Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A to Z April Challenge: V is for Vacations

Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.

is for vacations.

Nobody I knew ever took a really swanky vacation. Nobody took cruises. Nobody flew to Cancun. Nobody took the kids out of school to go skiing in the winter. Family vacations meant visiting grandparents or camping. Had the term “staycation” been coined yet, a day at Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks of North Carolina would have qualified.

Our family vacations were of two types: (1) trips to Shenandoah to visit relatives, and (2) tours of historic sites in Virginia, mostly battlefields.

I looked forward to visiting my cousins in Shenandoah, but getting there was NOT half the fun. Today with the Interstate highway, we can make the trip in 3.5 hours. Back then it was a 5-hour drive, the majority of it on a 2-lane rolling highway, up one hill and down the next, up and down, up and down. It could have been delightful watching the geography change from flatlands to piedmont to mountains and valley if it hadn’t been for those darn fuel trucks. When they were full, they couldn’t handle the posted speed limit on the uphill grade. As a result, the ride became a constant game of “Chicken” as we edged into the next lane to see if it was safe to pass.  All that with no air conditioning. Momma and Daddy were both smokers, so the ash they flicked out the front window blew in through the back window all over my sister and me.

But it was all worth it just to see my cousins. They always had some puppies to play with. Plus the Jenkins girls across the street became my friends too.

Barbara Davis and Wendy Slade  Shenandoah, VA 1960  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Cousin Bobbie and me and either Punky or Chunky
(I can never remember which was which.)

Often during those trips we included a ride along the Skyline Drive. We stopped at some of the overlooks, one of which looked down on my 3X great-grandfather’s land along Naked Creek in Jollett Hollow.

Slade girls Skyline Drive 1965  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Me, Momma, Mary Jollette on the Skyline Drive

A few hours away from the Drive was Natural Bridge. Supposedly the land once belonged to our family. My 2X great-grandmother Martha Willson Davis was born near there, so I suppose it’s possibly a true story, but I have not been able to prove it.

Slade girls Natural Bridge, VA 1965  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
At Natural Bridge 1965

We toured homes of some of Virginia’s presidents including Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson.

In the garden of Woodrow Wilson's home in Staunton, Virginia 1965

Of course, no summer vacation was complete without a tour of a Civil War Battlefield.

Wendy and Mary Slade Manassas, VA 1967  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Me and Momma at the Stonewall Jackson statue
Manassas Battlefield, Virginia
probably 1967

While our parents were successful in showing us the wonders of Virginia and can be credited with making us appreciate all that Virginia has to offer, the best part of the day was staying in a hotel with a pool.
Mary Jollette and Daddy
Belle Meade Motel Harrisonburg, VA

Mary Jollette and Me
Mt. Vernon Motel Charlottesville, VA  1965

These were simple, low-luster vacations, but the together time made them memorable.

Don’t vacillate now.  Why don’t you venture over to the venerable vanguard of verisimilitude in the vernacular at the A to Z April Challenge to view a veritable vortex of veracious verbalizations before they vanish?

© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved


  1. Thank you for taking us with you on this trip down memory lane :)

  2. You obviously had fun. I do not remember ever going on holiday with my parents and no photos exist - perhaps just as well as I was told I had knitted bathing trunks that hung down to my knees when wet.

  3. wow a hotel with a swimming pool! Luxury! We used to stay at a friend's beach house and the swimming was in the ocean (no pools for us). And you're right, vacations were a lot less spectacular back in our day, but still a lot of fun! Leanne @ cresting the hill

  4. Great vacation memories! Neat too with the theme of visiting battlefields. I remember when the kids were younger we too would always try to find a hotel with a pool with traveling :)


    1. We always made sure to stay in a motel with a pool when our girls were little too. The pool was really like a reward for putting up with the rest of the trip.

  5. Family vacations bring back so many wonderful memories - sounds like yours were lots of fun. We were able to go on a few 'exotic' vacations but the ones I remember most were YMCA family camp (cabins, beds, toilets, and a mess hall) and the 8 hour drive to Disneyland.

    I had to laugh at Punky and Chunky. Our next door neighbors had two dogs named Pete and Repeat.

    1. My 6-yr old granddaughter just learned the Pete and Repeat joke so we had to play along with that for quite some time.

      I would have loved going to Disneyland as a kid. When I saw film footage of it while watching Mickey Mouse Club on tv, I was mesmerized. We took the girls to Disney World twice when they were kids.

  6. We too traveled to see relatives, but we were in California and our relatives were in Colorado. It was a long trip, but like you expressed, worth every miserable hour in the back of the car to be able to spend time with cousins. We also loved the evening swim with our dad. Great post Wendy and it spurred great memories for me as well.

    1. Just think of all the genealogy we could have been doing had we known better.

  7. Lovely post again, Wendy. When I was small, our family always went to Great Yarmouth, on the east coast of the UK. OUr first stop was always a beer garden where we got to eat fish and chips (a real treat in those days) and a bottle of coke with a straw in it. Then it was off to the amusement park where every year I got to fly on a pink elephant. The memories are gushing at the moment. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

    1. Well, flying on a pink elephant - what can top that?

  8. Our family vacations, when I was a kid, were always to visit relatives. It was a long drive but we amused ourselves in the backseat of the car by playing games. It was almost unheard of for people to take their families to a resort the way they do now.
    Carol at My Writer's Journal

    1. We played a lot of Twenty Questions in the backseat.

  9. You had such fun vacations! All our relatives lived close and we saw them a few times a year. When I was little we always went camping, but one year Dad had saved money and we all went to Kennebunk Maine. Then when I was about 7 my dad got some cheap land on a lake up north (about 3hours or so) and built a plywood cottage, where we spent every summer for the next 10 years! We loved it up there and spent all our days in the lake.

    1. When our girls were little, we vacationed several years at Fairy Stone State Park which has a lake and lots of trails for hiking. Fun times.

  10. When I was growing up we only went drove about 4 hours from Detroit to my Uncle's cabin on Lake Idlewild. We stayed in the cottage. When my kids were growing up we only went to Idlewild to visit my parents or to St. Louis to my husband's family reunion. Eventually his parents died and we stayed in a hotel instead of with them. The kids were pretty old by that time.

    It is only since my children have grown up that we go to the ocean and to the mountains where we have no relatives. The grandkids must think of vacations in a very different way than we did.

    Finding Eliza

    1. I remember your Lake Idlewild pictures and stories. I would have enjoyed those vacations.

  11. You've made a good point about how times have changed. Higher incomes, higher expectations or cheaper travel?

    My family used to go away every couple of years...Dad got a railway pass so that meant we travelled by train (besides we had no car). Sometimes we'd go to the beach about 100 kms away and it would be sand and surf all the time, plus some bush walks. About five times we travelled to the town mum came from, about 1000kms away and two nights and one day on the train. We visited her friends and took the ferry across to an island where we stayed in very basic accommodation but I loved it and have written about Magnetic Island holidays in my blog.

    I was nearly always taken out of school because that made it cheaper, and possible, to go.

    With our kids it's been a combination of camping trips, occasional holiday units and overseas trips (because of where we worked).

    1. Traveling outside the US was never even a thought when I was growing up. When my girls were little, we went to Canada, but that was the extent of our non-US vacations.