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Friday, July 17, 2009

My 1950's summer vacations

With July upon us, it brings back thoughts of past family vacations. As kids in Ohio, my brother and I usually finished school about the 10th of June. About a month later our family would pack our 1954 Buick Special and leave Cincinnati for a couple of weeks on the seashore in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Atlantic City of the mid 1950s was nothing like the Atlantic City we see today with the myriad of casinos and high crime rates.

It was an exciting time as we would leave town at 3:00 a.m., stop at a local diner for breakfast, then head east on our 25 cent per gallon gas. The reason for the early departure was typical for those times. Since very few cars had air conditioning, most people would leave early to "beat the heat."

It usually took a couple of days to cover the 850 miles or so to Atlantic City since most of the driving was done on two lane roads. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was a little too modern for my dad although at the urging of my brother and me, we eventually got him to use it. He still muttered that we had to pay a toll just to drive on a wide highway.

Remember, this was a ‘50s vacation which meant that the dog came with us. There we were: Two adults, two teenagers, and a dog heading east in a Buick to the seashore for a summer vacation. It seemed like a story from the mind of Jean Shepherd right down to us sneaking the dog into an overnight cabin halfway there.

Atlantic City was great. As an inland kid, it was a joy to eat breakfast at a small outdoor diner on the Boardwalk and jump into the ocean afterwards (after the obligatory one hour wait after eating per my mother). We stayed in a house on North Carolina Avenue that was formerly a large mansion that was later converted to individual rooms for tourists. I think the cost was about $25 a week

I remember a restaurant on the Boardwalk by the Steel Pier called "Mammy’s" and their logo was a large black women who looked like Aunt Jemima or Hattie McDaniel. I wonder how Al Sharpton and Jessie would have reacted to that.

Eventually the years of the family vacation ended as my brother and I grew up, left home for our military service, and moved on with our own families. However, I still like to remember the days of the family taking a vacation together. It was pure Americana. Those years go by quickly and we have to enjoy them while we can.

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