Childhood Travel Memories
It seems as if I have always been traveling away from home - if I really know where home is. I was born in New York City and went to live in Mt. Vernon, N. Y. when I was about 5. We lived in a house at 36 Harding Parkway and I went to Lincoln School. I also remember an apartment we lived in where I had many friends and we played Terry And The Pirates in the vacant lot next to the apartment building. My little Italian friend, Joy Bonodono - hurried home when her mother called from an upper window: Joy, come getta you bath. We go down Fort Ave, see Shirley Temple. There were summers with vacations at Black Point near Niantic, CT. and visits to my grandparents in Meriden, CT. - a long, long auto ride. But I loved finally arriving and enjoying their big old house with the back stairs where I could hide away. There was an umbrella tree in the side yard where I played under its branches. Grandpa, an artist, was fun and took me on walks to the meadows to see the flag root growing. Grandma made big soft molasses cookies for breakfast - a very different treat. There was one year when I was about 10 that my mother was ill and I went to live for a while with my aunt and uncle in Providence, R. I. I went to school there and was given a pencil box which contained a six inch ruler with my name, Patsy Parlow printed in gold letters. I still have it. I went to Camp Fernway in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and loved it - that is until I got whooping cough and had to go home. While at camp I waded in Konkapot Falls and found baby rabbits in a nearby nest. I used to watch the dining hall at lunch time from a nearby vantage point. If I saw sauerkraut in a big bowl on the table, I took a walk and was among the missing at mealtime. The first big change came when I was about 12. It was in the late 30s and the Depression had affected our family as it did many others. It was decided that my grandmother, who lived with us, my mother, and myself would go to Florida for the winter to save on heat and winter clothing (a likely story). Anyway, my mother drove and off we went. Grandma was in the back with luggage all around her. Travel by car was so different in those days - a very long and adventurous trip. There were no motels as we know them - only small tourist cabins, each night a big surprise as to what awaited us - sometimes pleasant and sometimes troubles with heat, water, bugs, and strange noises. As we got further south there were tourist homes where ladies who had fallen on hard times had decided to open their large southern homes to over-night guests. There usually were one or two negro retainers who answered the door while the lady of the house busied herself with arranging camellias, ignoring the fact she had paying guests except for a few polite welcomes. There were homes where we did join the whole family, the children performing on the piano perhaps, and that was fun and to be recorded in my daily diary. In Savannah, little boys would come out to the curb, extolling the virtues of their tourist homes. Farther on in Georgia near Jacksonville, we had a very unwelcome adventure. I had been noticing menacing clouds all morning and had written about it in my diary. As we drove, suddenly, without warning, a black cloud seemed to envelop us and a violent wind swept our car up and landed it in a ditch - all in the space of a few moments. A small tornado had affected us and no one else on the road. It was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I promptly got out of the car, unharmed, and had hysterics. My mother snapped me out of it, and attended to my poor grandmother, who had been assaulted by the baggage next to her. She had hurt her back - how badly we didn’t know until later. Mother took charge and found us help and Grandma was taken to the hospital in Jacksonville. There she stayed for quite a while in a body cast. She had fractured her spine and would be a long-time in recovery. She was ever cheerful and kept her wonderful sense of humor. Mother called my uncle to come to Jacksonville to look out for us while she went on to Sarasota to find a nurse for my grandmother and a place to stay. What a lot of new sights and foods and experiences I had in the deep south and in Jacksonville. Grits were a staple of a restaurant breakfast. My mother eyed them suspiciously and announced that she didn’t order Cream of Wheat. Christmas came and fireworks lit up the sky - a tradition in the south. Pancake syrup was Georgia Cane or molasses, not the maple syrup I’d been used to. Soft southern accents were new to my ears and the balmy days and nights in winter were delightful. When we got to Sarasota, we lived in one of Hart’s Cottages on Siesta Key where the water at high tide could come up under the stilts of the cottage. When we just arrived mother said, Guess we can’t stay. Some animal has died here. Indeed there was an odor - like rotten eggs. A neighbor laughed - That’s sulphur water, she said. You just have to draw it off in large containers and let it sit and aerate and the next day the taste and odor will be gone. Sure enough, she was right. It was fun being so near the beach. I would come home after school, lay down my books put on my bathing suit and jump into the Gulf of Mexico. Grandma said at times when the tide came close - Well, I’ll float in my cast and you all can hang on to me and we’ll be fine. My father came down and we ended up living in Sarasota until I went away to college. High school with friends whose parents were with Ringling Brothers were lots of fun. And interesting. There were more experiences to come in this country and abroad and I’ve enjoyed new places all my life.