Like many American families in the 1960’s, mine took road trips in the old station wagon at least once a year. My father would take a few weeks off from work in the summer and we would drive across the country from the Chicago area in one direction or another. All in all, I think we visited about 33 states.
My older brother Paul always sat in the “way back” of the station wagon. He had a little cushion, almost like an elongated dog bed, to make his “seat” more comfortable. Obviously, this was before seatbelts were mandatory.
My much older sister Beth and I shared exactly equal sides of the back seat. A piece of luggage was placed precisely between us so we wouldn’t fight over who had more space. Of course we fought anyway.
One of us would either purposefully or accidentally nudge the piece of luggage toward the other one. It didn’t matter whether it was an accident or not. If that suitcase budged a nano-millimeter toward either one of us, it would cause pandemonium. Also, I wasn’t allowed to look at her, touch her hair, or breathe too loudly. She was a lovely older sister. Just lovely.
My father smoked cigars with the windows rolled up. My husband, Richard, says that explains everything about me, but we’ll save that story for another time. My parents harmonized to show tunes and un-show tunes for hours at a time. This was before iPods, so we were prisoners forced to listen to “Mares Eat Oats”, “Old Man River”, “You Are my Sunshine”, “Red River Valley”, and one of the most annoying songs ever written (if you are 8 years old), “Dominique.”
I did a little research on “Dominique” and found out it was written by a Singing Nun from Belgium. No, really. I got the information from Wikipedia, so you know it’s a true story! Her name was Jeanine Deckers, and she became an international star known as “Sister Smile” because of this song, which was sung in French. The song became the second foreign language song to hit number one on the American charts. Sadly Jeanine Deckers left the church and ultimately committed suicide. Not such a chirpy little song in my mind anymore.
We saw, among other places, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Disneyworld, and Disneyland. I recently found an old scrapbook I had kept and on the first page I wrote,“This snap book you have just seen is a ture of Leslie Chase’s 1969 summer vakation.” Inside the scrapbook I had pasted postcards, matchbooks, and even gum wrappers I had saved as mementos of all the places we visited. Apparently I was enamored with Caesar’s Palace because I have a 50 cent casino chip, a wrapper from a water glass, a postcard with a photo of Tony Bennett, stationery, a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and a housekeeping sign that reads, “Caesar Commands: Prepare this Chamber With Dispatch!”
After staying in Disneyland, we wended our way east to Lost Valley Ranch in Deckers, Colorado. It’s interesting that we went to Deckers, Colorado and the Singing Nun was named Jeanine Deckers. Ooooooooooooh. That’s eerie! Anyway, Lost Valley Ranch was a great family place. We all ate at the same time with all of the other families staying there. We went on long horseback rides together. We sang around the campfire at night and learned how to whittle, how to use a leather burning tool, and a lot of other stuff that would be completely unsafe for children these days. Boy, the good old days.
On the last morning, we ate breakfast with all of the other families and then packed our car and continued our journey east toward home. Saying goodbye to all of the ranchers, wranglers, and other families was sad. We all cried because we didn’t know when we’d see each other again. We had arrived as strangers and became one big giant family.
After chowing down with everyone and then crying my eyes out while saying our goodbyes, I fell asleep in the car, leaning ever so gingerly on my side of the suitcase so as not to knock it over onto my sister.
Ever since we left California my brother had the song “It’s a Small World” stuck in his head and sang it relentlessly. As I slept, my father navigated the one-lane mountain road away from Lost Valley Ranch. The huge breakfast I had eaten, combined with all of the crying, factored in with the winding road was beginning to make me feel sick, waking me up.
I heard my brother continue to sing “It’s a Small World”. I asked him to stop, but that only made him sing it more loudly and more obnoxiously. I begged him to stop, even warning him that I was nauseous and would throw up if he didn’t stop. Of course, being my older brother, it was basically his job to keep bugging me.
So, I threw up all over myself, the back seat, and the perfectly placed piece of luggage sitting between my sister and me. My father pulled over to a rest stop so my mother could dig through my suitcase to find me something clean to wear. I felt a little smug because I actually followed through on my threat and my brother got in a little bit of trouble. As I have said in previous posts, he is the undisputed favorite child, so even when he does something considered “bad” by most people, my parents consider it just slightly less than 100% perfect behavior, so he didn’t really get in any trouble at all. He did stop singing that annoying song, though.
All these years later, the “It’s a Small World” story is brought up (pun intended!) as much as possible. My brother even bought me a music box a few years ago for my birthday that plays the song. How nice. My kids even know about it and sing it to me whenever they want to really bug me. Luckily I have grown immune to the effects of the song and don’t vomit when I hear it.
A few years ago my parents, my husband, my kids and I went to Disneyworld. I decided it was time to conquer my fears and take that crappy little boat ride amongst the scary little moving mechanical “people” from around the world who sing the most annoying song ever composed in any language. I rode through twice! In a row! Without vomiting! I had been cured. Since that day I can safely say I will never be harmed by “It’s a Small World” ever again.
I ran out of the line for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, though, because the ride looked too scary. And don’t get me started on the animated Presidents. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.