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8 Things

After reading Magpie Girl’s post, I have been thinking of family vacations. I am thinking of the vacations of my childhood and making my list of the 8 things that remind me of the excursions. My parents had the 1970’s equivalent of a condo time share, but their time share was in a Winnebago. Every summer we got the Winnebago camper for two weeks. My eight things center around either that camper or visiting my grandmothers in Mobile, Alabama. Here is my list of eight:

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1. Before the Winnebago, there was The Happy Wagon. It was a white station wagon with wooden side panels. The rear window was electric and lowered into the tailgate, which flipped down. The back seat folded down and my mother would open up and make a pallet of the brown flannel sleeping bags. Each of us would bring our pillow and a blanket. My parents would pack the car the night before, waking us sometime in the middle of the night. We would leave Miami while it was still dark and drive. My childhood drive to Mobile was before the Turnpike. We went up Hwy 27, through every podunk town in the panhandle. We never wore seat belts. We played cards or board games sitting in the back of the station wagon .

2.Fruit roll ups. This was a snack treat for Winnebago trips. Me and Debbie would peel the fruit sheets off the cellophane and stick it to the back window of the Winnebago.

3.Coquinas and olive shells. Many summers we camped on Sanibel Island. In my childhood, Sanibel beaches were thickly covered with seashells. We came home with sand dollars and King’s drowns and cat’s paws and  welks.

4. Inner tubes and wamp boards. Long before the advent of manufactured water sports equipment, we made our own. At my Meemaw’s house down on the creek (a tributary to Dog River off Mobile Bay), we had a wamp board. This was a circle cut from a 3/4 inch sheet of ply wood. It was left to weather, eventually bowing up to form a saucer. There were no safety straps of devices to assist you on getting up onto the board as the john boat pulled you on a ski rope. You angled the disk and planted your feet in the center and balanced up onto the disk after countless attempts. It was a right of passage. So were the wipe outs. If you couldn’t manage the wamp board, you were dragged behind the boat on the black inner tube from a truck tire.

5. Slushie cups: these are more a hallmark of summer than vacations. White insulator cups with a core of what was likely antifreeze. They slipped inside a plastic mug and you filled it with Kool-Aid or soda. The liquid would eventually freeze onto the sides, which you would scrap off. The liquid would turn into a slushie you could eat with a spoon.

6. Sunburns. Every summer vacation was marked by a sever burn. We complained but eagerly anticipated the peeling. We would sit and have competitions to see who could peel off the largest sheet of skin. Burned shins were the best, especially after we started shaving our legs. I am destined for some kind of skin cancer, no doubt.

7. The sound of I-10. Interstate I-10 is a cement highway. It ka-clunks. The sound of tired on I-10 is the sound effect of horses in old-fashioned movies. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. From Lake City to the tunnel into Mobile. K-clunk. And speaking of road related vacation reminders: that tunnel. The old tunnel and the newer tunnel. It was a fantastic thing, to drive through a tunnel to get to your grandmothers’ houses.

8. Horney’s Restaurants. Horney’s were these road side dinners that predated the national fast food chains. There was a Horney’s in every respectable town along Hwy 27. Their A-frame construction and turquoise shingled roof unmistakable. There was a restaurant and a souvenir gift shop with soap on a rope, orange marmalade, collector spoons and thimbles, seashells and coconut patty candies for sale. I still have Foo-foo bunny, a small stuffed,yellow bunny rabbit with felt ears from a Horney’s that is now long closed and abandoned somewhere in Lake Wales.

The family vacation was basically a road trip. It was much less about the destination than the journey. My father had a bit of wanderlust and we all went along for the ride.

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