Drive to Disneyland and Turn Right

                                  … Our First Family Vacation
                                                          By Jeff Salter

             We’re blogging about car trips this week … and I’ve got a doozy.
            In the spring of 1958, we took our first “family vacation” of any magnitude.  [Prior to that, all travel that I recall – except for three actual relocations – was visiting relatives and typically rather short distances.]  This convention trip was from Covington LA to San Francisco (by way of Anaheim), and many stops in between.

Our conveyance
            These days, kids act like they’re suffering if the headphones won’t work on the DVD player in their family’s spacious mini-van with 19 cup-holders.  Well, folks, wait ‘til you hear how my family of five (with luggage) drove to Frisco and back — roughly 4500 miles round trip.  Yeah, a VW Beetle.  Not just any Beetle … this was a late 1950s model, made overseas, which had side ‘flippers’ as turn signal indicators (instead of flashing lights).  I’m serious.  [It was the first Beetle in Covington, as far as I know.]  We bought it well-used and then had it repainted.  My Mom called it “Peaches” so that tells you what color was selected.
            Dad did most of the driving and Mom was usually the navigator on that first trip.  Beetles had only two doors, so it was not easy getting in and out of the rear seats.  The general setup was that we three kids each took a turn in what we called “way-back” — the luggage compartment behind the rear seat and directly beneath the rear window.  It was cramped, hot, and the fabric was incredibly itchy.

 Luggage & budget
            My entire luggage fit into what, today, I’d call a gym bag … though mine was made of fabric and cheap plastic.  My brother had a bag just like it; both were purchased new for that trip.
            As I recall, each kid had a travel budget of about $10, which had to last the entire trip (perhaps as many as 15 days).  That sawbuck was supposed to cover discretionary expenses such as snacks and souvenirs.  Mom and Dad sprang for attendance at whatever we stopped for.
             We usually ate breakfast (cold cereal) in the least expensive motel rooms my Dad could find.  We often ate sandwiches in the car, while riding, for lunch.

 The Stops
            This was one of six family trips that I recall (including four to the westerly states), so some of the routes have become indistinct.  I’m pretty sure this first vacation included the following:
            * partial day across the Mexican border at Juarez
            * partial days at some glorious national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia, and King’s Forest.

            But the highlight of this entire trip was our nearly full day at Disneyland.  It had officially opened less than two years before our visit and portions were still under construction.  My brother (fifth grade) and I (second grade) were allowed to run free for much of that day and we rode everything that we could get on for the little booklet of coupons we were allowed.  [Can you imagine turning loose a 7-year-old and 10-year-old in a vast theme park … nowadays?] 
            In those early years the waiting lines were nothing like theme parks have since become infamous for.  As that wonderful day neared its close (and we’d run out of ride tickets), we stood near the exit gate to wait on our parents and little sister.  An older couple exiting the park saw us and just handed us their coupon books with a few tickets remaining.  We couldn’t believe our good fortune!
            We hurriedly dashed away to take another speedy turn on Tom Sawyer’s Island … my favorite spot in the entire park.  For many years I kept the map of that island as one of my treasures.  Don’t know where it went.

 San Francisco
            Most of our time was spent in this city, where my Dad’s convention was.  We visited Chinatown and the Fisherman’s Wharf; rode a streetcar and saw (likely traversed) the Golden Gate Bridge.

            I bought a cowboy rope and a small knife in Juarez, and a cheap ‘flip-book’ at Disneyland.  In Chinatown, I bought a cheap (cork) pop-gun and some chopsticks.  And I captured a (free) road-side tumbleweed which my Dad fastened to the back of the car … it made it all the way home.

            What has YOUR longest vehicle trip been?  What comfort level did you have on that ride?


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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21 Responses to Drive to Disneyland and Turn Right

  1. tonettejoyce says:

    Different days, huh , Jeff…we never let our kids or grandkids out of our sight , that’s for sure.
    Sounds like a grand time was had by all, especially since so much of it has stayed with your for lo these many years. It’s nice to hear about happy childhoods.
    I don’t know about the longest, but the worst was a trip back from nursing my very ill grandmother over the summer in 1963. My father drove up to N.E. PA to get me,(9) , my brother(13) , my sister(16) and my mother to drive us back to the VA suburbs of Washington, DC…oh, btw, could we not give a lift to Georgetown to my not-too-thin aunt and her 12 yr old son ? The more the merrier,(not). My mother needed the front , as she would get carsick,(she said) in the back.My brother claimed the same, so we other 4 were in the back.We’d never make it in a modern car…what happened to 3 person front bench seats and room enough for 4 in the back?
    Speaking of Beetles, my husband had one.Long before the days of car seats and seatbelt laws, he would squeeze a number of his 7 brothers and 7 sisters into it. A friend once told me that he took so many of his siblings out to the country to the college he attended that as they kept exiting the front and back seats,it really looked like the little car at the circus that has many clowns climbing out!


    • jeff7salter says:

      Yeah, it’s amazing how much STUFF we squeezed into that Beetle … and people, of course. Interestingly, we never tired of VWs in my extended family. My parents later got a ’62 Bus and a ’64 Bug. When Denise and I had a toddler (Dave), we bought a used ’69 Bug. Two years, we traded that for a ’72 Bus. Years later, we acquired a ’65 Bug from my F-I-L. I would NOT want to go back to standard transmission and NO A/C, but I did like those VWs.


  2. crbwrites says:

    You covered my childhood car trips in the first paragraph: visiting relatives! We did go all the way from Birmingham to Fort Worth to see “Aint” Sister and Uncle George once, and that included a day at Six Flags Over Texas. I think it was the only Six Flags back then. My sisters were 14 and 8 when I was born, so we never did the back seat fighting thing. By the time of this trip, my oldest sister was married, had a toddler, and lived on an Air Force base somewhere in the general area. So, naturally, we had to swing by (Texarkana or Wichita Falls?) and pick them up. That means there must have been six of us in the car. It was a land yacht–a Pontiac or Buick. Travel comfort? I had a stack of library books. Good enough.


    • jeff7salter says:

      Land yacht — LOL. I had a friend who called them “Slab Schooners”.
      We had a ’72 Chev. Impala for a few years — though not as big as some of the cars which had preceded it, that was a monster. But comfortable to ride in.
      I went to the Texas Six Flags in June ’69 with two buddies and three girls. Enjoyed it. By that time there was already one in Georgia also.
      I remember the first trip my own small family took as a family — without visiting relatives. Early 1980s and we went from Shreveport to the Hot Springs AR area. At the time I thought it was important for us to go somewhere “by ourselves” but I think everybody would have enjoyed the time (away from home) if we had just driven to Dallas and visited my in-laws. Ha.


  3. Laurie Ryan says:

    I love road trips, but don’t get to take too many. Probably the funnest one was when we drove Seattle to Sacramento with 4 adults and 4 kids…in a van that had a driver’s seat, a passenger seat, and a fold down bed in the back. Two people had to sit on the floor. Now THAT was a long day. But fun when we arrived. Our friends had a pool and I don’t think the kids left it once over the next few days.

    It’s wonderful that you have this memory of childhood vacations, Jeff. 🙂


    • jeff7salter says:

      Laurie, your van reminds me of how we did a LOT of our travel after I was married with kids: 1972 VW Bus with the middle seat removed. We had feather mattresses on the floor and the entire area was available for the kids to sit, play, lie down, whatever. [Note: that was back in the days BEFORE there were child restraint laws or much awareness.] Thank goodness we never had a wreck !
      We lived in Sacramento from about Aug. 73 to May 74. That’s where we bought the ’72 Bus.


  4. Stacy McKitrick says:

    Ahh, Disneyland and the ticket books. I remember those well!

    My first longest trip was back in 1970. I was 13, my sister 11. My parents drove us from Santa Barbara, CA to Newark, NJ to visit our cousins (on my Dad’s side) for the very first time (I have since made that trip without my parents and sister). We did have a camper, though, and stayed at lots of campsites. It was quite an adventure and one my mother refused to take again. But I just remember visiting some great places: Mt. Rushmore, Yellow Stone Park (Old Faithful), The Badlands, The Great Salt Lake, and New York City!


    • jeff7salter says:

      Wow, Stacy, that’s a HUGE voyage! The only way to take a longer trip would be from Miami to Seattle. Ha.
      I’ve always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore. But I have been to Yellowstone and Salt Lake City. The salt lake itself was rather unimpressive to me (age 11).
      Thanks for visiting today!


  5. jeff7salter says:

    BTW, folks, NEXT Thursday ( Aug. 30) I’m resuming my practice, from last year, of bringing in a Guest Fox occasionally. Opal Campbell will be my first Guest Fox of this new season, so be sure to come back on Thursday.


  6. Sounds like it was a fun trip. I love that you brought home a tumbleweed. How fun was that? COOL


  7. tonettejoyce says:

    I was going to hold my tongue but you may be surprised at what I have to say.My cousin took a trip out west with his friend’s family in the early 1960’s and brought a small tumbleweed home to his mother…then they found out it was illegal to transport them across a few of the states’ lines. It seems that the bushes that become tumbleweeds are not native to the US and are an invasive weed…the other states were afraid of them causing problems.I don’t know if it i still illegal or not… fortunately for you, the statute of limitations must surely have long expired!


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