New People, New Places
My parents worked hard and never had much money when I was growing up. But my dad felt that going on a family vacation each year should be something they made a priority and budgeted accordingly. There were years the vacation meant a trip to visit relatives in North Dakota, British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario. Other years we went camping in places like Jasper, Banff or at a Northern Saskatchewan Lake. The old canvas tent leaked if we touched it when it rained and likely took up a lot of room compared to newer models but we spent the time together. Mom made the picnic lunches we enjoyed during any travel time and they were always scrumptious. Lunchtime meant an escape from the car to run, play, explore and have fun. A few times during my growing up years we actually went on a vacation to see new parts of Canada or the United States which thrilled me and made my Dad happy because he loved to explore new places as well. We visited Yellowstone Park, Disneyland, the Redwoods in the United States as well as Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Montreal and places in between in Canada. If relatives happened to live along the way we spent a bit of time visiting too.
Our family of four (mom, dad, my younger brother and me) often squeezed several other people into the car on our family vacations. My mom’s two unmarried sisters accompanied us on a number of our adventures, sometimes one at a time and sometimes both of them. My grandparents came on one vacation when I was quite young so they could visit family that lived further away but I mostly only remember stories about that trip instead of my own recollections.
In reminiscing to choose a favourite one, I relived those times of adventure. I loved each one and the summer of any particular vacation was always the best one yet. Looking back it is difficult to actually choose a favourite so I might as well concede and give some highlights that remain with me all these years later.
One of the first longer vacations that I remember, involved a two-week car trip to Ontario. My mom had an aunt and uncle who lived in the St. Catherine’s area of Ontario and my dad had several cousins who lived around the greater Toronto area. I had heard of these relatives and now would get to meet them and see a new part of Canada too. My Dad, a truck driver by profession, did all the driving and had plans for how many hours a day we needed to ride in that car each way. However, he also planned rest stops or would pull over at a tourist attraction so we could enjoy the journey. Noon hours involved a picnic lunch at a rest stop to stretch our legs.
Uncle Pete’s excitement over our visit permeated every part of our stay in the St. Catherine’s area. He took us to see Niagara Falls at a time before so many tourist attractions and huge hotels crowded close to the natural wonder of the falls themselves. I remember we could park right along the railing and walk its length taking in the spectacular view and feeling the mist spray our faces. His next stop, as our tour guide, involved watching big ships go through the locks of the Welland Canal. As a child, they seemed so huge and I wondered how the locks could possibly work like that.
My great uncle and aunt had a daughter only a few years older than I was which gave me a young person to hang out with too. I remember Uncle Pete pulling each of us close and watching our faces as we took in the wonders he showed us. One big enjoyment for me was walking with Uncle Pete into the orchard and picking peaches right off the trees to eat. This intrigued a young prairie girl to no end.
We headed into Toronto to visit my Dad’s cousins, one of who also had a daughter a few years older than I was which gave me another new friend. I remember a visit to Casa Loma and driving from one place to another in this huge city as well as hearing stories about Dad’s side of the family. My memories of this trip involve the scenery, eating in restaurants, the tourist sites such as the falls and the castle, as well as visiting family I had only heard about before that time.
As a teenager, our family took two big trips. Each year I studied maps of our projected routes. I explored via the World Book Encyclopedia to learn about the various parts of the country we would travel through and stay in. On the trips themselves I picked up brochures and postcards at every tourist information booth I could convince my dad to stop at. The planning and research made the trip even more memorable for me. Oh, the fun I would have had if Google had been available to me back then!
In 1967, we avoided Expo 67 in Canada and headed to Disneyland and other tourist destinations in California before heading back north along the coast, then taking a long ferry ride across from Seattle area to Victoria B.C. to spend time with my mom’s brother and his family. My mom’s one sister joined us on the excursion. It also involved camping along the way with our fold-down tent trailer—definitely a step up from the old tent in my mind. Even in Los Angles, I remember camping at a place that sold pools and spas. The business rented out a few spots for campers on their lot behind their showroom and allowed the use of one of their pools. Disneyland had been the main destination but I enjoyed every part of that trip, including the majestic mountains, gigantic redwood forest, the beauty of the ocean along with all the touristy things we did.
In 1968 only our family of four left on the adventure to Montreal. We missed the crowds of Expo 67 but still took in the pavilions. It felt, to me, like a trip to faraway places in the world. We took a bus tour of the city of Montreal, saw our nation’s capital and toured the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. I remember the very tiny camper trailer which was our home for three weeks. In Montreal, we camped on an island between the St. Lawrence River and the Seaway. The one night a major thunderstorm (which I hated), moved in. The lightning flashed and the water reflected it back again. The light show that night was amazing and terrifying to me, and once again, I loved not being in a tent.
Thoughts of childhood family vacations fill my mind with beautiful memories of places we visited, the family I got to know, and the love of learning about new people and places that lasts to this day.