Year 195x –  Vacations

Which Year

Our family went on vacation trips for two weeks or so almost every summer.  I confuse which years went where so I list events here and hope that they sort of sort themselves out.  Other than the Seattle trip, subsequent trips were in tents until the trailer and then the cabiin.


I do not remember much of this trip.  This was our first trip west and we stayed in motels and were not camping.  At lease near Seattle we were not camping.  We had come from Ypsilanti.  I was not aware of it at the time and found out years later that the purpose of the trip was that my father was interviewing a company in Seattle, I presume Boeing, as he had either already lost his job at PR Co. or was about to.  This is not important.  You can date this trip exacly as we were riding along the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon in late afternoon and my sister noticed that the Life Magaizone Oregon Coast pictorial was exactly what we were driving through.  This makes it so that the trip would have been in our 1954 DeSoto  Brown and White/Cream.  You paid extra for two-tone cars in those days.

In any case we got to the Seattle coast and rented a cabin for a few days.  We went clamming.  This is sort of interesting.  When the tide goes out, the clams burrow into the sand and wait for the tide to come back.  They manage to leave a little air hole as they complete their downward journey.  So what you do is get your clam gun.  A clam gun is a long, narow, shovel.  You mark with a pattern the holes you plan to dig so that your neighbors stay away and find their own little holes.  Then you return and dig for your clams.  This is sort of a contest as the clams are attempting to avoid being caught and they are fast diggers.  We went home with enough clms for several meals.  I do not know if it were my mother's cooking or my idea of what clams should taste like, but I have never really gone out of my way for clams since.

What I remember most about the cabin on the seaside was that it was cold.  The water was so cold that it burned the backside of our knees.  Now this is really cold.  When my father was younger, his sister, Janice, died of polio.  My father would not let us ever swim in a lake that you could see across.  And never in  a public swimming pool.  This limited us when we were young to the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes and these usually had ice in them.  We learned to play in the ice.  So when we encounter water so cold it hurts our knees, it is really, really cold.  But not only was the water cold, the air was cold.  Oh. It warmed up in the afternoons, I think, but in the morning it was cold.  I know it was cold because we kids violated one of my father's rule's: children are to be seen and not heard.  And my father had really exceptonal hearing.  Mostly as I look back at it and know that this is where we stayed while he went into town to his interivew and since he did not get the job, I can presume that he was in a foul mood that morning.  But he was.  He sent us three kids out to the front step before breakfast.  We were in our pajamas and we were cold.  We huddled together to stay warm.  I am sure that we were not in danger of dieing but at the time we were not so sure.  Since I had rules to never touch my sisters, the idea that we were holding onto each other as tightly as we could means that we were really cold.  However long we were out there made no difference: we were there because we made enough noise to interrupt his sleep.  It was a lesson learned.


I think I have many traits of my father.  I often wonder how much of these are learned and how much are inherited.  I would not be surprised at either.  I have always loved the outdoors but with limits.  Ergo, the motorhome.  When we took vacations, they were outdoors ventures.  We were not into serious  trekking: we just visited many beautiful locations.  But we hit a couple of places that I absolutely cannot put dates on.

Boulder (Hoover) Dam

Maybe this is just a figment of my imagination since I cannot place it on any trip at all.  To visit Boulder (they later renamed it to Hoover), you must visit someplace in its neighborhood.  Given our proclivity towards natural wonder, I think this visit must just be my imagination.  There were no campgrounds near  the dam.  If we visited the dam, then it is likely we would have passed through somewhere else I would remember.  Los Angeles: no.  Las Vegas: no.  Grand Canyon: no.  But the first time I saw the dam as an adult, seemed familiar, including the little road going across it.  This they could not change if they wanted to.  By the way, this road was closed to any vehicle security thought could be dangerous for a long time after 911.

Hungry Horse Dam, Montana

Again, I do not remember when we went here but in this case I know we did.  It was an early trip but I do not now.  WHat I do remeber is that my father informed me that this was the largest earth-fill dam in the country (world?).  It was very much like a desert at the campsite.  I found a snake.  It was a small snake but what interested me was that it had four holes for a nose.  My father informed me that it was probably dangerous (I was lalter to learn that all 4-nose-hole snakes were known as pit vipers and all of them are dangerous.)  So I found a spark plug box, inserted the snake, and floated the snake out into the reservoir.  This seemed an expediante way to make sure it remained away from our camp site.  We were camped right up next to the water.


This was a company that rented camping equipment.  It was located on the east side of Milwaukee.  I think actually just east of the river.  Back in those days camping equipment was costly enough that you did not buy it.  We rented umbrella tents.  These were square, eclosed, with a floor.  The interesting thing was the rope harness and infrastructure.  There was a center pole which protruded out a hole at the center of the roof.  There was aset of 4 rods and a set of 4 corner pieces.  The rope harness was 4 ropes attached to a ring (or something) that fit over the center pole and under the tent center hole.  THe 4 ropes extended each to one corner where it fastened to the corner bracket.  THe poles inserted into the corner brackets and you were done.  Oh.  You had to extend the center pole to the desired height.  I do forget whether the center pole was adjustaable.  Unlikely as things seemed to be less complicated in those days.   The first year out we went whole hog.  SLeeping bags for everyone.  Cots.  Tent.  Camp stove. Lantern. Everything.

One year, I do not think it was the first we got to the campsite and discovered the 4 corner brackets were missing.  We were not about to go back to Milwaukee to pick them up.  We went into town to a welder who fabricated some for us.  I think he also shortened the poles a small amount.  In any case when we returned to Laacke's they did not want to pay for the new brackets but my faather jconvnced them.  WHen they wanted to discard them he suggested that they keep them.  I suspect the original brackets with the shorter poles wwould not have worked so well.

I remember he later bought sleeping bags for everyone.  For himself and my mother, they had a set that zipped together.  Fr my sisters, matching -- they also probably zipped together.  For me, an army/air force sleeping bag lline of dark green filled with goose down.  It was very warm.  I sort of begrudged it because it was differentt and not the rectangular bag like the others.  I was never cold.

In any case, the world has changed.  You can now buy all sorts of tents.  They are no longer canvas.  Now they are ultra-light kinds of plastic, sheet or woven.  You no longer get drip spots where you accidently touched the canvas when it rained.  This was always a rpoblem with the canvas.  You can buy family camping equipment at Costco or WalMart.  Or you can go to REI and get yourself personally fitted for whatever kind of camping you want to do.  aNything from family camping to sleeping hung from straps on the side of a rock cliff.  I think more people travel this way now than they used to.

Rocky Mountain National Park

II do not remember which trip this was.  It was a tent camping trip and we were camped at the side, I think more or less south side, of a beautiful mountain.  The main road ran between us and that mountain -- sort of parallel to the mountainside.  I remember this camp site for several reasons.  We stayed here for several days. Immediately across the park road from our tent was a pasture with a single horse in it.  There was also a step stile to get into and out of the pasture since the fence was high enough to not climb easily.  It was a wire fence.  My mother was good.  She normally bought breakfast cereals which were unflavored, uncolored, and nutricious.  My favorite was Post Raisen Bran.  Kelloggs at the time had drier raisons and they were sugar-coated.  The Kellogg's bran flakes were also smaller and harder..  But the item here was a brand new cereal called Trix.  Sugared, colored, bad for your health.  Whatever.  The three of us went across the fence and proceeded to feed the horse the Trix.  This went well until we ran out of Trix.  The horse was displeased.  Obviously displeased even to us kids who knew little about horses.  We tried to show the horse the box was empty but our attempts did not meet his expectations.  He even stuck his nose into the box as we fled for the fence.  The box diversion did not last long.  Jeanne and I made it over the stile.  Kathie beat us over the fence as she was assisted by the horse.  She was sore but no permanent damage.  She was lucky.  In fact we were all lucky.  We avoided the horse after that.  Kathie had two very obvious and very red hoof prints on her rear end.   I suspect her activites were limited for a while after that.  The dog had already limited his activites.

A day or so before the horse incident, us three kids went for a walk up the hill on our side of the highway.  This may have been another mountain and probably was -- but at this point it was a fairly steep grade upward and there was a path leading up the hill from the campground.  In general, these kinds of hikes or walks were our primary entrtainment on camping trips.  So, up we went.  No problems up but we had taken a long time to get there and it was time to go home.  Later in life, my daughters discovered that their dad's idea of a shortcut might be a straight line but was never, ever, what you would consider "short".  It often included brambles, slides, water, rocks, and other adventures  Sort of like inventing your own Shutes and Ladders game -- except in real life.  Here my sisters learned the same thing about their brother.  Our shortcut down the hillside was quite an adventure.  We met all of the above diversions.  The problem here, like most of my later shortcuts, was that once we got off of the path, there was no going back to it.  The brambles and rocks made it impossible to locate our path to the top.  Standard procedure for my shortcuts.

What made this walk especially memorable was that we encountered a mountain stream.  As I think about it, I wonder why we had not crossed it on our way up.  Maybe we did but there had been a bridge or something.  But this was not a trickle.  More like a raging little river.  If you have climbed the hillsides in the Rocky Mountains, you know what we found.   Not too far from where we eoncountered this little gorge with the white rapids running at its bottom was a tree across the stream.  Now this is the Rocky Mountains.  This tree is a pine tree.  This means that it has many branches in all of the directions sprouting away from the trunk.  This made it interesting and possible to walk across since we had innumerable handles.  But these handles were only valuable for those of us who walked on our back feet and used our front for holding.  This included us three kids but did not include the dog.  To the dog, these limbs were serious obstacles.  And indeed the dog did not make it.  He fell into the stream and was quickly going downstream fast enough that very soon if we did nothing we would not have a dog.  We knew that this would not only displease us as we were very attached to this dog but would be impossible to explain to my father who at this point was probably already concerned about our whereabouts.

So, I did the stupid thing: I jumped into the water after the dog.  What can I say: it was just like the movies.  I banged from rock to rock until I caught up with the dog.  He was a good dog but sort of desparate and I got a few scratches in the deal.  Which scratches and bruises came from the rocks and branches and which came from the dog made no difference: I got the dog.  I got wet.  I exited on the correct side of the stream.  We made it back home without further incident although home was far enough away that I was dry by the time we got there.  We did not mention the water episode to my dad.  I presumed he would have been upset about endangering the dog.

My father figured it out though.  It took a while but he did.  He did not figure out exactly what we did but he figured out that we had done something.  The dog was limping around the campsite for the next couple of days.  My dad investigated and informed us that the skin on the pads of all 4 feet of the dog were missing.  No wonder the dog limped: the soles of his feet wee gone.  He grew new ones but my father never asked what we had done to the poor dog.  Maybe my sisters told him.  I don't know.  I never knew with my father.  I think many times he did not ask because he was sure he would not like the answer and we were still all equiped witth he proper number of arms and legs and seemed to be in good health.


We went to Yloowstone multiple times.  I cannot tell you which years.  But in 1954 when my father went to work for General Motors, we started buying Oldsmobiles and stopped buying DeSotos.  This helps to date things a bit.  Our very first trip to Yellowstone was in a DeSoto.  This means that it was before 1955.  Maybe it was the same trip as the Seattle trip but this seems unlikely becuase on the Seattle trip we stayed pretty much north.  We went to Glacier National Park on that same trip.  I remember the Highway to the Sun.  But you know, the first trip was not in a tent so I have no idea where we stayed either in accomodations or locations.

But our first trip to Yellowstone was in a Desoto.  I remember thsi because of the bears. In those days, Yellowstone was famous for its bears.  The bears stopped traffic for miles.  People got out of their cars and fed the bears.  They took pictures with their Brownie cameras of their children riding the bear cubs.  On general the bears were well-behaved since bears with poor table manners tended to be exported by the park service to to locations with no tourists.

My father respected bears.  We were not permitted to be with them ever.  We locked the car doors and rolled up the windows and watched them trying to figure out what to do about tourists who would not feed them.  Yes, the bears marched from car to car in the traffic jam sort of like treat-or--treaters on Halloween.  But the bears were smart and the reason I rember that we had a DeSoto is that Chrylser cars had flush door handles.  THis was a safety feature: you could not get dragged by holding onto the handle as there was no "loop".  You pushed one end of the handle which caused the other end to protrude and you pulled that end to open the door.  Cute.  But on this occassion, my father had not locked his door.  The bears were onto the Chrysler safety latches.  One of the bears neatly opend my father's door and proceeded to climb into the car.  This was met woth abso;ute cponstrnation by my father.  The front seat of those cars with the giant steering wheels and my father left little room for a bear.  But the bear was persistent and was doing his best to reach the passenger side.  If you have never competed for space with a bear you might not understand the total problem.  The bear is bulky.  There is nothing you are going to do to hurt the bear.  The best (or maybe the worst) is that you will irritate the bear.  The bulk of the bear is massive fur covering unbelievably strong muscles.  At the end of each leg is a set of claws that will kill you with a single swipe.  You do not want the bear to start swiping.  and then there are the teeth.  Big yellow teeth in a foul-smelling mouth with little beady eyes looking down the brown snout over these teeth.  Right.  Everything about the bear is in the bear's favor.

So this bear wants the pasenger side since there is obviously no food on the driver.  But we were lucky.  We had either a smart bear or  some other positive adjective aplied.  The bear decided to move on to the next car in line as this one was too much work.  After this my father was the first to lock his door when approcahing bears.

Then there were always the stories.  Stories like the father who put honey on his kids hand so that the bear would be able to be petted as it approached.  I do not know how you face your kid for the rest of your life when he looks at you for the reason you cost him his hands.  I think on this trip we stayed in cabins.  I know on some trip somewhere we stayed in cabins.

1960 -- Florida

1961  -- Out West the last time

1962 -- The Cabin


Written:  2008          Updated: August 28, 2008         Back To Top