Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Long Drives & a Young Boy's Imagination: Part One

I love long trips in the car.  Always have ...

Flashback ...

Because my dad's family lived in Oregon/Washington (well, most of them--there were myriads of Dyers and Davises out in the West), and because we were pretty much impecunious throughout my boyhood (professors and public school teachers in Oklahoma--i.e., my parents--were most definitely not in the One Percent in the 1950s), there was no thought of flying anywhere for a visit.  (I would not take my first flight until the spring of 1967, when I was in my 23rd year--well, not counting a crazy hour in 1960 (or so) in a little private plane with a Hiram High School grad named Lee Dalton one day, a day when, aloft, I was so in terror that I very nearly did lose control of bodily functions.  Whenever I read about fear doing that to people, I know that it's true.  Thanks, Lee, wherever you are flying these days.)

Even driving was not an inexpensive way to go.  Even though gas was only about 25 cents a gallon (that's right), that was still a chunk of money in the days when a bus ride was a dime, a Coke and a candy bar a nickle each.  And motels.  One year we camped while going 'cross country: little brother Dave and I were excited, an excitement that quickly paled when we learned that we would sleep in the car while the others got the tent.  I can truthfully say that I once camped in the Painted Desert, though, to be honest, I should add that I slept in the back seat.

Dad always looked for motels in the $5/night range (that's right: five dollars for five people)--this in the days before motel chains.  When we pulled in to the motel, we would have to wait in the car while Dad found the manager and inspected the room; numerous times we drove away when the facilities didn't meet his standards.  His standard comment as we drove away: "That was a pretty sorry place."

On the road, we boys got $1/meal/day.  Breakfast: pancakes and OJ; lunch: hamburger, fries, Coke; dinner: hamburger, fries, Coke (I had a lot of imagination, didn't I?).  We always considered it a success, too, if we got Dad to stop in the afternoon at an A&W Root Beer (the boys' favorite) or a DQ (Mom's: more chocolate available).  When we saw one down the road, we would chant in unison: "A&W!  A&W!  A&W!"  Or--equally creative: "DAY Queen!  DAY Queen!  DAY Queen!"  (Don't ask.)  Dad would often sigh and stop--though we knew the sigh was thespian: He loved root beer and  would down his (large) often in a single surging gulp.  Then loudly smack his lips with satisfaction.  Mom did not approve and sat there, probably dreaming of chocolate down the road.

Remember, though: This was the days before most cars had air-conditioning.  (We had no car with it until 1965--when I was about to turn 21!)  Those summer afternoons driving across the Central Plains, across the deserts.  HOT!  Windows open, Satan's fiery breath blowing across our faces.  Those infernal afternoons probably had as much to do with my deciding I didn't want to go to Hell as Sunday School and church and Vacation Bible School combined.

NEXT TIME: What did we boys do all those hours in the car--besides punch one another?

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