1969. A year with tremendous highlights.
As if landing on the moon, Nixon’s inauguration, Woodstock, the release of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” the premiere of “Sesame Street,” “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” is released to movie theaters, and the Mets winning the World Series weren’t enough, my father decided we should go on the All-American Family Campout.
Earlier in July, we had traveled to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Virginia Beach, and Washington, DC where we absorbed so much history and saw terrific beautiful scenery. I even got to see protestors outside The White House and on The National Mall near The Reflecting Pool and The Lincoln Memorial.
That was a tremendous amount of excitement for a lad who would turn five in a few months.
This particular trip was not moving along the same preparations as other weekend trips to Gatlinburg, Dewart Lake, or Holland, Michigan.
I always had the run of the backseat in my parents steel blue Bonneville but since “something” was taking up most of the trunk, more than half of my domain was spoken for and I was agitated.
My investigation concluded there were boxes filled with pots and pans, grates, trash bags, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, hand and bath towels, funny looking folding seats, and so much more interesting inventory.
I can remember being curious but don’t recall my parents mentioning “camping.” All I knew about camping came from Yogi Bear cartoons or other television programs.
My father had the ambitions and intentions of Clark Griswold in the Family Vacation movies, but without the Chevy Chase antics.
Mother said the travel time was filled with she and my father answering a multitude of questions, none of which satisfied my preciousness.
One response, “Yes, we’re almost there,” was puzzling because we’d already passed a Holiday Inn with a pool.
I remember pulling up to a huge tree where an elderly man sat in a webbed lawn chair, simply chatting with my parents. My mother threw one of her glares when I asked why he was being rude and not standing.
After he stood and completed some kind of transaction, we moved along the gravel trail as the tires making the popping sound as they ran over rocks.
￼My parents pulled into the numbered section that would be our weekend abode.
“Where’s the hotel? This isn’t Holiday In!”
My parents explained this new form of Holiday Inn… but I experienced something entirely different:
- sleeping in a tent
- sleeping on top of a sleeping bag
- strange sounds
- no pool (I’ve never been a lake kid)
- no television (especially, no Johnny Carson!)
- cooking over an open fire where the smoke line followed me everywhere
- bathrooms? And then the war was on! The concrete building had open showers and the toilet area smelled worse than any of my cousins’ farms.
I can still remember most of it and fifty one years later, it still seems unpleasant.
Mother said I complained (my dad said “bitched with every breath”) so much that we never attempted camping, again. Mother, admittedly, didn’t enjoy camping.
When I took my sons down to the Outer Banks, I saw what appeared to be a really cool campsite, Camp Hatteras. It sounded fun, actually.
It never happened.