by Elaine Mead Currier Keniston
– Family Vacations –
Franconia Village and White Mountains; postcard from the 1950’s
Mother had a smart idea about how we could go on family vacations, something that others from more affluent situations did at least once a year. Why not pack the family car up and go? You could sleep in the car with blankets and pillows, stay in the various roadside areas, truckstops and state parks, and then motor along to see the sights. Back then in the 1950’s it became our method of getting a well-deserved break.
A good deal of thought and planning went into which items of necessity would be placed on the inventory. The packing of a small car like the Henry-J required no small organizational skill and added an anticpatory zeal which culminated in the first day of travel to our intended destination. It is an idea whose time has since come and been expanded upon for years; the only difference for us then: no travel camper.
The places we traveled to were not especially distant or exotic; we went to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, just over into New York State and to sites along the lower Maine seacoast. These locales however, left a lasting imprint: Tuckerman Ravine and a mountain cable car were like nothing we had previously experienced, the rolling hills of Vermont and the Fort Ticonderoga, New York had fascinating history, above all, the scent of salt walter on a rockbound coast, sun on the sand after the chilling summer entry into 55-degree waves, and the taste of fresh, really fresh seafood, have never left me.
On one of the earlier trips, I recall we stayed one night in a mountain cottage – somewhere around Woodstock, NH. It seemed to be a magical place; staying in some place was very special and happened rarely. The usual routine was: travel for several hours, then stop where cooking was permitted outside on a stone fireplace.Sometimes we made sandwiches on picnic tables. At home my Father was a volunteer fireman and he made sure we doused all remaining campfire coals. The U.S. government has Smokey the bear appearing on tree posters reminding us all to “Prevent Forest Fires”. I’ve since viewed some old home movies where I was astonished to see the proximity of my Father’s lighted cigar to an engine into which he was pouring gasoline!( Even our heroes have feet of clay.)
One year, there were endless jars of an abundant harvest and canning from the previous season of Green Gage plums. This was brought along for our dessert – the dessert which we would eat at two meals of every day. Mother maintained – and she had her Rules and Convictions – that a “meal is not a meal without dessert.” While we were situated near a rushing mountain stream, had waded in for a dip and really enjoyed some grilled hot dogs (you know: the kind that taste SO good because they’re cooked on a stick over a wood fire), all just relaxing around on some sunny rocks, out came the now-all-too-familiar Mason jar with its tongue-tingling contents. Green Gage plums are indeed green; their taste is sour, edging toward an almost bitter quality. My Father asked, “Marian, are you sure you remembered to put some sugar in these things?” She gave Daddy a flinty look, cutting her eyes toward him and then deciding not to dignify this uncomplimentary remark with a reply. With characteristic frugality, Mother concluded, “We can’t buy dessert or eat ice cream cones all the time so we should use these up and they will not go to waste.” So with a mighty resolve, each of us set about eradicating all traces of the delicious frankfurters in our mouths and quietly plunged into the taste which remained for hours and left the mouth with a rough, puckered-up sensation.
Coming soon: Part 4: the District School Nurse