Friday, July 30, 2010

Disney World Or Bust aka The Summer Of America

When I was  four years old, we drove from Michigan to Florida.  It's the first family vacation that I have any memory of.  My mom's favorite aunt and uncle were living there, so the plan was to visit them, go to Disney World and spend some time at the beach.  Disney World opened in 1971, so it was less than a year old at the time.
The Cover of Life Magazine in October, 1971

Because I was so young, I only remember bits and pieces of the drive, but I know we took the station wagon and that my grandparents followed us in their car.  This was, of course, a long time before cell phones, so we kept in touch with them by holding up signs in the back window of the car.  I'm not sure who wrote out the signs, probably one of my brothers, but they would say things like "Gas station, next exit".

I also remember that as the summer of America.  Not the country, the band.  It seemed that every radio station along the way was playing "Horse With No Name".  We must have heard it a hundred times.  It's probably the first rock song I ever knew all the words to.  Even today, when I hear it, I think of that trip.



Our hotel in Florida was oceanfront, which was amazing to me because I had never seen the ocean before.  I'd seen my share of lakes and rivers, but I hadn't even imagined how huge the Atlantic ocean would be.  My dad took us down to see the beach shortly after we checked in to the hotel and I asked right away if I could touch the water.  I suppose my dad thought I was going to stick my hands or my feet in it, but for some reason, I waded in and sat down.  In all my clothes.


My aunt and uncle lived in a mobile home park for seniors, so there wasn't much for my brothers and I to do when we visited them.  Someone suggested that we could take some bread to the pond and feed the ducks.  I don't think it was very exciting for my brothers, but I loved it.  The ducks were used to being fed, so they would come right up to you and take the bread from your hand.  It was fun until we ran out of bread and tried to head back to my aunt's house.  The ducks wouldn't leave me alone.  They followed me, squawking and begging for more bread.  My parents have home movies of me upset and yelling at the ducks to go away.  If I knew how to upload the footage, I would.  Or not.


Disney World was the best part of the trip for me.  As soon as we passed through the entrance we were greeted by Minnie Mouse.  Being quite a fan of Minnie's, I ran up to meet her.  I don't remember what we talked about, but we had a fairly long conversation.  Then I took her hand and walked off with her.  My dad came and snatched me back, but you have to wonder where Minnie was planning to take me.  I've been a little suspicious of Minnie Mouse ever since.

She looks a little shifty to me

On one of the last days of our vacation, we woke up to find the beach covered with blue and pink things that, at first glance, looked like children's bathing caps (remember those?).  When my brothers walked down to find out what they were, a man showed them how to deflate the things by hitting them with rocks.  Once hit, they would burst into a spray of liquid.   My parents were none too pleased when they discovered the "things" they were Portuguese Man O War, which is a poisonous jellyfish.


The rest of my memories of this vacation are pretty fragmented.  My mom wearing a big orange sun hat and huge sunglasses.  Swimming in the hotel pool with some other kids.  Finding shells on the beach.  My grandma making a plate of cheese and crackers for me to snack on.  Sitting on the statues at Sea World.

And the desert.  On a horse with no name.
 
Willoughby

~All photos courtesy of Google Images~

8 comments:

L.B. said...

Those seem like pretty vivid memories for having been so young. We moved when we I was four and I remember our station wagon loaded with stuff and looking at our apartment as we left but I don't seem to recall much from Year 5 of my life.

5thsister said...

What wonderful vacation memories. I have very little memories of my early childhood or even from grade school. But I always remember the inevitable blizzard we'd have to drive through to visit my dad's folks in ND.

Yeah, Minnie does look kind of shifty now that you mention it!

The girl with the flour in her hair said...

I love this post. What great memories. I envy those who can remember things. My memory is terrible. I don't think I ever was 4... :)

Yeah...interesting. Where was Minnie going to take you? Very strange...

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

What terrific vacation memories!
As I remember I used to love Mini.. she was my hero!
Loved this post!
Hope you have a great weekend, my friend!

Big hugs!
B xx

Liz in Virginia said...

I have been afraid of Mickey and Minnie Mouse for my whole life. Obviously untrustworthy . . . .

We made a trip to Disney World in the mid-seventies, and my dad the trip planner clearly had no idea what he was heading into. He scheduled h-a-l-f a d-a-y for us to enjoy the Magic Kingdom -- then we got back in the car and headed home. What was he thinking?

This was in the days of the E-ticket (a cultural reference that is just gone now) and pre-Epcot.

Sure is a different trip now!

Another great post!

thamesarino said...

Hey Willoughby! : )
I don't have awesome memories of a vacation in our station wagon, but when I was around 7 my mom, sister and I drove across country in ours. We were moving from NH to AZ. It was an incredible trip, we stayed at KOA's along the way and my sister and I camped out in the back with pillows, a cooler, and travel games. We saw a bunch of sites along the way... and my sister and I would make signs for other cars.... mostly saying HONK (in some form or another!)!! : )
It wasn't the 70's but I think it was 82... so close! : )
I can't imagine making that same trip today with all the carseats we have. Back then we were in our own little world back there!
Thanks for jogging those memories by sharing yours! : )

Seizing My Day said...

funny the things you remember about childhood! we traveled in a station wagon until I was 7 ? and then moved onto the giant Buick! ;) which took us from coast to coast for our one 'big' family vacation! We just got back from a 7 day Drive/camping trip down the coast ~ kids, coolers, tent, sleeping bags, cooking stove and all! =) Fun times... but next time I think we will stay in a hotel! ha ha! =)

Jenn Erickson said...

So many beautiful memories from that trip! Lots of things I think we can all relate to from our own childhoods ~ the stationwagon, beach combing, sweet Disney memories, and creative solutions to the pre cell phone communications conundrums. Thank you for taking me back and sharing your cherished memories.