June 26, 2015

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Memories of the days before Energy Nazis came on the scene

Cynthia DewesSome of us remember a time when gasoline was cheap, global warming was unheard of, and people actually “went for a ride” in their cars. Now, before some zealous environmentalists attack this premise, let me remind everyone that that was then, and this is now.

In fact, not only did we go joyriding in cars, but some of us did this for annual vacations, traveling around the country on a limited budget. Very limited which, of course, was the point.

Nowadays, families go to Disney World for a week, stay in glamorous hotels, eat in exotic restaurants and generally spend money big-time. That wasn’t the case in our day.

Mostly we camped, because motels were too expensive and dining out was a luxury. Not to mention that herding six kids under the age of 10 into proper public eating position is too tiresome even to contemplate. We learned this lesson while spending a day at the original Disneyland in California.

We’d saved and saved for this highlight of our vacation, which began with a visit to the Pirates of the Caribbean. As we sailed along being “attacked” by hidden pirates and regaled with noise, we didn’t realize that Andy, the youngest, was ramping up. He was sensitive to this kind of ruckus, and soon erupted in a major tantrum.

Hastily, we removed him from the scene and walked him around, trying to calm his fears. He was mentally handicapped and unreasonable about the situation. On top of that, this occurred one week after the so-called “Yippies” had “occupied” Disneyland in order to make some remote point about capitalism or greedy excess or who-knows-what.

Tension reigned, and Andy felt it, so the rest of the day was like walking on eggs. We put all the kids except Andy on other rides and tried to have fun, ending the day at a restaurant where the older boys took turns taking Andy to the parking lot until the food arrived. Still, everyone seems to have pleasant memories of that much-anticipated event.

In addition to two California trips, where we also visited relatives, we went to Canada and the northeast U.S., Florida and many Indiana parks and historic sights. In fact, historic sites were always major stops on every trip, including western forts and Civil War battlegrounds known only to scholars and my husband.

Not only were road trips and camping easy on our finances, they also served the purpose of visiting extended family often enough for our children to know them. In a time when long-distance phone calls were very expensive, and nothing like Twitter, e-mail or Facebook existed, this was a real plus.

Times change. Today we would think twice about driving long distances just for the fun of it, or even driving a few miles to look at fall foliage or check out a new shopping mall. We’d worry about polluting our world as we never did back then because the emphasis on what’s important in life shifts from one thing to another, according to the demands of the times.

Still, good things sometimes follow practices we frown upon now. Our children saw much of the world as it was at the time. We even called Andy the “best-traveled handicapped kid in the country.” To this day, they’re all interested in history, the outdoors, and other people in other places. So it seems to me our investment in energy was worth it.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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