Visits to the Past and Future

Albeit Very Short Ones

By Jeff Salter

Topic: Have you ever visited a part of the country where things were done as an older time, or were far more modern than you are accustomed?

As a kid, our family vacations were paired with the professional conferences our Dad attended as a Protestant Chaplain, so we ended up driving to or through some 37 states by the time all was said and done, over those [? seven ?] trips… from the spring of 1958 to the spring of 1964.

Since my dad was raised (literally) “dirt poor,” he gave new meaning to the word “thrifty”. Dad squeezed the very last ounce of “frugality” and it showed in the way we ate and where we stayed on the road. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to reveal how many cost corners we cut in our travels, so I’ll summarize it by saying we got the absolutely cheapest accommodations that could be located. We ate cold cereal in our rented rooms, had cold sandwiches on the road (while we continued traveling), and had a “hot meal” for suppers (at Mom’s insistence).

I detail those travel conditions to explain how we ended up with some of the spaces where we slept. And, herein, were our visits to the rustic PAST.

Though I cannot recall which trip this was – but possibly spring 1961 – we were in or near Santa Fe and, naturally, got the cheapest shelter Dad could find. This particular one was a tiny cabin and we were told by the landlord that we’d have to pump our own water (at the kitchen sink) and would have to go outside and bring in firewood (if we wanted any heat). I suspect Mom was appalled, but for that one night, my brother and I thought it was pretty cool… to suddenly be living like cowpokes in a bunkhouse. After all, those were the days when there was a western show on every network nearly every night. And I truly did LOVE westerns.

Glorietta

It was possibly that same 1961 trip when we stayed for several days – perhaps close to a week – at the Baptist camp at Glorietta NM. Though there were fairly fancy hotel-style accommodations near the conference venue, there were also little camps that looked not much grander than what you saw in the film, Grapes of Wrath.

These were just raw wood bunkhouses with cold cement floors, zero insulation, and no running water. We did have electricity, however, so there was one light bulb in the middle of the space and I THINK there was a wall outlet near a counter where Mom plugged in her hotplate.

The hut with the toilets and showers was “down the way” and we shared that facility with the inhabitants of at least a dozen other cabins. Though we’d sorta enjoyed being rustic cowpokes for that (previous) single night, having to live this way for most of a week really took the edge off the “novelty” aspect.

Yellowstone

Of all those travels and all those cheap, rustic places where we stayed, none was more miserable that the COLD night or two at Yellowstone park in the spring of (? 1960 ? ). Whichever year it was, that was the coldest April they’d had in quite a while and snow was still on the ground. All the regular entrance gates were closed because of the weather, except one (likely the southernmost).

Since I’ve recently come across my 1983 recollections of this event, I’ll just quote here what I wrote when the experience was several decades fresher in my mind:

We spent the night in a little cabin with two beds and a (pot-bellied) wood stove. All three of us kids were in one bed, and we didn’t mind that proximity because it was so cold. Of course, the restrooms were down the (snowy) path, and there was absolutely no insulation in the hut. The ranger had given (or sold) us several logs of compressed sawdust for the stove, and it warmed only the immediate vicinity of that stove. We were told (the next morning) it had gotten to minus 4 degrees that night. The next morning, we relented in our vigil against the concessioner (Fred Harvey) and bought five steaming bowls of oatmeal for breakfast… and it was the bet oatmeal I ever ate.

I’m sure there were other “rustic” settings in which we stayed overnight, but these are the ones which stick out in my mind.

Also “Visited” the FUTURE

At our spring visit to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, there was one sizeable exhibit space which portended to show us glimpses of the future. They were forecasting about 38 years forward to Century 21 — and that did not mean the real estate company. The TV series, The Jetsons, would not be first aired until September that same year, which was some five months away… so I had little to compare with this vision of the future. Except, of course, all those really hokey 1950s B-grade Sci-Fi flicks. In any case, the household features they highlighted didn’t impress me much. I never remembered enough detail from that exposure to gauge how accurately they’d predicted 2000 when it finally arrived.

Here’s a teaser which gives a feel for what Seattle was trying to do:

And here’s a longer clip which features the monorail, which we rode. I can’t recall if we went to the top of the Space Needle… but we certainly SAW it prominently.

Note (in this clip) the lengthy phone company promo, where they introduced primitive pagers and foresaw touch tone dialing.

Century 21 Calling, 1962 – AT&T Archives – World’s Fair tour – YouTube

Summary:

I guess I’ve visited the past and the future. Generally speaking, I think I like the creature comforts of the present more than any extended stays in the rustic past.

Question:

What about YOU? Have you ever spent any time in a more rustic setting?

[JLS # 550]

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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15 Responses to Visits to the Past and Future

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Yikes, the Grapes of Wrath vibes I getting does not sound appealing. I suppose when you are children, you really don’t the difference too much. But I can see the adventure in those trips faded fast, especially for your mom. But you made memories.

    I love the great outdoors, I really do. But I am NOT a fan of camping. My husband’s family did that a lot on their property in the Texas hill county. There was a house built some 100 years ago on the property built by a great-grandfather (or great-great, I’m not sure), but I had never seen the inside of it. Apparently, it wasn’t safe inside. We pitched tents around this house every Thanksgiving. There was some limited electricity, thankfully, so there was a little light at night. And while there was the essential running water (to fill the cow trough), there was no restroom. Just an outhouse. That horrible, horrible outhouse. I’m not some prima donna, but I hated those trips. Sitting around the campfire, hiking in the woods, shooting guns, star-gazing, that all was awesome. Yet, I despise the cold (especially the rainy cold), fighting the bugs, ants, bees, flies (when it was warm), the inability to get clean, the outhouse (yuck! maggots!) sleeping on the ground, yeah…just not my thing. Once my first child was born, I used her as an excuse to only visit during the day. No camping for us! That is about as rustic as it has gotten for me. Even when I took that church trip to Florida as a teen when we stayed overnight in similar bunkhouses you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      yeah, the outhouses that I’ve experiences have been totally awful… worse even than the port-o-lets which you see at carnivals (and such places), because the outhouses had no deodorizers and LOTS of nasty bugs.
      Camping in the rain is the pits… horrible misery.
      ants, flies, gnats, skeeters — you can have them all!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess that we are the only two here that has ‘past age’ experiences, Jeff, ad here I thought this would be a topic that others could relate to, or if they had traveled to someplace that was on a faster pace than where they were brought up. Oh well, you never know!
    I almost brought up the World’s Fair, but I went shortly before it closed in ’65 with two aunts and cousins in two generations. General Electric’s site was incredible, with ‘automatons’ on a rotating stage that went from the first electricity in homes to what to expect in the future. We saw them create “lightning” in one area, where we looked down at scientists. Then we went to what to expect about televisions, which was very interesting to me,but I was disappointed. When I came home, my father,(who was an electrical engineer who had a real affinity for TVs), asked about it because he had heard some of what was there, he told me that we would go far beyond what they showed, and boy, have we!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      So the Seattle fair extended into 1963? Hmm… that might change my chronology of these family trips… which have become so jumbled in my mind.

      Like

  3. Jeff, when you say your dad grew up “dirt poor,” I had to laugh when I read next that you traveled. The only traveling we ever did when I was a kid was to visit my grandmother’s farm in Minnesota between the towns of Menagha and Sebeka. It was where my mother grew up in the early part of the 1900s (she had me very late in life and yes, I’m that old. lol)

    Every summer, we stayed at the farm with no indoor plumbing except for a pump at the kitchen sink. The kitchen stove was a wood-burning stove, and we not only had to bring in the wood to keep it hot so my aunt could cook meals, but sometimes we had to go out and cut the wood. Usually, Uncle Hjelmer did that though.

    I’m well acquainted with outhouses. lol And at night, we had chamber pots to use. They stayed under the beds (obviously the beds were very high. I had to use a step stool to get into bed as a kid). We couldn’t afford staying in cabins or motels along the way but traveled straight through via a cousin’s car, or on the train or bus. Our relatives took care of our meals while we were visiting them on the various farms in the area.

    Until about the 1990s, I spent most of my life rough camping. During the 1970s (I believe I told you about this once), I was a member of a primitive camping group known as the Buckshinners. We would reenact the late 1700s through the middle 1800s in our dress and camping shelters and gear. I learned to shoot muzzleloaders, throw tomahawks and knives, and how to cook over an open fire regardless of weather. (Lots of research went into our caming. I guess that’s why I love research now as a writer.) If it wasn’t available during that period of time, we didn’t use it while camping. We slept on the ground on furs and skins (you’d be amazed at how warm they were.)

    Now, the only future I’m interested in is after this life on earth. Never have been much for SciFi. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    My dad took us on ONE road trip. Guess my brothers and I were too much of a handful, because Mom was too stressed to ever go one another one with us. Odd that once Dad retired, they went all over the world! Anyway, our road trip wasn’t as budget friendly as yours, although we stayed in budget motels. I’ve never been a fan of camping either, though I’m not sure whether that’s my parents rubbing off on me, or the fact that I enjoy my creature comforts. I spent many summers going to Camp Fire Girl camp, and that was rustic enough for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      with regular campgrounds like you probably had with the campfire girls, camping would be a lot safer… in terms of wildlife and other potential dangers.
      Still outdoors, still sticky, hot, dirty, etc. But likely safer.

      Like

  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I have to agree, Jeff. Overall I’m happiest in modern times. I don’t like being cold at night, and sharing a bathroom sounds just awful. I guess my grandparents would think they had a spoiled granddaughter if they could see me now. I bet they’d like my computer and TV though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Yes, I’m well past the days when I can sleep on the ground in the open air. So, I suppose that means I’m spoiled also.

      Like

  6. Those rustic cabins sounds like quite an adventure, Last year there was a job opening that was looking for a caretaker on an island that had no electricity. Wyatt wanted me to apply for the position. I considered it for a long time and was getting ready to fill out the application when we were told that Wyatt needed to have a CPAP machine. Up until that moment we were both getting pretty excited about the possibility of staying in such a remote place to live like pioneers for a few months. When I do think about it I wonder how long it would be before we would miss the comforts of home. I had read the blog of the previous caretakers, detailing how they started their mornings with cold showers and so much more, their details of the wildlife and the night sky was enough to make me want to give it a try.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      No way I’d deal with a cold water shower. I’d just have to remain stinky.
      I could survive without the internet, but I want my electric power and stuff to cook with.

      Like

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