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Monday, March 4, 2019



In the many blogs I read daily, a common thread is the difficulty of raising children.  Moms are tired, moms are stressed, and everything is so difficult.  Raising children is indeed difficult.  It is something I have whined about as well.  As difficult as it is to deal with kids today, It used to be so much harder. 

I think back to when I was a child.

In 1951, my dad’s job required his transfer from Long Island, New York to Pasadena, California.  Dad decided to make the trip to California a family vacation.  It became an eight day vacation spent primarily in a four door Buick.  The Buick was a top of the line touring car for its day.  Still, there was no air conditioning and it sat three across on the front bench seat.

Dad drove most of the way.  Mom rode shotgun.  The five year old, me, sat in the middle.  I had to sit up front all the way to California because one of my brothers, either nine year old Chris or Eleven year old Jim was always “TOUCHING ME!!”  (Yes, even in 1951 there was the touching, or the even more ominous “fake touching” sibling torture.)

The Buick had no air, and dad, like almost every adult of the time smoked, so there was always a window open.  The radio was AM only, and stations went in and out constantly.  Most of the music was awful so the radio offered no entertainment.  The in-car DVD was not yet invented, so entertainment was “car games.”

The favorite games were “Woody” and “Snake.”  If you were the first one to spot a station wagon with wood panels, you would yell “Woody” and get one point.  If you saw a foreign car, you yelled “Snake.”  If you could identify the make of the foreign car you got a point.  The winner was the one who accumulated the most points by the time dad went nuts and erupted from all the yelling of “Snake” and “Woody” and all the fights about who yelled it first.

Either of these games would be very difficult today.  “Woodies” no longer exist except in antique car shows, and “Snakes” make up 75% of every car on the road.

The roads from New York to California were all Rt. 1, and Rt. 66; still directions were an issue.  Finding points of interest, and getting fuel, food, or lodging often took us off the main highways.  We had no GPS for directions, we had maps.  Mom was responsible for reading the maps while dad drove.  Dad drove, mom read, and the three of us all cringed.

Mom could never give dad the proper directions.  “I think….it looks like….there might be….I don’t see….”  Finally, invariably, dad would pull the car over to the side and snatch the map from mom.  Dad could read  maps as easily as if they were comic books.  After he determined where we were and where we needed to go there was five minutes of mom/dad bickering and we were off again.

At night we stayed at the nearest Bates Motel.  There were no “Holiday/Ramada/Howard Johnson/Days Inns or Motel 6’s, only little attached bungalows with Anthony Perkins as the proprietor.

Meals were all at whatever greasy spoon served the most truck drivers.  (Truck drivers do not in fact know the best places to eat.)

Through all this we had a wonderful trip.  We gained memories that have lasted a lifetime.  Memories that were all captured on an old Eastman Kodak that required light meters, f-stops, different film speeds and film loading which when attempted by mom rivaled the tension of the daily map reading.

I cannot imagine spending eight days with all my children in an un-air conditioned smoke filled, no radio, no DVD, no GPS car, driving on highways which were often only two lanes in opposite directions, eating at questionable establishments and lodging in crappy motels with inadequate beds and zero TV.

My parents did it.  They did it twice when dad was transferred back to New York.  They did it and they enjoyed it.  We all enjoyed it.  They did it because they didn’t know any better. 

They did it because they were tough. 
This Monday's cranky re-run is from March 2014


  1. Sounds like you had fun in that back seat. Nobody had a car when I was a young girl but then nobody had anything because of the war years. I wonder if today's children appreciate all they have?

  2. What a great memory! I guess the chain motels didn't come about till the '60's? And I guess the turnpike (I-80)was also after 1951? We took a lot of family vacations, but never that far. The closest was riding an Amtrak train from Cleveland to Albuquerque.

  3. Yes, they did is and didn't complain. I get this. I came from the same era.

    Have a fabulous day, Joe. 😎

  4. I hope your mom threw out her arm to save you, when your dad slammed on the brakes. My mom did that for years, like a reflex, long after we were past the age of riding beside her on the front seat.

  5. We use to take similar trips up and down the east coast. Bad but not nearly as grueling as a California trip had to be. I didn't have to sit in the front but I did have to straddle the hump in the back. My brothers and I got along pretty good but they played car ID which left me cold. They had to ID a car as soon as it approached. I was busy looking for cows and farm animals.

  6. Oh, yes, I can remember small trips with all those delights. Being a girl I sat in the middle in the back. My brothers had long legs and I was squished alllll the time. I still throw the arm in my mind.

  7. That's so true that they just did it because they didn't know anything different and others were out there doing the same and making great memories in the process. I bet you could have done such a trip with your kids even without electronics. I was never good at map reading so I was so glad when GPS came along. It was money well spent I thought.


  8. Thank you. I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Well told JoeH.

    God bless you.

  9. Love, love, love this post. Some of the best and worse family memories are of our road trips.

  10. Our road trips were air conditioned, but grandma got car sick so we had to sit still, no games, no squirming. We had fun when we got where we were going.

  11. Gee, I think you and I are related. We had the same experience traveling across country. I was 3 on the first trip and mostly threw sick. After driving in the desert Dad said we stopped at a diner for lunch but the only thing we wanted was a cold glass of water! (Me and my baby sister, 2 older probably..and my preggo mom) I'm sure it was a trip of a lifetime but growing up we camped across this country every summer and, like you, have wonderful memories that have lasted a lifetime. Thanks for bringing them to mind. We did the same with our kids except we had A/C, a van, but no GPS or TV or handheld devices. Still, it was a good time.

  12. What a great story. Our family moved from the rural south to a town in Indiana which was not far from Chicago.
    It too was an interesting trip.

  13. I don't drive, so the few times we crossed our country, my husband did the driving. We didn't cross entirely from one ocean to the other, but we did drive from Brisbane in Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia and later from Sydney to Adelaide. And back again of course, since he was in the Army and we were just visiting grandparents while he had leave usually around Easter or Christmas. When the two oldest were still babies, he'd get home from work, have a nap while I loaded the car, then we'd add the kids and he would drive through the night while they slept on the back seat. When the kids were older and there were four, we drove during the day and stopped at various places for lunch, by then there were books and handheld games to keep them quiet. A couple of times we did stop at a motel overnight, but usually Mr Leadfoot preferred to just get there as fast as possible.

  14. We played a similar game with spotting VW bugs back in the day....then the bugs became so common it was way too easy.

  15. My family lived in California, my grandparents in Oklahoma. We'd go often to see them. IwwaI was so glad when we got a station wagon and I got the backseat to myself. Both my parents smoked.

  16. Lovely piece of writing dear Joe

    thank you for sharing beautiful memories

    you closed it on very authentic sentence "they did because they did not know better"
    and they were tough

    yes it is true that life was so exquisite back then with no advanced technology

    families were more close and therefore communication was easy
    ah that was BETTER

  17. My parents had a farm. The ONLY time they ever went on vacation was for their honeymoon. We never had a family vacation, but I'm guessing if we had, it would have been a lot like yours (minus the smoke).