DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

The Travel Gap

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE LOST YEARS

Something strange happens in my “Family Vacation” scrapbook after 1974.  The family vacations continue, but I’m not in any of the pictures, with the exception of a couple of day trips.  In 1975, I took a detour.  Let’s talk about it.

What Did I Do Instead?

I graduated from  Bryan Adams High School in 1973 with great expectations.  Going away to Stephen F. was nothing I expected.  That’s a story for another day, but when I took the vacation with my family in 1974, I didn’t realize it was the end of a era.  It wouldn’t be my last family vacation, but it would be the last vacation I took with my family until 1990.  That’s sixteen years!

1975 is easy to explain.  My roomie talked me into staying at SFA for the summer as a Summer Orientation Student Assistant.  I didn’t make good choices that summer and it didn’t get any better that fall.  By the end of the Fall semester I was done with SFA.  My poor choices included missing a lot of classes and my GPA was in the dumpster.  What happened next?

The Life Detour

While I take responsibility for my bad choices, in part, I also blame the times.  The world was changing.  I had come to SFA armed with the expectations my mother gave me and those expectations did not equip me for my experience in Nacogdoches.  There were good things about my time there.  I was a more self confidant person than the somewhat gawky girl who first moved into an SFA dorm.  I had a more open mind and was more likely to take chances.  I did not have a college degree however and when it comes to poor choices, that tops the charts.

I had been sent to college so I would be able to “get a job.”  After five semesters at university I didn’t feel as if any of my courses had gotten me any further towards that goal.  Though I started out as a Liberal Arts student, those were a dime a dozen out in the job market and after my first year, my parents wanted me to get serious about my career path.  I enjoyed my business courses, but to graduate with a business degree you needed business math and after three tries I knew I wasn’t ever going to pass that course.  I made a detour over to the fashion department, but for some reason they thought anyone interested in fashion could sew, which I could not.  My real interest was writing and had been from the beginning, but my parents wouldn’t support that career track.  It was one thing for me to be a Liberal Arts student my first year, but after that I needed to focus on getting a job.

Now I know I would have been so much better off if I’d just stayed the course and gotten a Liberal Arts degree.  Any degree is better than no degree at all.  I also know there are all kinds of jobs related to writing.  You don’t have to become a Pulitzer Prize reporter or write the next best seller.  You can write ad copy, do technical writing, even be a reader for publishing house, but I didn’t know enough about anything to even know those kind of jobs existed.  Neither did my parents.

Getting a Job 

When I announced I was leaving SFA, I reminded my parents they had sent me there to get a job and I was certain I could get a job without a degree.  Besides, since I had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn’t know what to get the degree in.  We didn’t discuss the writing thing.  The subject was taboo.

I did get a job pretty quickly.  By February of 1976 I was working for Sears as a management trainee.  You had to work there for a year to be eligible for a vacation.  When 1977 rolled around, all my SFA buddies were graduating and several of them were going to the Bahamas to celebrate.  Since I’d been working, I had money in the bank.  Guess who decided to go with them?

I still have fourteen years to explain, but I think it would be more fun to go to the Bahamas.  Come by next week and join me!

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Gulf Coast Goodies

TRAVEL THERE: FROM PLANTATIONS TO PO’ BOYS

When it comes to travel, food is a just part of the fun, but if you’re talking Gulf Coast, it’s a big part of the fun.  On this trip I’ve had crawfish in Evangeline Country, nibbled on beignets and dined at Brennan’s.  Over the next few days, food moved to the forefront.  I had fried this and broiled that.  I had seafood stuffed with crab and shrimp in all kinds of formats.  I had seafood every time it was on the menu and I loved every bite of it, but there’s more to the Gulf Coast than seafood.  Come see what I mean.

Plantations

Just outside of New Orleans is the River Road.  Along it you’ll find one plantation after another.  In this day and age, slavery is a slippery slope.  Anything and everything associated with it is pretty much off limits.  I get it.  Slavery was bad.  What I don’t get is trying to revise history.  It’s like some people want to erase the first century of America’s existence, including anyone and everyone that owned a slave.

Well, America didn’t invent slavery or even participate in the worst of it.  It’s been a part of every society, virtually from the beginning of time and some slaves did a whole lot more that work in the fields or clean house.  If someone wants to erase slavery from the history books, they’re going to have to get a pretty big eraser.  Name a society from the Egyptians to the Mayans to the Celts – well to anyone you want to name.  They all had slaves, along with practicing a myriad of other sins – discrimination against women, child labor, sex trafficking, cruelty to animals – pretty much anything and everything we complain about ourselves today.  It’s really quite myopic to want discard everything American that is in anyway related to slavery and the Civil War.

If you are one of the eradicators, I don’t recommend the River Road to you.  You’ll be for pulling down the plantations and that would be a shame.  To begin with, the architecture is stunning, but it is also surprising.  While some are luxurious, you’ll most likely be surprised at how small the houses of the plantation owners were and many of them were quite plain.  Hopefully, visiting the River Road will get the Gone with the Wind images out of your mind and put you in touch with what it was really like to live out in the country raising cotton and rice.

Like many things on this trip, I can’t actually remember visiting the River Road plantations with my family, but I do remember recalling them when I visited them in later years.  We also saw The Myrtles, a home famous for its ghosts.  However, I’d be lying to you if I pretended I knew which order we saw them in.

Biloxi

Whatever order we saw the plantations in, Biloxi was our final destination.  While we saw a variety of sites, including taking a ride on the Shrimp Tour Train, we were in Biloxi to see Beauvior.  If slavery is off limits, then I guess Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy is beyond the pale.  Rather than apologize, I’ll just direct you to this post  I wrote back in 2012.  The president has changed, but my politics haven’t.

At Biloxi we stayed on the beach, though I can’t remember our accommodations.  I know about the beach, because Mom’s coiffure, which was pouffy in New Orleans, is decidedly flat in Biloxi.  That indicates time spent in the water and we’ve always enjoyed sea water more than pools.  One of the pictures on my scrapbook page is also seashells in the sand.

Were I to go on this trip today, I’m sure I’d have more than my fair share of food pictures, taken with my phone.  As I write I can see piping hot oyster po’ boys.  I can see baskets filled with fried potatoes, hushpuppies and shrimp, still sizzling from the hot grease.  My mouth is watering from the memory, but we used film back then and it was expensive – so we didn’t take all those food pictures we do now.  In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been considered particularly polite and manners were quite important.

Our Gulf Shores vacation was over.  It was time to take Aunt Edie home and get back to Dallas.  Next week I’ll shift gears a little.  Come see where we’re headed.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Nawlins

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE CHATEAU HOTEL AND THE FRENCH QUARTER

It’s 1974.  I’m about to start my second year of college, Nixon just resigned and we’re in the French Quarter.  Come along and join the fun.

The Chateau Hotel

As I’ve told you before, Holiday Inn tended to be our usual accommodations, but for New Orleans we stayed right in the French Quarter at The Chateau Hotel I’m happy to report that you can stay there today if you want to.  I confess I was thrilled, just by the mere fact that it wasn’t our usual roadside motel.  It was an honest to goodness hotel right in the middle of everything.

I remember entering our room and walking right to the windows to look out at the French Quarter.  It was exhilarating to see something besides a freeway.  Our first night in town we had to grab a quick bite and get back to the hotel in time for my parents to see the infamous news conference featuring Richard Nixon’s resignation.

In addition to being right in the middle of the French Quarter, The Chateau Hotel also had an amazing courtyard where breakfast was served each morning.  Those morning meals are among my favorite memories of the trip.  I am devoted to al fresco dining and for all I know, this is where my passion for it originated.

The French Quarter

Once breakfast was over, Mom had our itinerary all planned out.  We set out on foot to see the sights.  The tour started at Jackson Square to visit St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo.  Beignets at Cafe du Monde were de rigueur, but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had better.

I can’t remember all the places Mom dragged us to over the next few days, but I can tell you that we ate dinner at Brennan’s, another treat you can still enjoy.  Supposedly, according to tradition, breakfast is the meal you are really supposed to eat at Brennan’s, but for my mom, having dinner there was just the bomb.  Dad had to put on a suit and tie.  Mom and Aunt Edie wore maxi-skirts, all the rage at the time.  There is no pictorial record of what Susan and I wore, but I do remember the meal.

I chose Chicken Madeira as my entree.  I was very impressed with myself, because it had a wine sauce.  Being a Baptist, my mom didn’t cook with wine, so at the time I didn’t realize the alcohol always cooked out.  I thought I was being a bit naughty.  Mom and Dad were afraid I wouldn’t like it and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that crazy about it, but there was no way I was going to admit it.

For dessert, I had their famous pecan pie.  I’ll confess something else.  I’d take my little sister’s pecan pie over their’s any day of the week, but at the time, she wasn’t baking any pies.  Still, I remember being under-impressed.  Brennan’s hadn’t been a big hit with me.

With my dessert, I had coffee and I’d never had coffee before.  I’d been away at school and could have had coffee with every meal, even though my parents had never offered me any.  I just wasn’t interested.  At Brennan’s the waiter convinced me I couldn’t leave their restaurant without having some of their famous chicory coffee.  So, my first taste of coffee was a baptism by bitterness.  I still don’t drink coffee.

So that was my family vacation to New Orleans.  I’ve been several times since.  My favorite New Orleans cuisine is a toss up between a big ole bowl of BBQ Shrimp or a Muffalatta sandwich from a storefront my friend Michael took me to.  I know I’d rather eat BBQ Shrimp than anything Brennan’s has on the menu.  And speaking of Brennan’s, if you have to choose between Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, I’d vote for Commander’s Palace.  New Orleans really is a culinary treat, but I wouldn’t have known it from that 1974 visit.

The next page in my scrapbook says I am Biloxi Bound, so I hope you’ll join me next week for a little Gulf Shore fun.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Libraries, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Evangeline in Louisiana

TRAVEL BUG TALES: CRAWDADS AND ACADIANS

“This is the forest primeval,” is the beginning phrase of Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline It’s a fictional story of love lost and then found too late.  It’s also about political injustice, because French settlers of Canada, called Acadians, were deported by the British, just for being Catholics.  In the story, Evangeline is among the deportees who were sent to Louisiana – hence Evangeline Parish.  Let’s go visit.

Traveling Evangeline Country

Though I can’t remember all the logistics between Dallas and Evangeline Country, I do remember being sick and tired of riding in the back seat on a sticky August afternoon.  We had Aunt Edie with us, which was fun, but I’m guessing we hit the road around 4 AM.  By late afternoon I’m sure I was second guessing my decision to go on this family vacation.

We piled out of the car at a Mardi Gras museum, but I’m not sure where it was.  They were very proud of the fact that they’d been doing Mardi Gras a lot longer than New Orleans.  The museum was full of beautiful costumes, but the best part was the air conditioning!  There was also a lot of material about Acadian history.  They were very interested in visitors understanding that while outsiders may think the terms Cajun and Creole are interchangeable, Cajuns and Creoles don’t.  Cajuns descended from the Acadians.  Creoles are descended from the French mixing with various other races, especially around New Orleans.  Creoles probably thought Cajuns were hicks, while Cajuns claimed a purer racial lineage, which was much more important back in the 70’s than it is today.

Ça C’est Bon

Regardless of their racial heritage, Cajuns know how to eat.  That evening we ate the local cuisine.  Mom had done her research and we had dinner at what was supposed to be THE place to eat crawfish.  I keep thinking the name of it was Anderson’s, but don’t hold me to that.

Wherever it was, it was a great, big barn-like place.  The menu offered crawfish this, crawfish that and crawfish whatever else.  I was a little squeamish about sucking heads, but the rest of it sounded pretty good to me.  I’m sure I got some sort of combo plate so I could try it more than one way.  I’m also pretty sure that everyone else chose more traditional seafood choices, like fried shrimp and then sampled my entrees.  I’ve always been a little more food adventurous than the rest of my family.

We probably spent the night at a Holiday Inn.  That’s where we usually stayed.  The next day we moved on to New Orleans.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Big Easy

Seeing the USA in our Chevrolet

TRAVEL TALK: TURN IT UP! THAT’S MY SONG!

The Trip That Didn’t Happen

Some people say they found themselves when they went away to college.  I think I always knew who I was, but I did try out a few other personalities.  One of them showed up the day I called Mom to tell her I was going to New Orleans with some friends.  Mom threw a conniption fit, but I held on to my guns. I was going to New Orleans and since she wasn’t in Nacogdoches, there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Only I didn’t go.  I can’t remember what kind of teen-aged drama played out to keep me in my dorm room, but I do remember pouting all weekend.  I also remember wanting to call Mom and complain to her, but I couldn’t because I was punishing her.  Aren’t we silly sometimes?

Were I a psychologist, I would probably expound on why Mom chose Louisana that year for the summer vacation, but I’m just a travel blogger, so I’ll leave it to your speculation.  Choosing hot, humid August for traveling probably had a lot to do with my summer job.  The big news was that Aunt Edie was going with us.

The Trip That Did Happen

Poor Aunt Edie was stuck in the back seat with the two Kool-Aid lovers.  We didn’t actually love Kool-aid, but in those days, Bill Cosby was the bomb and my sister adored him.  She played the LP “To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With” so many times, the whole family had it memorized.  Mom often adopted the Kool-Aid moniker to refer to Susan and I.

Aunt Edie sat in the middle, straddling the hump, because if we’d had to determine which one of us would sit next to her, there would have been all out war.  We’d grown up enough for Mom to abandon I Spy, Twenty Questions, Travel Bingo Cards and personalized grab bags, but not enough for Aunt Edie to have a relaxing ride in the back seat.

Whispering Bill Anderson (Vinyl, LP, Album) album coverThe Radio

Eight track tapes were all the rage, but having a player in your car cost extra, so our Chevrolet didn’t have one.  Dad was an AM radio aficionado anyway – because that’s where the sports were.  Because of Dad, I have a fine ear for sportscasting.  I can tell which sport is being broadcast, just from the cadence of the sportscaster’s voice, even when I can’t hear individual words.

Radio is a bit of an adventure on the road, because you have to take what’s available, especially when all you have is an AM radio.  When Dad could find baseball or news, that’s what we’d listen to, because he was in charge.  He also preferred country and western music over rock and roll, so if he could tune in Whispering Bill Anderson or Charlie Pride, then that’s what we’d listen to.

Thankfully, we’d also go through places where all we could pick up was Top 40 Hits.  That’s when Susan and I would perk up and pay attention.  Even though I remember the trip as a series of newscasts and sportscasts, highlighted with a baseball games, according to Aunt Edie, the whole trip was one great big rock and roll experience.  She claimed each time a new song came on the radio, either Susan or I would shout out, “That’s my song!  Turn it up!” and then we’d both bounce to the rhythm of the music.

Related imageNixon Resigns

There was something else happening on the radio on that trip, though I didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time.  Much like the Blue Dress incident of Clinton’s day and our current fascination with collusion, our nation was preoccupied with the matter of Watergate.  The news was full of speculation, but late in the afternoon, the newscast was so dire that my dad pulled off the road and into a parking lot.  We listened as it was announced Nixon had called a news conference that evening and word was he would resign.  My dad cried.  And that’s not something that happened very often.  He forecast our nation would be forever changed by this and he was right.

Looking back from this day to that, it seems as if our nation has been constantly embroiled in some expensive Congressional hearing – Watergate, Iran Contra, Monica Lewinsky, Fast and Furious, Benghazi and now Russian Collusion, among so many others.  How much money has all this investigating cost our nation and what good has it really done for anyone?  It’s all political one-up-man-ship.  What if instead it had been spent on feeding the poor, our failing infrastructure, education, improving our health system?  Anything but politicians trying to oust their opponents.

I usually avoid political discussions here on my blog, but that day began a new era in American politics.  The presidency was vulnerable and you didn’t have to win an election to unseat the Leader of the Free World.  It hadn’t been the ill-advised break-in which had led to the popular president’s demise.  It had been the cover-up.  It had also been technology.  He had tapes and it was his own tapes which had undermined his term.  Today’s scandals are all about technology.  We don’t question whether the Russians used social media to influence the election, but the Mueller investigation is desperately looking for the text or e-mail that proves our president colluded with the Russians, even though collusion is not even a crime.

I’ll climb off my soap box.  Susan and I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what we’d heard.  Our lives had been influenced by other milestones – the assassination of JFK, Viet Nam, man walking on the moon, Kent State and LBJ refusing to run for re-election.  These seems like momentous events.  Watergate seemed like much ado about nothing.  For now, we’re almost to Evangeline County.  Come back next week for some crawfish.

Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

What Was That About Padre

TRAVEL BUGS TALES: PICKING UP WHERE I LEFT OFF

Has it really been almost two years since my last Travel Bug Tales post?  Yep, Novemeber of 2016, so that’s almost two years.  Friends, we’ve done a lot of traveling together since then. 

Instead of trying to explain the Travel Bug sabbatical, I’ll just get busy and pick up where I left off.  If you’ve been hanging around here for a long time, then you know, Travel Bug Tales are stories from my pre-blog days – in particular from my youth, when my love for travel first started.

If you’ve just shown up in the last year or so, then let me explain.  Travel used to be different.  You didn’t have a smart phone, flip phone or even a mobile phone.  You had pay phones.  Hence there was no GPS, no texting, no email and no internet.  You just took out on the road with no digital means of support and hoped for the best.  Personally, I thought it was a lot more fun.  Come along with me to the beach.

The Padre Trip

Right before I abandoned Travel Bug Tales, I promised to tell you about a trip to Padre Island, one of the beaches we visited in Mom’s effort to find a Texas replacement for Myrtle Beach, her favorite place on Earth.  For this particular vacation, we traveled with another family.  The Smiths had boys and my parents had girls.  All the Smith boys, but one, were too old to go on a family vacation and Tracy was my sister’s age.  Actually, they also had a son my age, but he stayed home – by himself.  I couldn’t decide whether to feel sorry for him or be jealous.

I can’t imagine what I would have done at home by myself.  I had a car, but I only drove it to school and church.  I’d traveled without my parents before, but only on a mission trip and on church retreats.  So, while a part of me thought it was pretty cool Kieth got to stay home by himself, the other part of me would have been devastated to miss out on the family fun.   

Still I was the odd man out any way you sliced it.  I didn’t quite fit in with the adults, but I when I spent time with the kids, I knew I wasn’t a one of them any longer either.  The picture of me standing alone on the beach sums up my vacation perfectly.

Beach Memories

I didn’t keep travel journals back in the day, so things get fuzzy, but the first stop on this trip was Corpus Christi and it was unremarkable.

Next came Padre.  While I didn’t love Myrtle Beach quite as much as my mom, I did enjoy the days we spent in the Lides’ beach house and getting up early to comb the receding tide for shells.

We three kids, Susan (my sister), Tracy (the Smiths’ son) and I, got up very early on our first morning in Padre.  Light had just begun to suggest it might appear as we hit the beach with our buckets.  Nada!  Not so much as an interesting rock.  I was so frustrated I was almost in tears.  No big deal, I was a teenager.  Tears were always at the edge of erupting.

This was only the beginning of my frustrations.  Perhaps this trip may begin to explain why I’m iffy about beaches now, when I’d lived for beach time as a kid.  I was uncomfortable in my skin.  When I threw myself into the enjoyment of the trip, I was met with frustration, like the shell-less morning on the beach.  The rest of the time I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself.  I can understand, up to a point, why kids live on their phones.  I didn’t feel like me on this trip and a phone full of friends would have been comforting.

Heading Home

The rest of the trip turned out better.  From Padre we went to San Antonio.  I never feel odd on the Riverwalk. We stayed in the Hilton which was at the turn of the river and it’s the first time I remember staying in a hotel that upscale.  My folks usually opted for Holiday Inn.

A highlight of the trip was a riverboat ride.  Susan and the adults weren’t all that interested, so Tracy and I made a round trip.  Without Susan to tend to, something very unusual in my childhood, I ignored Tracy and pretended I was by myself.  It was exhilarating.  I was discovering that while I enjoyed people, I didn’t need them to enjoy myself.

From San Antonio, the Smith’s headed to Dallas, but we made a stop in Temple to visit my beloved Aunt Edie.  Her home was my second home.  I was allowed to go for long rambling walks on my own and I loved it.  We’d go on fun shopping trips and have laughter filled lunches.

So, that was our trip to Padre.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith were good friends to my parents, but we didn’t take anymore trips together.  It wasn’t their fault that Padre didn’t stack up to Myrtle Beach, but I think it was more than that.  No one could replace the Lides for Mom and Dad.  The annual pilgrimages to Myrtle Beach began then and suddenly I was left behind, on my own.  They’d head to Myrtle Beach and I’d stay home.  I would have summer jobs and needed the money for college.

I was growing up.  There are more Travel Bug Tales, but I’m not sure which one I’ll tell you next.  Come back next week and find out where we’re headed.

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, TRAVEL

Lakeside Baptist Church – My Other Family

Mom and I with Eddie Jo, one of Mom's dear Lakeside friends.
Mom and I with Eddie Jo, one of Mom’s dear Lakeside friends.

TRAVEL BUG TALES: KIN BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB

As I’ve chatted about beaches, I’ve also mentioned Mrs. Lide.  Mom and Mrs. Lide were besties.  I get that, because I have a bestie.  But having a bestie doesn’t short circuit the ability to have other very, very good friends.  My mom taught me that and I am grateful.  I feel sorry for people who are so wrapped up in one another there’s no room for the rest of the world – whether the other is a spouse, a best friend or a relative.  When we moved to Texas, Mom lost her close daily contact with Mrs. Lide, but it didn’t cripple her.  She just set about filling her life with other wonderful people.  No one ever replaced Mrs. Lide in her heart, but the fun she shared made for a great life. 

From the Archives!  The Caves had attended for 20 of these years and my sister is still there these 30 years later!
From the Archives! The Caves had attended for 20 of these years and my sister is still there 30 years later!

The Lakeside Connection

When we moved to Dallas, one of the first things Mom did was take us church shopping, but it was a short trip.  We visited the Baptist Church closest to us, but it didn’t pass the Ruth test.  Nothing wrong with it, beyond the fact that it wasn’t what Mom was looking for.  The next Sunday we ventured a little further down Garland Road to Lakeside Baptist Church.  Mom hitched her wagon to Lakeside and she was set for the rest of her life.

Back in those days, the Baptist Sunday Schools were divided up by age and marital status and there was no getting around it. Nowadays they call them Life Groups and the age/marital status rule is not so hard and fast.   Mom landed in a group of ladies called the Grace Class.  They did life together for decades.  They prayed for one another when there were problems and sickness.  A death brought out casseroles and potted plants. If one of my parents were in the hospital for an operation, the entire waiting room filled up with Lakesiders.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved those people or how much they loved me.

As a side note, my dad was a Sunday School Rebel.  The wives and the husbands of my parents’ classes would meet together for a general assembly each week, to sing a few hymns, make announcements and pray together.  Then they’d divide up into several smaller, sexually-segregated groups to study the lesson in their quarterly.  Dad’s biblical curiosity dug deeper than the quarterly, so when a Bible scholar started a survey class, open to both men and women, Dad defected.  Mom didn’t approve.  She called the Bible Survey Class members kooks and weirdos. To hear her tell it, you’d think Jesus Christ Himself had ordained the Baptist Adult Quarterly.

A peek at Mom's Sunday School Class
A peek at Mom’s Sunday School Class

The 42 Group

By some sort of natural selection,  several of the Lakeside couples started a group which played 42 together once a month.  This started as a simple game of dominoes with a few snacks, but it didn’t stay that way.  It quickly morphed into elaborate table decorations and a three-course meal before the dominoes came out.

My Dad, the Sunday School Rebel, didn’t approve of the ordeal which this simple monthly game of dominoes turned into.  Probably none of the men did, but the women were in their glory.  To them, the annual assignment of homes for the get-togethers was more important than the Paris Peace Talks.  Popular assignments were February and October, because Valentines and Autumn Leaves were easy party themes.  Ending up with December was a fate worse than death.  Being the December hostess meant you had to decide which restaurant would win the honor of hosting the Christmas gala and you had to be sure your Christmas decor bested the previous year’s display.

There were unspoken, elaborate rules attached to the monthly game and as my parents aged the rules evolved.  Choosing a replacement couple for someone who was unable to attend in a given month was a monumental task, carefully discussed during multiple phone conversations.  The ladies also discussed how put upon they were by the necessity of finding another couple.  Hadn’t they been having this game on the second Friday night of the month for a long time?  How could the missing couple dare to put everyone through this ordeal?

Then there was the first couple to quit for medical reasons.  I heard much discussion about whether that had been a decision of necessity or convenience.  Another milestone was the first death.  Should widows be allowed to continue and who would serve as partners?  Every season of life brought its own challenges to the 42 Group and finally an end.

Most comical to me was the ride sharing.  As these dear ones aged, some of them weren’t getting around so well.  To complicate matters, while the group had started out in a close knit geographical area, over the years some of the couples moved.  The result was a flurry of monthly phone calls about who was going to ride with whom – and more than a few discussions about why anyone would move out of East Dallas.

Memories of these dear ones bring me both laughter and tears.  It seems impossible, but I couldn’t find a single shot of the 42 Group among Mom’s photos.  There were plenty of her friends from that monthly domino game and I have so many memories, but no photos.  So, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Come back next week and we’ll go to Padre Island with one of the 42 couples.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Other Beaches Mom Didn’t Love

Except from my scrapbook
Except from my scrapbook

TRAVEL BUG TALES: MORE TEXAS BEACHES THAT DIDN’T CUT IT

In our efforts to find a beach my mom could love in Texas, we visited other beaches along the coast over the years.  While the Caves managed to have their usual good times, nothing could replace Myrtle Beach in Mom’s heart.

Corpus Christi

On another trip we went to Corpus Christi.  In its defense it’s only a bay behind a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, so it starts out with a handicap.  Like Galveston, the beach is on one side of the street and the hotels are on another.  For kids who grew up playing in the dunes along Myrtle Beach and Edisto Island on the Atlantic – well, it’s just not the same.  When we visited Corpus Christi we made a ferry trip to some island and visited something called Searama, but I think underwhelmed would be a good description of our reactions.

I do remember seeing families riding around in bicycle surreys and I thought that looked like a good time.  I guess it was a little out of my parent’s budget, because we didn’t do it.  In those years Mom was all about saving to buy a house, so we were quite economical.  Decades later I visited with Bill and he wasn’t too keen on the surreys either.  I guess I’m going to have to drag my bestie down there, because she’s always game for whatever I cook up.

The highlight of the trip with my parents was dinner at an ocean-side restaurant.  While I distinctly remember the delicious meal and panoramic views of a harbor, I can’t remember the name of the place and in later years I couldn’t find anything comparable.

Padre Island

I love Texas and I rarely tolerate anyone saying anything derogatory about it, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a great state for beaches.  The East Coast has all those long, wide sandy beaches with pristine sand dunes.  The West Coast has the drama of rocky cliffs and haystacks in the water.  Then there’s Florida, which is just a strip of land with two coasts of gorgeous beaches and the marvel of the keys.  Even the Gulf Coast States have some pretty beaches with amazing seafood restaurants and other attractions, like golf courses to entertain the beach-goer.

Texas just doesn’t.  Padre is the prettiest beach in Texas I’ve been to, but it’s also a national seashore and that has curbed development.  You do get a lot of beach and pristine dunes, but good luck finding anything else.  To me beach means an early morning walk looking for shells followed by a hearty breakfast.  Then you do a little shopping, see a local attraction or play a little putt putt.  Lunch is something quick, because you’ll be in the water all afternoon.  The evening meal is a big deal.  Then it’s time for bed.

Looking for shells on Padre is a waste of time.  There’s nothing to do out there except the beach, so you have to give up a whole day of beach, if you want to visit civilization.  The few restaurants out there are mediocre.  Is there a beautiful beach?  Well, yes, but the truth of the matter is that the adult me is not as crazy about water and sand as my younger version.  Slathering on suncreen and getting caked-over by blowing sand, while my force of nature (my head of hair) goes wild, is just not one of my favorite experiences.  I can take about half an hour of that and I’m done.  Sitting by the pool is more pleasant and with a good book I can last an hour.

With that being said, my family did manage to have a pretty good time in Padre during Mom’s search for a Myrtle Beach replacement, so I’ll tell you about that next week.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

No Beach Like Myrtle Beach

Mom at her beach.  This was the year she took a wig!
Mom at her beach. This was the year she took a wig!

TRAVEL BUG TALES: GALVESTON BEACH JUST DOESN’T CUT IT

My mom’s happy place was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Part of that happiness had to do with her bestie, Mrs. Lide, who was always with her there.  I have to give Mom credit, though.  She never quit trying to find a happy place closer to home.  Nothing ever seemed to satisfy her like a walk along Myrtle Beach, but she never gave up and she was always optimistic.  So she visited a lot of beaches, but for her, there was no beach like Myrtle Beach.

Galveston

The first beach my mom tried to love in Texas was Galveston.  Our first summer back, we visited family down in Houston and made the trek to Galveston.  That’s when my Uncle Billy lost his wallet while he was fishing – one of my favorite stories, but I’ve already shared it.

The family made another trip down there, but I can’t pinpoint the date from the photographs I have.  It could have even been on one of the family vacations we made from Georgia. In Galveston, you have a seawall and above the seawall you have a road.  We stayed in a motel along Seawall Boulevard, right across the street from the beach.  I thought I’d shared this story before, but I couldn’t find it here, so if you’ve heard it, excuse me.  Even if I haven’t blogged about it, I know I’ve told it a million times, so some of you may be familiar with it.

p-man-o-warMy Drama on the Beach

As soon as we got to Galveston, Susan and I were dying to hit the beach, but my folks wanted a break from the drive. Because we’d grown up hanging out at the beach and were aware of the dangers, Mom and Dad felt parental supervision was unnecessary.  Honestly, I was still young enough to be a little anxious about it, but old enough not to want to admit it.  I was particularly concerned about crossing the busy highway.  I was old enough to know all the rules, but had rarely had the opportunity to use them on my own, in a similar situation.

We crossed the road at the light, found a spot on the beach for our paraphernalia and waded out into the water.  Very likely, I was holding Susan’s hand, because she was quite little.  Within a few seconds of entering the water, Susan was attacked by a Portuguese-Man-o-War.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the species, it’s a particularly nasty type of jellyfish.

I will never forget the absolute terror I felt when Susan screamed.  I knew she wasn’t drowning, but I couldn’t immediately figure out what was wrong.  Her leg was turning red and swelling, so even though I still didn’t know what was up, I knew I needed reinforcements.

Jane to the Rescue

I have become the overly-responsible sort.  My husband laughs at me for my propensity to overthink a situation.  Whether I am planning a party or packing a suitcase, I think through every possible scenario.  This means I usually buy too much food for the party and carry entirely too much luggage, but I’m ready for anything.

 I remember very distinctly, on that day at Galveston Beach, being torn between two necessities.  I needed to get Susan to my parents, but I was also responsible for our belongings.  I was nearly crazy with fear for Susan, but I was also scared to death of being chastised for being irresponsible about my possessions.  I was still under scrutiny for the BBQ joint incident, which most likely contributes to my current state of hyper-worry.

So with a screaming sister in tow, I dutifully grabbed up our beach gear and headed toward the official crosswalk, when what I wanted to do was tear across the street, leaving everything behind and ignoring traffic signals.  As soon as we made it across Seawall Boulevard, I was ready to give up my responsibilities and just be a scared kid.  I made a beeline for our room and by then, I’m pretty sure I was yelling almost as loudly as Susan was screaming.

Sardines and Crackers

I’d be very surprised if we’d been away from the room for more than ten minutes.  When my dad opened the door, I remember my mom was setting up a sort of picnic with sardines and crackers.  Every time I see a can of sardines, I am transported back to this moment (which has greatly reduced my taste for these delicacies of the canned food aisle.)  My parents didn’t immediately pick up on my panic.  I’ve been known to overreact – another thing my husband points out to me frequently.  I’m sure they thought, “What has Jane gotten into now?” (Which I’m sure my husband also thinks from time to time.)

However, in almost the same breath, they figured out this was the real thing and started trying to ascertain what to do, which I am sure was not exactly easy.  I was yelling in panic, Susan was screaming in pain and we had no idea what caused our distress in the first place – only that we wanted it to end.

Almost immediately, someone else came into the room.  Susan obviously wasn’t the first kid attacked by a Portuguese-Man-o-War.  The desk clerk had seen us head to the beach and then return in a screaming panic.  He’d seen that before and showed up with a bottle of ammonia.

Return to a State of Normalcy

Within moments Susan’s screams turned into whimpers and my eyeballs returned into my sockets.  My parents were extremely grateful for the help and expressed their never-ending appreciation to the desk clerk.  Eventually, I was asked for a recap and during my telling of the event, I am sure that I pointed out that I had remembered to pick up our towels – not that it relived me from hearing about the BBQ joint incident with great frequency.

Poor Susan…she was the cause of so many of my childhood traumas.  She was still an infant when she split open her head by crawling into a piece of furniture.  I couldn’t stand to watch them stitching her up and I couldn’t stand not to.  Then there was the time she got lost at Mount Vernon and the awful bug bite.  A schoolyard feud that followed me into junior high arose because someone accused her of something she swore she didn’t do.  I may not have always been the best big sister in the world, but she knew then what she knows now – when you’re in trouble, Jane will help.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Myrtle Beach SC in the Good Old Days

BPS01252016_0018TRAVEL BUG TALES: A GROOVY TIME AT THE BEACH

Sorry to leave you hanging.  It was almost two months ago that I shared my sad tale of woe about my embarrassing day in Williamsburg, VA.  The worst thing about it was the knowledge that my busted lip and scabbed-up arm and leg were going to really sting when I got into the Atlantic Ocean.

Back to the Beach

After Williamsburg, we were headed to Myrtle Beach.  I’ve already talked about how much my family loved visiting the Lide’s beach house.  This trip was much the same, but this time Ann didn’t come.  Her brother Bobby was there and I admit I crushed on him in an embarrassing way, but hey, I was 14.

The highlights of Myrtle Beach include:

  • the carnival with a ride called The Scrambler
  • seining the ocean
  • dinner at The Captain’s Table
  • putt putt
  • driving to Calabash NC for flounder

Nothing Stays the Same

Myrtle Beach was the icing on the cake of a great vacation.  It was the last time we stayed in the beach house.  The Lide family sold it and bought a condo.  I never stayed in the condo, but my mom and dad returned year after year to play in the sand with their good friends.

These visits back to Myrtle Beach were something my parents cherished.  The guys would play golf and the ladies would shop.  Then they’d make the required visits to Calabash and The Captain’s Table, but they’d also try out everything else on the strip.  I was a little jealous that my younger sister got to go along on many of these return visits.  I was away at school or out being a career girl, so I was not supposed to mind – but I did.

In later years I would take mom back to Myrtle Beach for one more visit.  We rented a condo in a high-rise building and it was very nice, but it wasn’t the old beach house.  The carnival with The Scrambler was gone, but the main drag had become one long garish carnival with three million putt-putt courses.  The Captain’s Table was still there and the line was still long, but either the food wasn’t quite what it should have been or my tastes had changed.

The most disappointing thing about that final return to Myrtle Beach was Calabash.  In my memory, Calabash was a tiny town with a main drag peppered with the best seafood restaurants in the world.  I can still taste the fried flounder, hush-puppies and cole slaw.  We, of course, had our favorites, but you would have been hard-pressed to get a bad meal anywhere along the street.

On our final return, there was only one seafood restaurant.  Every other restaurant was a member of the usual chains you see everywhere.  The one seafood restaurant that remained was devoid of ambiance.  It was a huge barn of a place with formica-topped tables, while my memory clung to white tablecloths, impeccable service and flickering candles.

But that trip was long after my return in 1969.  I’ll tell you about it someday.  In 1970 we went to Corpus Christi for our family vacation, but I have only fleeting memories of it that wouldn’t make for much of a blog post.  We also visited cousins in Oklahoma City.  I remember a remarkable roadside tribute to Native Americans on that trek, but we didn’t have any pictures.  Though I’ve researched it in hopes of making a return, it has apparently disappeared, which is really sad.

In 1971, we moved into a new house – the one I always think of as home, so vacations took a back seat.  In 1972, we took a trip to South Texas with some friends from church.  Come back next week and I’ll show you around.