Sunday, October 7, 2012

FAMILY VACATION


For age seven of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge:
 by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

By the time I was seven, my parents had six kids. We’d outgrown our old ‘53 Chevy, so Dad bought a 1956 station wagon, a two-toned job in colors that Chevrolet called Nile green and crocus yellow. It was big enough to take the whole family on vacation.

Dad was one of nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. They’d grown up in a small steel town about 150 miles upriver from our Cincinnati home. So when Dad said vacation, he meant a trip to Ironton, OH. I had been there before.
Kathy Cannon Wiechman waited until she was 16 before this pic was taken. 
The first trip I remember I was about three, and I got carsick on the way. I told them I was going to be sick, but before Dad could pull over, I puked all over myself. I remember standing by the side of the road while Mom stripped off all my clothes and put my pajamas on me, even though it wasn’t dark yet.

The year I was seven, Dad assured me—and Mom—that I would not be carsick in the smooth-riding station wagon. To be on the safe side, he took the river road, not the hilly route, and I was never carsick again.
It was the first of many Ironton trips we took in that wagon. Dad made a luggage carrier to fit on the roof, and painted it the same green as the car. We called it “the boat” because of the shape of its bow. In between trips, it was disassembled and fastened to the ceiling of the garage.

I can remember all us siblings standing in the yard to watch Dad put the boat together and struggle to fit the luggage we had piled on the lawn into it. Did Bob really need his saxophone? (He was supposed to practice every day.) Couldn’t Pat manage without her hair dryer for one week? (Not the compact item a hair dryer is today.) Dad lifted in suitcases, arranged and rearranged them, hauled them back out and began again.

When we were finally on the road, we played Car Bingo, where we marked X’s for things like signs, animals, a school, a church, and a cemetery. The Bingo cards were the kind you marked with a stylus and lifted a sheet to erase the X’s when the game was over. After a few years, the cards showed their age and tended to erase themselves.

On one trip, we had to stop and get a new distributor cap (something new to add to my vocabulary). On another, we had a flat tire. While Dad struggled not to cuss in front of us, we kids saw these as stories to tell our friends later.
Dad changing a flat.

Mom always packed a picnic lunch, and we stopped at a roadside park to eat PB&J. The park overlooked the river, and we loved to run down to the bank to toss in pebbles.

Our destination in Ironton was Grandma’s house, where we used to catch lightning bugs in jars along the earthen floodwall at the edge of the back yard. It had been built after the Flood of ‘37, which nearly destroyed the place. No, I’m not that old, but Dad and Grandma told us stories as we sat in her “nook”, a room off her kitchen just wide enough to fit a long table and benches. If you didn’t plan to sit for long, it was wise not to slide in first, because everyone else had to get up to let you out.

Some of Dad’s siblings still lived in Ironton, and there were scads of cousins for us to play with. Mom and Dad stayed at Grandma’s, and we kids got farmed out to whichever family had kids close in age. I learned the word alliteration in Ironton. Aunt Rita’s offspring were Judy, Janet, Jennifer, and Jim. Uncle Bill’s were Dave, Debbie, Danny, Darrell, and Diane.

At some point during each trip, we all met up at Lawco Lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. We had to cross Cannon Creek to get there, and we begged to take pictures by the sign that bore the family name, though nobody seemed to know for which Cannon it was named. (I finally got a picture taken when I was 16.)
Kathy rowing at Lawco Lake.

That year I was seven, I stayed on with Jennifer when the family piled into the wagon to head home. After a week, two of my aunts took me home on the train. A vacation and a train ride!

I remember those “family vacations” to Ironton with deep fondness. My friends told of trips to Pike’s Peak or Miami Beach, but I dare any of them to prove they had a better time.

16 comments:

  1. Kathy, You brought us all along with you on that vacation.

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    1. If I did, I hope you had a good time. I sure did!

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  2. That sound SO awesome. I never did anything like that as a kid. We never went on vacation. The closest we ever got was when we moved states away and stayed in a couple hotels. I still remember how much "fun" that trip was, although my mom has horror stories of holdups with the movers that kept us on the road too long. haha. I loved being on the road. It's nice that you remember you childhood so clearly. :)

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    1. Thanks, Tamara. Maybe those "vacations" are the reason I still enjoy road trips. There's nothing like being with others in a small space to bring people close.

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  3. Your memories of vacation are awesome:) I love going back in time like that!

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    1. So do I! It's a great place for a Mind vacation & a good place to pick up details for a story. Thanks for your comment. Happy vacations always!

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  4. Loved this. Our annual trip was back to the grandparents houses too -- from Missouri, across Illinois, to central Indiana. And when we got there, we had grandmothers to spoil us and cousins to play with.

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    1. Aren't those the best vacations of all? Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  5. I loved being a part of your family vacation!

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  6. Are you writing from journals, Kathy? Your memories are so clear.

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    1. No journals. I have a pretty decent memory, & looking at old pictures can trigger a flood of memories. Talking with my sibs can trigger even more. I tell them about something I remember & they remember a little more, which makes me remember a little more, & so on.

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    2. Loved reading this. It reminded me of vacations to visit my Grandma, and all the adventures we had along the way. Great memories.

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    3. Thanks, Jane. This whole blog challenge has been a delightful trip down Memory Lane for me. Your posts & some of the others have evoked lots of feelings for me. Thanks for offering it.

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  7. I just love your family stories Kathy, they're always so great to read, enjoy, and be there with you.
    Sounds like you had an amazing family, with amazing traditions, that I know you have passed or brought along with you.

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    1. Thanks, Jon. I thank God every day that I was born into such a tightknit family. We didn't grow up with much money-wise, but we were oh-so-rich!

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