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 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.