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.
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.
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.
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.
What about YOU? Have you ever spent any time in a more rustic setting?
[JLS # 550]