May 26, 2022

Me as a Member of the 5th Dimension, 1972

I feel a little bit sorry for people who weren't around in the late 1960s/early 1970s: they probably don't have any pictures of themselves in outfits like this. They probably never even got dressed quite this way at all.

But, hey, this is what we wore in 1971!

Jealous, aren't you?

Even at the age of four, which I believe I was in this picture, wasn't I remarkably hip? With my tousled hair and closed eyes, I look like I'd just been awakened from a deep sleep and put into these clothes, probably so I could go on as a last minute substitute for an ailing member of the 5th Dimension.

It was, after all, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!

What? You don't think that an upcoming gig with the 5th Dimension is at least a semi-plausible rationale for my being dressed like this? Well, then, I don't know why I was wearing this outfit. There must be some reasonable explanation for it – but what it is, I don't know.

Maybe just the fact that it was 1971 is explanation enough.

May 19, 2022

Chris and Jeff at Aunt Lois's House, 1972

Doing a little math in my head, I arrive at this incredible fact: since Aunt Lois – in whose house this photograph was taken, about fifty years ago – was born in 1918, when this picture was made she was only 53 or 54 years old – a year or two younger than I am right now. I'm older than Aunt Lois!

But of course, I'm not. Aunt Lois – who was in fact my great aunt; she was Dad's aunt, but because he called her Aunt Lois, I called her Aunt Lois – lived to be 85, and when she left us in 2003, more than eighteen years ago, I was only 36; I may be as old now as Aunt Lois was in my earliest memories of her, but I am not really "older than Aunt Lois."

In 1998, they – I'm not completely sure who "they" are in this case; her children and grandchildren, probably – had a birthday celebration for Aunt Lois at her house when she turned 80. It was the last time I ever saw her, and the last time I ever went to that wonderful house in Scottdale when she still lived there. I swear, she looked the same in 1998 as she did in 1972, when she would keep me sometimes while Mom was at work or running errands or doing whatever she did. (Aunt Lois probably did look the same, probably basically was the same, in that she hadn't changed her hairstyle in all those years, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if that day in 1998 she was wearing a dress that she had back in 1972.) I told Aunt Lois that she looked like she hadn't aged in twenty-five years, and she said to me, "Oh, you're so sweet! If I had a quarter, I'd give it to you."

(There is, actually, one way in which I can I say she did look different: her glasses were noticeably thicker, not surprisingly, and the lenses made her eyes look unnaturally large when I first saw her straight on.)

I don't think the fact that Aunt Lois looked the same to me in 1998 as she did in 1972 says something about her youthful appearance at 80; instead, it says something about how, in the second half of the twentieth century, 50 was old, and someone who was 50 looked old. Aunt Lois at 80 didn't look like a 54-year-old; at 54, she looked like an old lady. By the standards of the time, I suppose she was.

But Aunt Lois isn't even in this picture I've chosen for this musing. I recognize the room as being in her house because of the white paneled walls with the chair rail, and...and just because I know that was Aunt Lois's house. (Uncle Arthur's, too, but it always felt to me more like hers – probably because when I was a kid and spent a day there, Uncle Arthur was at work.) I can't see it well enough to say for sure, but I think that plate on the wall at the top of the frame is an Ingleside Presbyterian Church plate; it seems like exactly the kind of thing this house would have adorning its walls. This is a house I treasure; it was one of the many wonderful places where I spent time when I was a kid – planting acorns in the yard (none of which, as best I can tell, actually grew into trees, but I sure remember planting them), looking at the Sears catalog inside (the Christmas Wish Book, which may have been a year or two out of date when I looked at it at her house, but it showed great toys), making milkshakes in the kitchen with that old manual milkshake-maker she had (it wasn't a blender – you put in some milk, some ice cream, closed it up, and then you shook it until you had a milkshake).

After she and Uncle Arthur were both gone, the family sold the house to someone who fixed it up, turning the attic (I'm told) into a small second floor. I've driven by the house a few times and it looks nice, but I would love to see the inside. I'm sure it's changed, but maybe it would also look mostly the same, just as Aunt Lois did the last time I saw her, very nearly twenty years ago now.

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.