Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Summer ... Our 1950's Vacations

My father was a very good bowler - ten-pins, that is. He participated in several bowling leagues from the 1940's into the 1970's, and was in some of San Diego's premier leagues in the 1950's and 1960's.

For several years in the 1950's, he and his team entered the California State Bowling Association tournaments in cities around California. These became our summer vacations, and were really the only long trips we took by car while I was growing up. Sacramento, San Jose, Stockton, Fresno, and Los Angeles were our destinations as I recall.

The trips into the San Joaquin Valley in July and August were taken in our 1954 Mercury without air conditioning or seat belts. We usually made the trip in one day - up Highway 101 to Los Angeles, then up Highway 99 to Fresno, Stockton or Sacramento. For the San Jose tournament, we went all the way up Highway 101. These highways were not freeways - but they were usually limited access roads. In the back seat of the car, with the windows down and the hot wind in our faces, my brother and I would play games dealing with counting different color cars, different car makes, and different state license plates. Of course, there were many arguments, but fortunately my parents in the front seats couldn't hear us due to the road and wind noise. One of my best memories is that my mother's right arm, and my right arm, always got very sunburned because we kept them on the window edge in the mornings as we went north.

The bowling tournaments themselves lasted three or four days, and were pretty boring. The real treat for us was the motel and the swimming pool - we always got a motel with a pool. The pool became our home away from home for my brother and me - having races, playing tag, splash fights, and laying out and getting really sunburned all over. My mother was the referee all day long while she struggled with my baby brother.

One lasting memory is being in the swimming pool in Stockton and seeing another boy across the pool. He looked exactly like me! Poor fellow - I wonder how HE turned out? Our eyes met and turned away, and he soon got out of the pool, and I never saw him again. But the memory lingers still for me. I wondered if he was a Seaver, or Richmond, or Carringer, or Auble, or Hildreth.

Another memory was eating out - which we never did at home. My mother always cooked meals - the only time we ate out, usually at a family-run diner, was when we were on vacation.

We did a bit of sightseeing during these trips - usually after the bowling tournament was over. I remember seeing the State Capitol in Sacramento, swimming and jumping into the Tuolumne River near Stockton, and driving along Highway 1 south of Monterey (it took forever to get home due to road construction and detours - we had to spend the night in Santa Barbara).

However, the very best family vacation was taken in 1954. My parents rented a cabin for a week at Bass Lake, a resort area just south of Yosemite National Park. We spent days hiking and swimming in the lake, paddling canoes on the lake, and fishing from the dock and from a boat. My brother and I learned to swim here. He still takes his family there on vacation occasionally.

In 1956, we didn't go to a bowling tournament because my youngest brother was an infant. However, I got to go on vacation with another family, the Cravers. My friend, Butch, lived across the street. His parents were both pilots, and they were going to fly to Vancouver BC and asked me to accompany them. I was an excited 12-year old boy, and my folks said yes before they really thought about it. It was great watching the earth go by from about 10,000 feet. Butch's father explained the basics of flight and demonstrated some stability and control. We visited Sacramento CA, Medford OR, Bellingham WA and San Francisco CA. After landing in Bellingham, we drove up to Vancouver BC. This sparked a lifetime interest in flying and a 40 year career in aerospace engineering.

Summer in San Diego was spent riding bicycles, going to the swimming pool in Balboa Park, visiting the San Diego Zoo and other museums in Balboa Park, and going to the beach with friends. When I was a teenager, we hitchhiked to Mission Beach from the Texas Street hill in the North Park area of San Diego. This was great fun, but risky, but we really enjoyed the Belmont Park rides and food along with body-surfing the waves at the beach. And watching the girls, too. Ah, another story...


Tailwheel said...

Gee really enjoyed reading this, hit a couple of strings around my early childhood. We rode in our 54 Mercury Monterey 2dr HT coupe on holiday down here in sunny South Africa with the windows down to the sea. We still have the Mercury it's been in the family for 46 years now and still running fine.

Greetings Paul Lastrucci Johannesburg South Africa

Lisa Louise Cooke said...

Thanks for sharing this Randy! It was a walk back in time for me as I was born in Stockton and made the trek back often to visit my grandparents. I love the valley - hot, flat, down to earth. Was just out there picking peaches in the orchards last week.

Bill West said...

I enjoyed reading this, Randy.

Got a grin from your comment about hitchhiking. When I worked on Cape Cod in the 1967 I didn't have a car
yet and thumbed everywhere. I had
one very close call and looking back I have to believe somebody was watching over me!