I remember August vacations when I was growing up.
Every August, we would drive the 750-800 miles from our home in upstate New York State to southwest central Virginia to my mother’s relatives’ homes to visit. It was a very long, hot drive of about 14 or 15 hours one way.
We would leave about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. That would get us going in the cool of the day. There were not very good roads back in the day, just two lane roads in New York State down through Binghamton and then into Pennsylvania through the middle of the state. We often stopped somewhere in Pennsylvania to eat the picnic lunch my mother had packed of sandwiches. There were always wasps around. It wasn’t pleasant. We three kids were bored and hot in the car. I tried to read but always got a headache. We played games like License Plate and Punch Bug and the Alphabet Game. We tried to color pictures but with the windows open to keep cool, that was difficult.
The farther south we went, the hotter it got. Then we ran into chain gangs repairing the roads. And red dirt. We would stop for a cold soda which we shared. Eventually in the evening we would come to Charlottesville, Virginia where my mother had friends. We would eat dinner there and spend a hour. Then the final push to Lynchburg and Bedford, arriving about 9 or 10.
My grandmother’s house had no air-conditioning and no fans. It was brutally hot upstairs where we slept. When we were older, my sister and I stayed across the street at my aunt’s house where it was cooler for some reason. For lunch, we would have cold fried chicken and tomatoes from the garden. I remember that.
During the day, we would be dragged off to visit the many relatives that my mother had in the vicinity. She had eight brothers and sisters so there were many relatives, and I had many cousins to play with. There was always a family reunion picnic in the State Park in the mountains. Sometimes my aunt and uncle would take us to an amusement park.
At the end of the week, we would make the return trip back to New York State. We didn’t leave quite so early in the morning. So it was very hot traveling back to New York. We usually had a Virginia ham that we brought back. An some cloth from the factory mill in town where my aunts worked.
That was my summer vacation every year. That’s where we went every year. My mother needed to “go home” to visit her people so my father took the last week of August as vacation every year and drove us all to Virginia. We did do some special things every now and then. One year we stopped for an hour or so at Gettysburg. One year we went to Williamsburg, Virginia and Jamestown. We didn’t get to see much but we did go. They took us to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. They let us go to the amusement park. My parents didn’t have much money but they tried to do a few fun things with us on these trips.
Do I wish we could have done some different things on our summer vacation? Yes. Do I understand why our summer vacations were the way they were? Yes. My parents did the best they could. We had a good time, considering. It was a summer break, at least. It was different from the boring humdrum of summer in upstate New York.