This story concerns vacations:
What was the biggest, most exotic vacation you took with your family when you were a child? What memories stand out?
First of all, our family was not wealthy. I'm not even sure if we would have been considered lower middle class. My dad and mom struggled for years to pay off the expenses incurred when their first-born child, Roy, was born prematurely in 1942. Dad told me that before my mom was even released from the Catholic hospital, the nuns were already hounding him about how he was going to pay the bills. They arranged a monthly payment plan that took him years to pay off. The bills escalated when Roy was diagnosed at the age of 3 with aplastic anemia. While that took his life at the age of 7, dad continued to make payments on all the medical bills long after Roy was gone.
Vacations were a luxury our family could ill afford. We made trips from our home in Chicago and later Des Moines back to Cincinnati to visit relatives, and once in a while visited a nearby lake for a week's relaxation. So it was a complete surprise when my dad announced that we were taking a vacation to the Smoky Mountains in the fall of 1965, made even more surreal by the fact that they were pulling my brother Joe and me out of elementary school for a week. That was simply not done, and yet we did it.
|Dad's Dairy Queen|
My brother remembers traveling as far as Indiana and spending the night in a motel. He said the next day we stopped in Cincinnati for a quick visit before continuing on our way. The drive would have taken us through Kentucky, Tennessee and perhaps North Carolina. All of my recollections involve the area near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I remember walking the Swing-A-Long Bridge and being frightened when my dad made it swing as this suspension bridge spans 180 feet. At Lookout Mountain we walked to Lover's Leap and could see 7 states. And I vividly remember the Fairyland Caverns, where scenes from different fairy tales that were created by Atlanta sculptor Jessie Sanders could be viewed.
As I don't have the best recall in the world, I think the reason that this trip stands out so much for me, besides the fact that I got to miss a week of school, is that it was the first time just the four of us traveled, leaving my two older siblings at home as they were out of high school by then. Add on the fact that we actually went somewhere besides seeing family, and it made a lasting impression on me.