How I Spent…
With summer approaching, I recall a memorable vacation my family took in 1964. My father, a captain in the Philadelphia Fire Department, decided it would be a good idea to visit Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A high school classmate of mine had moved there, which seemed to be the only motivation he needed to suggest the most ambitious adventure we had ever undertaken.
I was fifteen when my parents, my younger brother and my sixty-four-year-old grandmother, Nanny Jones, and I piled into the only car we owned, a ’61 two-tone Chevy Biscayne, a cheaper model with a “three-on-the tree” manual transmission. No air conditioning. Think about it: twenty-five hundred round trip miles through the south in the hottest, muggiest month of the year.
The outbound trip is a story in itself. Details include mechanical failure, wrong turns on blue highways in Georgia, withering temperatures, and all five of us sleeping in the same motel room at night. Dad and Nanny competed to see who snored the loudest.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with no reservations, but found wonderful accommodations right on the beach at the Sandy Shoes motel in Ft. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. I visited my friend, and we enjoyed the warm water, but on the third day a hurricane blew in. It was spectacular to watch the storm develop, but not so hot when we had to evacuate to a motel across the road, away from the ocean surge. Torrential rain followed howling winds. We watched part of a roof blow down the street. The next morning there were fish in the swimming pool and the beach was essentially gone. A day later we had to pack up and head for home.
We caught the storm in Georgia and struggled through wind and rain for two more days. Right after we arrived, riots broke out in the city, the rest of my father’s vacation was canceled and we didn’t see him for a week. In late September our beloved Phillies blew a six game lead over the last ten days of the season and missed going to the World Series by a game or two. My grandfather, Nanny Jones’s husband, died in November, around the time I was practicing to get my driver’s license. He was sixty-three, the same age I am now.
Mom and dad are gone, and my three sons are grown men. I wonder what vacations stories they’ll tell their children?