Sunday, February 3, 2013

Challenge - Day 4: "Something You Wore"

In the summer of 1963 I was five years old and my family was planning a big adventure. We were driving from our home on the Gulf Coast of Texas to California, the trip culminating with a visit to the kids' ultimate dream -- Disneyland. 

Preparations had been underway for months. A brand new car was purchased. This was a big deal for our family and it was the only new car my Dad purchased in his lifetime. He was a genius with anything mechanical -- cars, washers, televisions -- and kept everything in our house running smoothly. For whatever reason, this time he took the plunge and bought a 1963 Ford Galaxy 500, four-door model. The  photo shows a red one but our model was a metallic gray which we immediately named "The Silver Bullet." Daddy built a custom car-top carrier for The Silver Bullet to hold all the gear for this trip. This was to be a true 1960's family vacation and we were to camp our way across the western states.

My oldest sister was thirteen at the time and had a voracious metabolism. She had recently shot up to almost her full adult height and, to satisfy this rapid growth, she ate every hour. When she found out we would cross the desert with no gas stations, rest stops or restaurants for miles and miles, she went into full-scale panic. Mother said she was convinced she would starve to death so she (Mother) took action to calm her down. Books of Big Bonus Stamps were marshalled to purchase a car snack carrier, equipped with two large thermoses and a food compartment. It was designed to hang over the back of the front seat (seats were bench style in those days) for easy access by those in the back, with the hooks folding together to make a handle for carrying to and from the car. All in a "campy" red plaid. 

With this addition, plus one of those canvas bags on the exterior of the car's radiator, my sister was convinced we wouldn't die in the desert.

Being five years old, I don't remember everything about the trip, but certain memories are vivid. We camped in a mountain park in Cloudcroft, NM. During the night a violent thunderstorm hit and we were terrified in our tent, seeing the shadows of tall trees whip and bend over us during every lightning strike. The next morning we found the town below heavily damage by a flash flood. In Las Vegas we stayed in a hotel, one of the few times on the trip. We went to the Golden Nugget Casino long enough for Dad to play one coin in a slot machine (he didn't win) and for Mom to acquire a souvenir Golden Nugget ash tray, which was the one we brought out any time a smoker came to our house for as long as I can remember. Somewhere in the mountains we stayed in a log cabin and Mother made fried pork chops for dinner. The memory is vague; I don't remember where it was. 

Then there were the national parks:  King's Canyon, Yosemite, Mesa Verde and Carlsbad Caverns were the ones I recall. At King's Canyon we went to the Ranger Campfire, where he told stories and we all sang songs. There was one song, sung as a round, that I still remember. It was sung to the tune of "Are You Sleeping," and went "In King's Canyon, in King's Canyon, you can fish, you can fish. You can catch your limit, you can catch your limit. Fish, fish, fish. Fish, fish, fish." The Ranger also told a long, rambling story about a man who had a boy who he named Shine. Somehow Shine got lost and the father spent years looking for him. He knew he would recognize his son because his shoulder bore a distinctive birthmark. When he finally found the boy, identified by the birthmark, the father burst into song ... wait for it ... "You are my son, Shine, my only son, Shine." We were at Carlsbad Caverns when they still had the cafeteria at the bottom of the cave, where they served a box lunch before you began your way back to the surface. The whole place seemed a little eerie to me and I'm not sure I enjoyed it much. I knew I was deep underground and wasn't very happy about it. 

As I write this, flashes of memory keep coming into my head. In San Francisco we ate at a restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. While waiting to be seated I kept climbing on a bench and looking through a divider into the bar. The bartender must of thought I was cute, because he fed me a cherry every time I stuck my head in. I also remember Trading Post style souvenirs -- dolls with papooses, my brother's feather headdress, rubber tomahawk and drum. We drove our car through a tunnel in a giant redwood tree in a Sequoia forest. In San Francisco's Chinatown I wanted the red Chinese pajamas because red was my favorite color, but the saleslady commanded my Mother to buy the aqua blue because the color looked better on me. She was right, but I still wanted the red; I got the blue.

We went to Marineland, Knott's Berry Farm and, of course, Disneyland. This photo booth shot of my brother and me is one of my favorites. We had never been in a photo booth and didn't know what to do. Result? A pretty somber pair. 

And then there was Disneyland. Here again my memories are just flashes. I remember the Matterhorn, Peter Pan's ride in a flying ship and the flying Dumbos. I was terrified on the Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ride, where you were in a submarine. I buried my face in my lap and wouldn't look up, something that totally baffled my parents because I had shown no fear on any other ride, not even the "scary" ones. I think it had something to do with being under the water; that is still hard for me. 

So finally we come to the topic of this whole exercise, "Something You Wore." Here it is. My souvenir t-shirt from Disneyland. 

I loved this shirt, evidenced by the fact that I still have it. I can't think of any other clothing from my childhood that I saved, although I had those blue Chinese pajamas for a long time. Originally the shirt had a clear rhinestone at the tip of Tinkerbell's wand that I was convinced was a diamond. I'm sure it came off because of years of fingering the stone; I probably cried when it did. The cloth is thin and extra soft now, with several holes worn through. This teddy bear has worn it for about fifteen years and most likely will for many more. 

As I said, writing this has jogged a lot of memories. I am going to have to talk to my sisters about this trip; they were older and should remember more than me. We must have been gone several weeks; I can't imagine covering all this territory in less. It has been fun thinking about it and I appreciate your sharing it with me. Thanks for stopping by.  


1 comment:

  1. Actually, you remember quite a lot for being only five years old. It was fun to ride along with you here--and I think it's sweet that you still have the T-shirt.