Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What We Look For

Children are interested in different sights on a car trip than adults tell them to be interested in. Adults say "There used to be an old hotel here. The Washington House."

Not even a famous hotel, mind you, just old, and a fire trap in its later years. And you'll notice it's not there anymore.

Children, on the other hand, much more sensibly remember the rock by the side of the road near Melvin Village that for forty years has been painted to look like a frog. I still look for that frog when I go up Route 109.

Adults, always mindful of improving the mind say "Madame Chiang Kai-Shek had a mansion on the lake. It was down Forest Road, past Carey Beach where you swam last year. She went there to have privacy after her husband died." Here's a picture of the former Soong May-Ling with Eleanor Roosevelt. Which puts things in perspective not at all. Nor does it make a child suddenly fascinated by her. "She knew Mrs. Roosevelt? Why didn't you say so!"

Notice that Madame Chiang is another one of those things that isn't there anymore. Adults are much more impressed by things that used to be there.

Well I liked history too, even as a boy, which is why I always watched for this highly authentic totem pole at Indian Cliff in Hooksett, when they sold moccasins. We never stopped there, though. My mother thought it was just a tourist trap filled with cheap souvenirs.

My brother and I loved cheap souvenirs, actually. They were the high point of any trip with camp. Like those beaded belts made by Indians that spelled out places.

Notice also, children are usually in the back seat, and looking out the window to the side, which is completely different from sitting in the front and looking out the windshield. They look for different things; they are forced into looking from a different angle.

They go on a different ride, really.

Part of my trip up Route 28 was to see where the main road used to go, to get some sense of what my mother and her parents would have seen going up to the lake in the 1930's. I'm just now figuring out they would have seen different things, no matter what road they were on. I am seeing through adult eyes now, and I am the driver, so yesterday I likely got some glimpse of how my grandfather saw things, or how my mother saw it in the 50's, when they were themselves driving.

Come to think of it, I was a passenger on similar trips in the 1960's, and I don't remember much from any of them except Indian Cliff and that frog. And...the crashed jet fuselage at the boat place. The ice cream and candy places, not that we ever stopped there. Assuming that as children, my mother, my uncle, and my aunt were as inattentive as I was, I am trying to recapture a mental state of theirs that never existed.

And you thought your day was a waste yesterday...

Yet perhaps not. A lot more of the route was farmland in those days, and I know they would play the Animal Game on these trips (because losing all your animals when you pass a cemetery* leads in to a family story I will tell later). I well recall kneeling up high and frantically counting cows dotted across a field. Though those would rather all run together, wherever they were traveling.

*Cat-in-the-window wins automatically in our variation. What local rules did you have?

Update: I can't recall if we allowed dead animals in the tally. I suspect not.


Texan99 said...

Souvenirs, Lord, yes. Anything made of leather, or a tomahawk, or those beautiful smooth polished rocks. A little figure of an elephant not 2 inches high made of titanium, unbelievably heavy.

gringo said...

I liked the Burma Shave signs.

From long distance car trips: Parents want to get the trip finished as soon as possible, Children want to spend as little time in the car as possible.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Burma-Shave signs so well from family car trips back and forth across Missouri in the late 1950's and early 60's.

The Alphabet Game was a favorite of my brother and me, but timing was everything. You only got to claim letters on your own side of the car, and you had to get them in order. As Missouri was more farmland than anything else in those days, there just weren't many signs of any kind until you came to a town -- and even then some of the rarer letters were hard to spot.

However, at a crossroads, about halfway across the state, stood an abandoned tavern with a sign on the roof that said MOONWINX. Whoever was on the westbound side got to claim that "X" -- the only "X" you were ever going to see along the vast rural stretches of U.S. 36 -- until you reached Kansas City, of course, and by then, in the excitement of being Almost There, the game was forgotten.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, "Q" would be found in antiques, and pizza could be counted on to get your "Z," but "X" was tricky. Easier on the Interstates nowadays because of exit and express, but it's still hard on the secondary roads, I'll warrant.

Donna B. said...

On my childhood road trips, car license plates were acceptable sources of letters in the alphabet game.

Another game played usually only with my father was "name that car". When too far away to actually see details, we would each try to name the make from silhouette only.

That's just not possible to do now, though I think my Dad thought up the game to enlist my help in spotting cop cars in time for him to slow down. I still slow down for cars with luggage racks...

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Which reminds me, we also played the license plate game. As people traveled more, we'd end up with a higher total for the summer.

Usually, the game would get sparked because someone saw something unusual and everyone got alert. In the old days, South Dakota was considered exotic. Now it has to be Guam.

Story: I remember being in the parking lot of the Williamsburg Lodge in 1972 and being so excited at a NH plate that I flagged them down. They were from Laconia. No one would do that now.

Gringo said...

Story: I remember being in the parking lot of the Williamsburg Lodge in 1972 and being so excited at a NH plate that I flagged them down. They were from Laconia. No one would do that now.

I was impressed by the smallness of the world when, on the return leg of my first hitch cross country in the late 1960s, I got to talking with a local in Omaha.When he found out I was hitching to NE, he said he knew someone in Wilton NH- the hometown of my sister's then current boyfriend.

Sam L. said...

There's a little farm (15 miles +
or -)south of Tillamook OR on US 101 that has one set of Burma-Shave signs. They are too close together.