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Summer Views from Route 66 (A Memoir)

August 10, 2016


Summer Views from Route 66 and Other Travels in the 1950s and 1960s (Part I)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



As I sit at my computer with Willow (my Leader Dog) beside me, we are gratefully spoiled by air-conditioning.  Thus, I think back to those summers before air-conditioning spoiled so many of us.


Fortunately, during the hot, Hoosier summers of my youth, both of my parents liked to travel.  Our family vacations were road trips:  my dad loved to drive his Fords and was an excellent driver.  Although my mother frequently drove her postmaster friends to conventions, she never drove during one of our summer vacations.  After my older sister received her driver’s license, my dad did relinquish the wheel to her at times; however, with my sister in command of the family car, my dad could not relax:  he often repeated, “Keep your eyes peeled for that sign.”  Almost without exception, after hearing his chorus of “Keep your eyes peeled for that sign,” he was the most observant one who first caught sight of the road sign.


Yes, besides no air-conditioned car, all of our family travels were pre-GPS and even before the onset of cell phones–but post-covered wagons.  Throughout our travels in the 1950s and much of the 1960s, my parents, my sister, and I checked off 38 states before an air-conditioned car entered our garage.  With only the spiral-bound print Rand McNally Road Atlas and/or a state (foldable) map at hand, we traveled in the Midwest, South, Southeast, East, and West of our continental United States.  Yes, on Route 66, we even drove through the desert without an air-conditioned vehicle.  With a departure time of quite early in the morning and with our car windows down, I do not remember being uncomfortably hot.  Now that the Route 66 road signs mirror my age, I would not care to attempt such a road trip without air-conditioning.


From my current “Route-66” life, I turn back to recall thoughts of my first travels.  Although I have only vague recollections of a summer vacation when I was four, black-and-white photos in an old album do confirm such a vacation  to Lake Manitou (Rochester, Indiana–the round barn capital of the world).  Our fellow vacationers were Uncle Johnny, Aunt Louise, cousins Dennis and Dick, as well as Aunt Kathy.


On the other hand, I clearly recall a summer vacation when I was five.  Besides my family of four, Aunt Zita and cousin Donald, as well as the Lehmans, joined us for a fun trip to St. Louis.  For me, riding on the S. S. Admiral was thrilling.  Wearing my “captain’s hat” and holding a set of toy binoculars to my eyes, I declared that I was seeing the ocean.  (Evidently, the Mississippi River was not grand enough for my young taste.)  On at least three levels of the ship were a variety of activities to do.  Later in the day, on this grand boat ride, our friend Stephen, who was close to the age of my sister, was lost.  Then, a short while after the realization that Steven was missing from our group, we, at the dance-floor level, heard an announcement from the stage:  one lost boy was found.  So, the next day, we were off to the St. Louis Zoo.


In June of 1956, when Bill and Aunt Kathy spent their honeymoon at Wisconsin Dells, our family was inspired to plan a trip to the Dells for later that summer.  Once again, Aunt Zita and Donald accompanied us.  We all enjoyed a waterfront cabin, the big inner-tubes on the Wisconsin River, boat rides, fishing, ski show, and other area attractions.  Only after our week at that cabin in the woods did my dad reveal that a bear visited our covered trash barrel each night:  Dad not only saw the lack of evidence at the trash barrel, but also witnessed the bear’s antics a couple of times.


For the summer vacation of 1957, just my parents, sister, and I headed south and were introduced to all the interesting road signs along our way.  “See Rock City” was painted on the rooftops of many barns.  On a somewhat rainy day, we did “See Rock City.”; but what I most enjoyed was the view from Lookout Mountain.  Due to the fog, I do not think we really saw seven states; but the experience was memorable.  Another memorable part of this trip was my contracting measles.  Fortunately, this vacation was the only one when I became ill.  On this scenic trip to Kentucky and Tennessee, I began a lifelong collection of postcards.


Perhaps, 1958 was the first time we vacationed at Indiana Beach (Monticello).  On our first adventure at Lake Shafer, the Lehmans, Aunt Zita, Donald and one of his friends joined us.  Since our cabin was not large enough for everyone, the four Lehmans stayed in the hotel; nevertheless, we all enjoyed our meals together at the cabin.  With my aunt’s  being the chef at her own Italian restaurant and my dad’s being an outstanding cook, each meal was an event for which no one arrived late.  The old-fashioned refrigerator/icebox in our cabin required around-the-clock deposits of coins to keep the food cold.  Despite the good and healthy meals, I always thoroughly enjoyed at Indiana Beach my share of vanilla frozen custard and taffy.  Although my favorite flavors of taffy were peppermint (red-and-white striped taffy wrapped in a waxed-type paper) and black walnut (wrapped in green paper), the shop sold a wide variety of taffy.  Instead of round balls of taffy, the candy was stretched into long strips which were flat and measured about ten inches by two inches by one/fourth inch.


Not only in the late 1950s, but also during the 1960s, with or without others along, my family spent many happy summer days at Indiana Beach, a resort/amusement park which opened in 1926. Here,  for the first time, we saw a young man tossing dough up into the air to make pizza for the pizzeria.  Near this eatery, we entered a special large “box” to have photos automatically taken; then, ejected out a slot was a strip of four small, black-and-white photos.  At Indiana Beach, my sister and I saw a famous person for the first time–Louis Armstrong–who, with his band, performed in the ballroom on three occasions when we vacationed at the resort.  Seeing Mr. Armstrong and hearing the live music were quite exciting and formed another special memory of those Indiana summers.


For more memories of our summer vacations to Indiana Beach, Florida, California, the Rockies, as well as Washington, D.C., please return to my Wordwalk blog next Wednesday.


Happy travels!

Alice and Willow


August 10, 2016, Wednesday



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  1. Thank you for the enchanting drive down Memory Lane, Alice. Yes, we did have happy times on all those trips and with all those loved ones! Being able to revisit the many special experiences through your memoir makes me long to return to that time in our lives–for at least a little while, just until I miss the air-conditioning.
    Love from your traveling companion,

    • Hi, Mary–Willow and I will look forward to a road trip with you either during your next spring break and/or during early June of 2017, when hopefully, the weather will be not so hot and humid! I think Willow will be a very good traveler.

      Happy trails and thanks for your comment–A & W

  2. Fran Rayce permalink

    What fun to travel along with your family! Trips certainly do allow families to build special connections. Funny that no one really complained about the noisy window sounds, the sticky plastic seats, and the lack of easy access to cold beverages. We all just got accepted and managed those inconveniences. Imagine that!

    • Fran–Thanks for adding your perceptive comments. On our trips south, I remember how we looked forward to a stop at one of the many Stucky’s along the route.

      Hoping the heat and humidity break for the Little Italy Festival over Labor Day Weekend–Alice

  3. I love this. It reminds me of family vacations.

    • Mary-Jo–I have no idea how you have time to read all that you do, but I appreciate your including my blog in your multitude of readings.

      Enjoy the weekend–Alice and Willow

  4. Sue McKendry permalink

    So nice to be reminded of family road trips without the modern amenities and how lucky we were to have families who realized the immeasurable educational as well as recreational value of travel.

    • Sue–Our more “educational” trips came later. Still today, my favorite vacation includes visiting museums and historic homes.

      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting–Alice and Willow

  5. Alice, I can’t imagine why anyone would object to you posting this. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to Pat II.

    • Abbie–I do appreciate your looking forward to the second part of this memoir. As you know, time for the next weekly blog rolls around fairly quickly.

      Enjoy the weekend–Alice

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