Vacations and Visiting Relatives #AtoZChallenge

V is for Vacations and Visiting Relatives. Twenty-second of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Holidays and summertime still evoke memories of vacations and visiting relatives during my elementary years. My family often took to the road in our Pontiac station wagon — and I well remember our seating arrangement inside the car.

https://pixabay.com/photos/dunes-sand-dunes-sunset-boat-352593/
Beach and dunes on Cape Cod. For two weeks every summer General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. Photo: Pixabay

My dad was a road warrior and generally in the driver’s seat. On long trips, my mom sat in the back seat behind him. Why? So she could be in reach of all of us kids if we needed something — or if we got out of line and required a firm hand. Also, she could tap Dad’s head as a wake-up call if he  seemed to be nodding off.

Up front, I rode shotgun with my brother Mark in the middle, Jeff and Amy were in back next to Mom — and Carol, alas, had to sit in a cleared spot in the station wagon’s trunk. And thus we traveled from Endwell, N.Y. to our various destinations.

Vacations

General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down for two weeks every summer — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. We rented a family-friendly wood-frame house withing walking distance to the beach — and it became our home away from home for a fortnight.

https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/capobject/?refd=MS028.01.012.019
Cape Cod souvenir matches. During college, my mom broke up with my dad before her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod. Then she thought it over and sent Dad some souvenir matches — and that’s how they got back together. Talk about serendipity! Photo: historicnewengland.org

I associate Cape Cod with my childhood — but later learned of an important family history connection, too. Mom told me she used to go there with her parents (aka Boom and Gramps) — and during college before one of those vacations she had broken up with Dad, who she was dating at the time.

“But while I was at the cape, I thought it over and sent your father a box of Cape Cod souvenir matches,” she said. “And that’s how we got back together. Can you believe it?” Wow, talk about serendipity!

The cape was a great place to vacation as a child: hot, salty days on the beach and cool, foggy sweatshirt nights; weekly auctions of little trinkets outside the camp rental office, followed by fireworks; eating fried clams at noisy Kream ‘N Kone — and one time even boiling a lobster for my sister Carol’s birthday.

Plus there were tons of other children — some also from hometown GE families — to hang out and play with. My siblings and I all still love Cape Cod based on our fun childhood vacations there.

Visiting relatives

Other trips — usually for weekends or holidays — involved visiting relatives and gave me a larger sense of family.

Family buggy ride (1956). A visit to my grandparents’ farm was always fun. Here, we ride in an antique carriage that my grandmother was likely planning to sell through her antique business. I am sporting ringlet curls my grandmother created with tied rags. Out of sight is my grandfather, who acted as the “horse” to pull us down the driveway. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

Visits to my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence on the farm were always fun — and sometimes surprising, as illustrated by our brief carriage ride above.

We kids loved running around in the fields, splashing in the small nearby creeks, skipping stones on the pond and feeding grass to the cows next door. But there were family gatherings, too.

A summer gathering of my maternal Italian- and German-American relatives. Boom and Gramps, my maternal grandparents, often invited their families over from Gloversville, N.Y. for family picnics at their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

My grandmother was big on keeping family connected, so she would invite her German-American and my grandfather’s Italian-American family over from Gloversville, N.Y. for big family picnics on their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years.

Dad’s North Country family

On separate trips, we drove north of Utica, N.Y. to visit my dad’s family — his three brothers, their wives and children and the paternal family patriarch Grandpa Charboneau. And sometimes, in the summer, we visited their camps in the Adirondacks.

Dinner with Dad’s family in New York’s North Country (circa 1962). I’m on the left in a red blouse in this photo of a dinner with some of Dad’s brothers, their families and Grandpa Charboneau. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

That’s how — little by little, through these regular visits to faraway relatives — I became acquainted with my extended family during my elementary years.

Up next: W is for Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree. Please stop back! 

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19 thoughts on “Vacations and Visiting Relatives #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Looks like your vacations and family gatherings were a ton of fun. We didn’t have a car so our holidays were by train as dad worked for the railway.

    1. I think the truck drivers enjoyed us riding back there, too! They always gave us big honks and waved back when we finally worked up the nerve to wave to them 🙂

  2. You are so lucky to have had those ‘big’ family vacations, getting to know at least some of your relatives. Many happy memories obviously, even the crowded car rides.

  3. Lovely memories of holidays and visiting relatives. As a young child, we always drove down to Bournemouth on the south coast of England, where a close friend of my mother had opened a small hotel. We stopped halfway to visit my grandmother and my father’s sister. It was a tedious journey, before the motorways were built, and of course no radio in the car, but we used to make up crazy songs and played games – I Spy of course and making up silly phrases from the letters of car number places. We enjoyed a typical 1950’s holiday once at the seaside.

    1. Funny how this type of car travel seems to have been ubiquitous in the 1950s-60s, at least in the developed world. That, combined with large families, led to the car games many of us now recall nostalgically.

  4. That’s a great idea to have two weeks off! Great memory. I’m glad you shared it.

    J Lenni Dorner ~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference & Speculative Fiction Author

    1. Two weeks were great. By the end, we felt like we “lived” there — which is how Cape Cod became a favored vacation spot in subsequent years.

  5. Our only vacations when I was growing up were to my uncles cottage on Lake Idlewild, MI. He had two small cottages that were full of family and a few close friends during the summers. We only went for two or three weeks but they were the high point of our summer.

    And isn’t it something to think of where we rode before seat belts? When my children were growing up we had a Rabbit volkswagon for a short time and when we took the shelf off of the back, two kids could sit back there, behind the back seat, in the trunk!

    Finding Eliza

    1. I know what you mean about safety. My dad’s small Fiat was a total health risk — it didn’t even have padding on the ceiling or doors. One summer, the contact paper glued up there came loose and curled around Dad’s head while he was driving! Amazing we have lived to tell these tales!

  6. Our vacations always meant staying with family (unless we went camping). Fortunately two of my father’s sisters lived on the Cape, so when we went there we had a place to stay. Motels and cabins were too expensive for a family of seven. I recall staying with relatives on one trip, I have no idea who they were or where we were going, but I do remember they had a pool table in their basement. My brothers and I wanted to take it with us when we left.

    1. Welcome, John! Nice to have another Cape Cod vacationer on board. And yes, pool tables are great. We eventually had an inexpensive one in our basement at home — hours of competitive fun!

  7. When I was little we used to go tent camping in the Adirondaks. Our home was near a lake and we used to swim there all summer. Then in early 50’s a couple of kids in our village got polio. No more swimming, beach was closed. Dad heard about land for sale in The Laurentians so he bought a lot at a lake and in one weekend he and my uncle put up a little two room plywood cottage about 3-4 feet from the water. Water was pumped in from the lake and the first couple of years we had an outhouse. It was eventually added to and winterized and we spent every summer (all summer) there with dad coming on weekends and some Wednesday’s. Best time of my childhood and teen years. A few times when older we went in winter and Dad would take us to Tremblant to ski.
    My dad is the one who kept in touch with everyone and made sure we or they visited. Even in his 80’s , with both his brothers long gone, he kept in touch with all my cousins.
    My sister went to Cape Cod one summer as a nanny with the family she babysat for! She loved it!

    1. This sounds like our camp on Page Lake in Pennsylvania! My uncles (Dad’s brothers) had camps in the Adirondacks, too, and we sometimes visited them in the summer.

  8. I’ve only done a Cape vacation once. When we were first married we rented a house and did a trip with a group of friends. It was a lot of fun. It’s a beautiful area.

    It’s great that you were able to go on so many family vacations and keep in such great contact with extended family.

    Weekends In Maine

    1. The Cape is great in the summer — and there are still plenty of reasonably priced rentals available. Glad you enjoyed your trip there.

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