Back to Family Memories Index
Return to Home Page

Vacation Logistics in the 1950's

Whatever did we do before McDonald's and Burger King? When traveling out of town nowadays, if going by Interstate you expect those handy food and gas signs at the interchanges. They even tell you what brand of gas and what chain of restaurant, important for drivers like me who like to go inside now and then for a real meal, sit down and be waited on by a real person.

Preparing to go on vacation took some logistics for my family in the 1950's. How many miles? How many tanks of gas is that? How much money is that? Okay, how much food do we need to pack? Packing food was a must. There weren't many places to stop for snacks or cold drinks, much less real meals. A picnic cooler or two became foot-rests for my brother and me. And there weren't any canned drinks back then; everything came in glass bottles, so for goodness sake don't forget the bottle opener.

Soft drink bottles could be returned - remember that? You saved up your empties, took them to the store and got your deposit back, which you then used to pay for your next RC Cola, or Red Rock, or Orange Crush. Or Coke or Pepsi, of course.

Into the coolers also went sandwiches: ham and cheese, bologna and cheese, piemento cheese, or just plain cheese. There might be cold fried chicken if the drive was going to be long, maybe potato salad, boiled eggs or deviled eggs.

Packing clothes was mama's worst chore. What kind of weather was expected? What kind of activities were planned? Beach wear for a weekend was easy but mountain vacations where it might be hot in the daytime and cold at night was a real pain. We had no expandable soft-siders suitcases, just unforgiving hard-siders which required careful logistics and sometimes re-packing a time or two. Shoes stuffed with socks might have to go in a large paper grocery sack. Other grocery sacks bulged with towels and wash cloths, even bath soap and laundry detergent. The outside edges of the car trunk might store blankets, pillows, magazines, toys, small bags of miscellaneous whatnots - every square inch of space was utilized. Mama prepared for every contingency.

Sunday clothes for mama and daddy tended to obscure our side views somewhat. They weren't zipped into hangup bags, they just dangled from hooks at the top of our backseat car doors. Unless we could convince daddy to lay them atop the suitcases in the trunk, it made time-passing games like "License-plate" or "Cows and Horses" a bit troublesome.

Why am I thinking about trips, packing, and food? Well, for a couple of weeks this month I'll be working onboard the Logos II, a missionary ship which will be in port in Reykjavick, Iceland. I'll be listening, learning, taking lots of photos, interviewing, and writing stories. It's a bit too far to drive, so I'll have to fly and I'm packing!

August weather in Iceland is better than what we've had in Florence these past few days. The day-time high there is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, night-time low about 45. As I work out my own logistics, I am truly grateful for expandable luggage, suitcases on wheels and in-flight meals! Despite carry-on rules (3 ounces, zip-lock bags, etc.) I have it so much better than when mama had to pack for beach weekends or mountain vacations in the 1950's. I'll let you all know how my trip went when I get home. Thirteen hours of air travel... wonder if I can carry-on some snacks....


Back to Family Memories Index
Return to Home Page