When my dad came home from work at night, his first stop was the dresser in the master bedroom. He would empty his pockets of everything that he had been carrying all day. You would hear the jingle and tinkle of change falling into a large gallon jar that sat on the floor next to the dresser.
Dad never spent any of his change, always giving the cashier a bill so he could get more dimes, nickels, quarters and fifty-cent pieces. This change would quickly accumulate and when the jar became full he would take it to the bank and they would give him bills in exchange.
The bills were then put in the dresser drawer and the process would start all over again. When vacation time rolled around at the end of the school year, he always had enough money to take the whole family on at least a week and sometimes a two-week vacation somewhere.
Once the location was picked, we could hardly wait to pile into the station wagon and head out of town. I was always so excited to leave our small town for a short time that I couldn’t sleep the night before, but it was just as well, because dad liked to get an early start on the vacation.
Early to dad was 4:00 AM and we were to be ready to pull out of the drive at that time. I always felt like a bandit sneaking out of town in the middle of the night when we would leave at that time, because no one else was up. We would be the only car on the streets.
Once we were on the way, I could sleep because it was still too dark to see anything, and everything for at least 4 hours in any direction was familiar territory anyway. About 8:00 AM he would stop somewhere for breakfast.
Breakfast out was a real treat, because we never had the chance to eat out growing up in a small town. There was a small restaurant in the town, but it was only the parents that went out to eat.
Dad always looked for a pancake house for breakfast, and we knew exactly what he would order once we were inside. He would immediately order a cup of coffee and while we decided on what we were going to order, he fixed his coffee.
It was quite a procedure to get his coffee ready to drink. He first added 2-3 heaping teaspoons of sugar, and then enough real cream to make it almost a tan color, and would then start to stir.
I can still remember the scraping sound of him stirring his coffee. It was six circles in one direction, with the spoon never leaving the bottom or the sides of the cup, and then reversed to stir it in the other direction.
He went through this routine at least three times. Then once it was stirred enough it was raised by teaspoonfuls and dribbled back into the cup till it had cooled down sufficiently for him to drink. It was more like coffee flavored syrup than coffee, but that is the way he liked it.
The waitress would come back and he would always order the same thing, the waffles supreme. They were piled high with strawberries and topped with real whipped cream. When they were placed in front of him, he would put a few pats of butter in between the waffles and one or two on top of the whipped cream and then pour maple syrup over the top of all that. I could never understand how a man who was only 5’ 9” never weighed more than 135 pounds soaking wet, when he ate like that.
After breakfast we were on the road again. We would take out our Road Bingo and start to play. Because the first one to see the object was the one that got to use it on their card, the fight started very quickly. When dad had heard enough he would warn once and then reach back over the front seat to backhand the perpetrator.
I always tried to sit behind dad, because he couldn’t reach me there, but he could reach the one in the middle or behind mom if he chose to. If he couldn’t reach the one he wanted, he would stop the car and get you out in the road and paddle you.
It only took one time of getting a whipping in the middle of the highway with cars zipping by to make you tow the line in the car. Well………we always had to try our luck, but all he had to do was hit the brakes and make the nose of the car take a dive toward the pavement, and all was quiet in the back seat. Well, for a little while anyway.
Dad always drove to get where he was going and sight seeing was not usually on his agenda. We had to start nagging him in advance to get him to stop somewhere to see something. Mom told the story about them going to California, and she wanted to see the Painted Desert. As they whizzed through it, probably at 80 miles and hour, he said “there’s the Painted Desert ……………..did you see it”?
We had three favorite spots to vacation. The first was Colorado Springs, Colorado, and we did lots of site seeing there. We stayed in a lodge that catered to families and we visited the zoos, rode horses through the Garden of the Gods, went up Pikes Peak, into the Cave of the Winds and always miniature golf and go-carts.
The second was Bella Vista, Arkansas. Bella Vista Resort was just a little sleepy vacation spot outside of the small town of Bentonville. It had a swimming pool, a large restaurant with a skating rink above, miniature golf and a riding stable. We would stay there for about a week and not have to leave the resort; it had everything we needed.
The third was Duluth, Minnesota and we could make it there in a day of hard driving. I don’t know to this day, if there is anything of interest to see between here and there. Daddy drove to arrive for supper with his army buddy and wife and their 10 kids.
It was amazing how far we could go and how much fun we could have on dad’s loose change that was dropped into the gallon jar by the dresser every night. To email Sandy: [email protected]