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Everybody Pile In!



Frank Spillers, Aug 22, 2011


 Vacations in our family were equivalent to an Olympic marathon: we took off, usually headed west towards the hottest part of the country, in a non air- conditioned car with us three kids in the back seat with no way to release our megatons of energy! To appreciate a 16 hour ride without air conditioning, just take a five minute ride around the block with your ac off, in August! All we had to do to entertain ourselves was to fight and pick on each other. It was me, my younger brother, and even younger sister. Mother was in charge of us kids while Daddy drove. We knew if mother gave up and Daddy threatened to stop the car to punish us, the fun was over and we would sit quietly for a few miles before restarting action.

Usually, it takes out some of the boredom if you have something to anticipate, like stopping at some nice place to eat. Not on our trips! My Daddy`s theory was to look for a cafe with a lot of work trucks in the parking lot.  He once drove a dump truck and he knew this was a good sign that the place served a large volume, cheaply. Taste was never part of the criteria! I don`t think Daddy had taste buds!

 One thing we did look forward to were Burma-Shave signs. These signs were along roads all across the U.S. advertising Burma Shave shaving soap. There would be a series of about six little signs nailed to fence posts spaced about 100 feet apart. They would be rhymes about highway safety, public good, or some other subject. The last sign only had BURMA SHAVE written on it. An example would be:

Twinkle, twinkle 
One eyed car; 
We all wonder 
Where you are.

Burma Shave signs were a part of Americana from about 1920 to the 50’s.

Vacations were like anything else Daddy did- it was full-out, gut-it out until you finished the chore! Everyday of the trip had a purpose and that was to make miles! Forget about taking that 25 mile long side road to see the “biggest rattlesnake in the world” or two headed lizard. We had to make miles before stopping for the night, or what was left of it! Sometimes we would get up about 3 a.m. and burn miles until about 10 p.m

My dad was  tight with money, I believe he still had the first nickel he ever earned! This frugalness carried over into our vacations. We always wanted to stay at a motel with a swimming pool, but of course this would never happen. We stayed at the cheapest motel and went to the city pool for a nickel. What a great idea! Even better, he would save the nickel if there was a near-by lake, river, mud puddle, or whatever.

The other thing you learned on these trips was to hold on until the next restroom! It was always “just another mile or two”. A translation of this was, “when the car`s tank is empty, you can empty yours.” When vacation was finally over, bladders were stretched to about five gallons or so!

The best part of our vacation was when we saw the sign that said WELCOME TO FREEPORT! We knew we had another year to heal before the next marathon trip!

Once we got home, we would all collapse and Daddy would go on to Girouards to restock our milk and bread. It didn’t bother Daddy though- he liked to go to Girouards to visit friends and see the latest tools and hardware- milk and bread was just a good excuse to visit and brag on how many miles he drove each day of our vacation.


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