Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trailer Trad Collecting: Vintage Travel Souvenirs

Travel Souvenirs
Piling into the family car to see new things is very American. Road trips to new places, especially when you’re a kid, stick out in your mind. -Ever watch old black and white super-8 movies of trips when you and your brothers and sisters were really little kids? Trips to Florida. Trips to The Great Smokey Mountains. Even that trip to The Grand Canyon.

Back then, we usually traveled in a 1965 Pontiac Grand Prix with a back seat the size of a king-size bed. Booster seats? Seat belts? Are you kidding? There were four kids in the back seat. Four bladders. A lot of intestinal fortitude was built up on those trips. Somehow, my Dad felt that stopping at a roadside place with a restroom would incur some kind of cost to him. Smart man. Each stop had its own priceless objects of desire. Its own candy for sale to desert-weary travellers. Its own soda pop to necessitate additional rest stops down the road. Nope. My Dad would have none of that. He really missed his calling as a long-haul trucker. He could drive. For. Ever.
Did I mention the chilly air-conditioning that we enjoyed on our summer trips through places like Arizona and Florida? I didn’t because there was none. We did, however, get to travel with our good friend Prince Albert. My Dad rarely smoked but, for some reason, he chose to enjoy cigars on long trips in the car. With us. Would you believe me if I told you that we sometimes traveled in the same fashion in a tiny VW Bug? We did. It was jet black, all the better to absorb that cozy-warm solar heat. You know that little cubby hole in the back of the old Bugs that held, like, a bag or two of groceries? That was Monsieur Legume’s spot. Its upholstery was of fine, Corinthian Brillo-Pad. That particular model will always bring back memories to me because there is something about the smell of Mid-60’s German pleather bucket seats that stays with you. Hotels were places reserved for people like the Waldorfs and the Astorias. We usually camped in a big WWII surplus tent (which was great) but there were a few times when we stayed in a motel. One rainy night in the Ozarks, my Dad was so exhausted that he gave in and stopped at a real Norman Bates Special. I think that even he was grossed out. I was five or six and I distinctly remember making my first sarcastic joke. We walk into our room and my Mom asked how we liked it. “The only modern thing in it is the towel rack”, I remember saying.
That bumper sticker of the campground or that souvenir glass from some foreign country like Arkansas not only brought back, hopefully, fond memories of the trip but proof to others that, yes, we were travelers. We went on adventures. In fact, the Grand Canyon was so exotic that they still had arrows and head dresses for sale on the side of the road. The fact that the arrows were rubber and the feathered head dresses were paper didn’t matter.

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