stopover, but also - my mom was trying to track down some genealogical information, and one side of her family (the Ames side) apparently lived there for a time. (We didn't find much, I think she went to the cemetery and looked around and they asked people).

We ate dinner at the Red Lion Inn. Even as a kid, I liked "kind of fancy" restaurants. I don't remember what I ate but I remember my parents getting veal oscar, which looked gross to me because of the asparagus on it and the sauce.

(I probably had some kind of chicken thing; I liked chicken as a kid and chicken was usually pretty "safe." My brother probably had a hamburger....). The next day we went to the gift shop, then called "The Pink Kitty" and I remember my parents buying me a little toy mouse....

(The Red Lion still exists, and the photos on that website look a lot like I remember it looking.)

We also went to the Norman Rockwell museum there, which was pretty interesting to me.  I hadn't known much about him before. (I liked the "Four Freedoms" paintings best, I think. The man in "Freedom of Speech" always reminded me of the husband of one of my mom's good friends...)

Next, we went to Cape Cod. I liked this as well. It was almost deserted because it was early spring and was kind of cold. But, that had the benefit that the ranger on duty (who was a nice, older man) was able to give us a lot of personal attention. (He found out I collected seashells and brought part of a whelk egg case from his collection at home to give to me. I still have it). Again, we did a lot of hiking around (Hiking in cool weather is more fun, I think, than hiking in the height of summer when you get all sweaty). It was pretty, and it was interesting.

I remember it had boardwalk trails, too. (I tend to think if you see a boardwalk trail, it's gonna be an interesting hike).  My dad took us to, and pointed out, the Marconi site. I remember that because (a) I had never thought before about the early days of radio - radio was just something that was THERE. (Radio was important to me as a kid. I did not have a tv in my room - we weren't allowed to - but I did have a radio. I listened to a lot of WCLV, nerd that I was). And also, it was such a wild, windswept seeming place, and I remember standing whereever we were (I don't know if we got as far as the site, or just within view of it) and looking out over the ocean and thinking of Europe on the other side....(I had a pretty vivid imagination as a kid, which may be why I liked some of the historical stuff).

I didn't know about Henri Beston's "Outermost House" back then (was a good 20 years away from reading the book) but if I had, I would have wanted to go and see the site where it stood.

After that, we went to Boston. (Again, I wonder if my dad had meetings, or if he was meeting with a would-be collaborator on some research, because I remember doing a walking history tour with my mom....then again, could our dad have taken my brother somewhere I would have been less interested in? I don't know). The only thing I remember from the walking tour was an old, old cemetery with jumbled headstones (I remember thinking that coffins had to be stacked upon coffins). There was an ice cream store near it. (Maybe a Schrafft's? I don't know, I do remember we went there for ice cream*)

(*heh. It seems a lot of what I remember from these trips is (a) food and (b) shopping)

We also went to Faneuil Hall, which was cool and interesting (and had a toy store, I remember that).

I can't remember if that was the trip (there was a much, much earlier Boston trip when I was very small) where we went to the USS Constitution. I don't remember much of that but I remember we saw it, so that's why I think it must have been the earlier trip....

Then, when I was in high school, we took a couple trips. First, to Harper's Ferry**

(** Yes, National Parks are a theme. My dad used to teach a National Parks course for the Geography majors, and I think a lot of these trips he was able to partly write off on taxes because he was gathering material and taking photos. I know my brother and I featured in a few of the slides he showed his class...)

Harper's Ferry had a direct link for us - my brother and I grew up in Hudson, Ohio, which was the home of John Brown, who did the Harper's Ferry raid, so that was of interest to us. I remember it mostly as being a lot of old buildings, few or none of which were actually open to go in, and it didn't seem to be very heavily staffed. (It was fun to walk around, though, and I think we also hiked a little). We stayed at a funny old hotel - a very old creaky building up on a hill - I think it was called Hilltop House? (Which is apparently no more - it closed in the early 2000s) It was the oldest place I ever stayed in to that point. The room we had was big - there was a large main bedroom and two smaller rooms off it, so my brother and I each had our own room for the stay. There was no television in the room; I think the idea was people went down to the lobby and socialized.  There was also a restaurant there, and that was the first time I learned of the existence of the polite fiction of the "private club" - West Virginia (or at least that county) was, at that time, dry, and my parents wanted a glass of wine, so they had to each pay a dollar and they got a little card indicating they were a member of the restaurant's "private club." (I think some of the restaurants here did that before we got "drinks by the glass" around 2008 or so).

From there, we drove to Williamsburg. Again, the history - I liked walking around the place, I liked listening to what the docents had to say. I think they were even less all-in for historical accuracy then than they are now (My mom donates a little to them and gets a magazine), but it was pretty informative. I remember the armory and the printer's shop and the horse-drawn wagons. I didn't do handcrafts as much then or I would have been even more interested in the shops where people made stuff. (I still have three small cloth dolls I bought from one of the shops, apparently made by a local woman - they represented a mature couple and their grown son, or at least that was my headcanon). My brother got one of the tricorn hats, which featured for several years after that in Hallowe'en and book-report costumes.

The last trip I remember from my "childhood" (though at this point I might have been as old as 15) was a family trip to Montreal. We didn't stay IN the city, I think (as was typical) my dad went for a more affordable choice, we stayed in one of the outlying areas. (I want to say it was Longueuil? Maybe?) We did drive into Montreal for a historical tour (I remember going to a big cathedral) and to the Botanical Gardens (It was Sunday, I think, and it seemed like the whole world was there). I think I remember a "monk's garden" and a medicinal-herbs garden there. And I want to say there was also a cafeteria sort of place where we either bought lunch or sat to eat a lunch we carried with ourselves.

We must have done a bus tour, I remember the cathedral and also seeing Habitat 67 (Which I thought was incredibly cool but now realize it must cost a king's ransom to live there, if you can even get a property in it)

(I remember one night in Longueuil, we got broasted chicken from a carry out place. It had not yet become common in the States so it was a novelty. I also remember my dad taking me to a deli sort of place - I think he was concerned they would only speak French and (bless his heart) he thought my high-school French would be enough. Luckily, the people were Anglophones....I learned many years later that Montreal has a considerable Jewish community, though I cannot remember if this was a Jewish deli or not)

I did get to use my French a little. The hotel we stayed at had breakfasts in the restaurant and one day I carefully (on the urging of my dad) figured out how to say "the French toast is very good" to the woman who served us (who was also one of the cooks). I cringe now to think of it, but she did smile and say, "Oh, c'est belle!" in response to my compliment.

I also got to buy a few comic books and things in French, and a French copy of what had been a favorite picture book when I was a child ("Daisy Dog's Wake-Up Book"). I THINK we also stopped in Toronto, or at any rate, went shopping SOMEWHERE where there was a mall, I remember that. (I also remember buying a Sindy doll - at that point I was collecting dolls and it was cool to find ones that weren't common in the US.)

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