May 12, 2022

The Acapulco Inn, 1980

Note: Since I first published this, Dad told me that the Acapulco Inn was actually in Daytona, and that we went there in 1978. I'm not modifying the post below, however, and everything else in it stands. For now, at least. I will add, however, that I did a little investigating, and learned that this hotel was in operation as the Acapulco Inn until 2017, nearly forty years after we stayed there. The building is still in operation as a hotel, but with a different name and an updated facade. -- Chris, May 15, 2022 (just a few days after finishing and posting the musing below)

In my memory it was pretty great, but in reality this hotel was probably pretty mediocre.

I don't really remember it individually anyway. I know that what my memory offers up to me is an amalgam of Florida hotels that we stayed in; any mental images I have of hotel rooms or pools or lobbies are just as likely to belong to other hotels as to this one. The overall wonderfulness of those Florida vacations – my memory of the amalgam of them, anyway – makes me think that anyplace we stayed must have been wonderful. But, even if the vacations were great, the hotels were probably pretty average.

Every summer when I was a kid we would go to Florida for a week of vacation and stay in a hotel like this one. And, in case it's not already obvious, this is a picture of one of the actual hotels we stayed in, the Acapulco Inn in Panama City Beach, probably 1979 or 1980.

And of this I am certain: it really was a wonderful thing to be a little boy in the 1970s, in the summer, on vacation at the beach with his family. Panama City Beach, Florida, was the best – but then I would probably say that about anywhere we had gone then. But there are reasons I have such great memories of Panama City: The Miracle Strip, a no-longer-there amusement park, was across the street, and there were putt-putt golf places and souvenir shops and pancake houses everywhere. (There was also the beach and the ocean, but, strangely, that's not a big part of my memories of our vacations to Florida.)

And memorable things happened when we were there: one year (1983, actually; I can say this for sure because that's when the movie I'm about to write about was released) when we were in Florida, we went to the mall and saw WarGames, a movie I still love (even if, like the hotels we stayed in, it is in reality probably pretty mediocre). Another time – the year before, I think – while we were at the Panama City Beach mall (apparently we went to that mall a lot), we were in the B. Dalton bookstore and while I was browsing in the science fiction section some random guy recommended a Piers Anthony novel to me, which, probably because it had a cool cover, I did buy and read, and Piers Anthony became for a time one of my favorite writers. Strangely enough, I still associate WarGames with a great Florida vacation, but I don't make that association with Piers Anthony. Probably because we actually saw the movie in Florida, but I didn't read the novel (Split Infinity) until we were back home. Also because WarGames is just one movie, but I went on to read something like twenty-five of Piers Anthony's novels.

Dad's brother Tommy (my uncle, who passed away in 2008) and his wife Kathy (my aunt) and their son Ric (my cousin, about the same age as Jeff) went with us most years. We would get adjoining rooms in the hotel and sort of share our rooms (or at least we did this once, one year, if not every year. I remember watching Princess Di get married on the television in Tommy and Kathy's hotel room–at least, I'm pretty sure that happened (Princess Di did get married, that part I am certain of. It's whether I saw the event in a hotel room in Florida that I wouldn't swear to in a court of law). Wikipedia tells me that Princess Di got married on July 29, 1981, so, if I'm remembering correctly, we were in Panama City on vacation then.)

Our approach to travel, which I've since learned is the way many families approached it at the time, was to head out very early – 4:00am, for example – and get there by noon, so we had much of that day in Florida. I can only imagine how tired Dad must have been after that long drive! One year, probably 1982, I got to do some of the driving – we took the Cadillac that year; I remember it well! – since I had my learner's license and needed some practice.

I'm sometimes sad and disappointed that my own children don't have the same Florida vacation experiences I had. I hope that when they grow up, our regular weekend trips to Rock City and our family outings to Stone Mountain or Zoo Atlanta will occupy as treasured a part of their memories of their childhoods as our trips to Florida do in mine.

January 27, 2022

My Fourth Birthday Party, 1971

Back in mid-November I wrote a musing looking at a picture from my fifth birthday party, and I wrote (among many other things) this:

...the cake was decorated with a plastic horse and cowboy. Sometime after this party, later the same day or the next day, perhaps, I took them out to play with in the neighborhood, and I left them on the curb a street or two away when Mom called me home for supper. I went out to play with them some more, later that day or maybe the next day, I'm not sure, and I was incredulous that they weren't still there on the curb where I'd left them. Someone stole my horse and cowboy from me!

Well, it turns out that the cake I was remembering was from the year before, when I turned four, as shown in this picture--if you look carefully you can see the white-topped plastic wagon I remember playing with atop the cake, and you can kinda-sorta tell there are horses there too. (The green icing on the side of the cake was supposed to be cactuses (cacti?), I think, but I didn't play with those, of course, I just ate them.) It was these decorations, from my fourth birthday party, that I remember being stolen.

Much easier to distinguish in this picture is my cousin Scott, right beside me, with the business end of a cap gun in his mouth. (I'm not actually sure which end of a gun is the "business end," I just really wanted to use that phrase.) Behind him is my aunt Danelle, her head cut off in this picture, holding my brother Jeff and, it appears, a red balloon; Jeff would have been only a little more than a year old here. (You can't tell it's either Danelle or Jeff in this picture, but I have other pictures from this birthday party in which you can.) Also shown in this picture, sitting down and apparently smoking, is a woman whose name I don't remember; she lived in our neighborhood, I think, and was a friend of Mom's. The little boy beside her is her son, whose name I think was Anthony.

This whole affair--my fourth birthday party, I mean--took place, like my fifth birthday party the following year, in the finished basement of our house in Clarkston. I'm sorry to say that I don't really remember this party, except for the sad business of the stolen cake decorations. I do, however, remember the basement well. I have no memory of my bedroom in that house--I was five when we moved away from it, after all--but I do remember the basement clearly, and with great fondness. At least a couple other pictures I have written about here show this basement, and my attraction to basements probably started here. (I also have a fascination with attics, but that isn’t necessarily connected with this basement; I blame by C.S. Lewis and The Magician's Nephew for starting the interest in attics.)