Family Vacation: 1979 Edition

We traveled a lot when I was growing up, but not the fancy trips on airplanes, hotels, or even overseas. We drove places, admired the beautiful scenery, read Archie comic books and library books, and stayed with family or friends of my parents.

For a full year leading up to the summer of 1979, we planned a 5-week family vacation.

Perspective Reminder: there was no such thing as a cell phone, internet, home computer, or even push-button telephones (we had rotary phones and only needed to dial the last 4 numbers if it was in town). 

Process: My mother either called or wrote letters to the Chamber of Commerce of numerous cities and small towns throughout the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest of the United States. Then we waited a week for the mail to come in: pamphlets, letters describing local interests and accommodations, brochures, etc.

Mom would lay out piles of these treasures on their king-sized bed for my brother, sister, and me to pore over and talk about what we thought sounded interesting or fun.

From all this information, plus taking into consideration where friends and family lived (Oregon and Montana for example), mom set the route. *Map to be included in the next post.

Also during this time, we either bought a Coleman pop-up camper or maybe just spruced it up. We were already serious camping people, often combined with lake or canoe trips, so the prospect of camping out for 5 weeks was not anything new in itself.

Dad also ordered a custom-made new Dodge Maxi-Van remarkably similar to the picture below I found online! That had to be a serious splurge they had saved up for! It was maroon and silver, and the custom part was how the two bench seats in the back could be configured: facing forward like normal, facing each other with a table in the middle, flat like a bed, or, our favorite for times when we drove for most of the day, a “lounge” with the back seat set regular, but the front seat flattened out. Cool!

NOTE: no one wore seat belts in 1979, so all of these configurations worked with no safety restrictions to ruin our fun. We could play cards at the table, read in our lounge, or sit on the seats facing forwards.

Kim always had dibs on the front and center bench, staring intently at the highway or road between mom and dad’s captain’s seats in the front because she would get car sick otherwise. Bob could read, sleep, sing, talk, or do whatever in a car. I was somewhere in between; as long as the road wasn’t too curvy, I was fine reading in the back or gazing out the side windows.

One other thing my dad created before our trip was what he called a “Grub Box.” If we were going to be camping out and cooking outdoors for 5 weeks, there were some things we needed to have readily available all the time. It was a wooden box approximately 3 feet square with a front that dropped down with chains on hinges to be a sort of table opening up to a mini-pantry with cubby holes. Salt, pepper, sugar, flour, some canned goods, and other non-refrigerated goods could all be stored neatly in the Grub Box. What a genius my dad was!

**This one is going for $335 on Etsy and is similar, but my dad came up with his own idea and made an even better one himself back then, before the Internet, Amazon, and Ikea.

We also had a large cooler we iced up and drained at every possible stop to keep things like milk, cheese, mayonnaise, hot dogs and the like.

Man, were my parents amazing planners! They really thought of everything!

International affairs nearly spoiled the whole thing and we almost did not get to take this incredible journey. If you are old enough to remember, there was an oil crisis to do mostly with events in Iran. With the serious spike in gas prices, doubling the cost per gallon, my parents were uncertain we could still afford to take such a long trip in a big van pulling a camper.

But we did …

**Trip stories in subsequent posts this month**

Teacher Shortage

That is my prediction for the upcoming school year. I’ve already seen 5 posts for teacher positions, just in my area of World Languages. Many who are near retirement, who I thought would have taught forever, are leaving .. happily. Many who are young in the profession, less than 5 years, are moving on to do something else.

I’m personally leaning towards that first category as I near the close of my 28th year as a teacher. Or, at least in December I was 95% I would retire and do something else, almost anything else! The first semester of this year was horrendous in so many ways. I know, poor students, poor parents, poor administrators – sure, but I don’t have that perspective, so I won’t speak for anyone else.

What I do know is that this semester, with a strong feeling that deadlines and clear expectations that we stick to are healthy for students and teachers alike, I have felt at least close to being a teacher rather than a creator of content on Google Slides and Screencastify videos that no one but myself looked at or watched. When I say, “This assignment is due by X date and I expect X quality,” my students have risen to the occasion and manage – they know what to expect and do quality work. I have stuck to my word on deadlines and students have done assignments by those deadlines – they can and they will if you clearly communicate that expectation – and back it up. We have an “Amnesty Day” box where they can turn in 2 late assignments for 50% credit, like in many years past, and they understand that. Sometimes we don’t get everything done, but we have a little bit of relief.

What is unhealthy is, “You didn’t manage to get anything done for my class for a whole week, missed class on 1 of the 3 whole days you promised to attend, and didn’t communicate with me at all during that whole time? No problem, I’ll sit down with you, ignore the students who came to school 5 days and did all their work, and I’ll hold your hand for 3 more weeks while you get this one, simple assignment done while I think for you.”

Better yet, “You chose to self-quarantine for 2 weeks for no justifiable reason (no state competition, no family member at health risk, etc), complete zero assignments during this time, do not review the slides I’ve been required to prepare for students who choose not to come to school, do not communicate with me that entire time, and today, when you return, would like to know what you can do for my class.”

Thinking: What you can do for my class is either learn Spanish or drop, child! Thankfully, one mother had the brilliance to be angry with all her child’s teachers for NOT holding him accountable – she doesn’t have a leg to stand on to discipline him if he is now allowed to do EVERYTHING he did not do during his self-imposed 2-week vacation.

That was an eye-opener because I know that we teachers felt like we HAD to give these poor traumatized children a billion opportunities to wake up, get up, get dressed, and do almost nothing. How is that healthy for anyone? I felt so supported and … normal by that parent’s perspective!

We talk about post-pandemic strategies and all. Well, normalcy is a GREAT relief, right? No masks, hanging out with friends, expectations, … homework for hours, being overwhelmed with college applications, mock exams all weekend, juggling work and school, juggling work, athletics, family, and school, juggling…well, juggling is normal, right? Welcome back to real life.

Another thing I’ll be glad to say goodbye to is allowing students to NOT come to school so that they can take on the role of their parents: babysitting siblings, cousins, neighbors, or being a major wage-earner for the household. I don’t argue that many families need some extra income to make ends meet. My 16-year-old student, however, should NOT have to choose between coming to school and going to work – their education is precisely what will keep them out of that SAME cycle of poverty they are in right now with their family. They have opportunities and a positive future and need to be supported and pushed to pursue their own dreams and possibilities! I’m not certain many businesses in my community have been supportive of education during this time. Hello, Northwest Arkansas: Your employees who are 18 and younger and in school should be expected to participate in all academic, athletic, and social activities and CERTAINLY not have to choose work over education on a weekday! School first – not work.

The news that my district will NOT offer the Blended option for next year was the best news I’ve had professionally since over a year ago! I’m now about 40/60 on returning to school next year! I assure you, that is not wishy-washy, that is a 55% swing in emotions, feeling, passion. Coming back to school after Spring Break, I feel so much freer and have felt so much joy interacting with my students and feeling like a TEACHER again! Personal, human interaction is so life-affirming! I love my students and they learn so well with expectations and deadlines.

I hope administrators and especially, ESPECIALLY legislators, [who traditionally know NOTHING about education as an institution, other than the fact that they possibly attended some schools along the way to their position to show up with the craziest ideas for bills ever – ok, maybe that’s just Arkansas? … ok, not you, Megan Godfrey], will truly consider the situation as we end this year.

What are districts, states, and the national government doing to support educators at every level? To make things easier while maintaining reasonable accountability?

How are you feeling about the 2021-2022 school year? Will we have a teacher shortage or will we all return to school?

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