CSotD: Speaking of Country Matters

Paul Berge’s current blog features a collection of 1919 cartoons about the “Summer Widower,” and he addresses it as something known only in those days.

Not sure how old Paul is, but I caught the tail end of the phenomenon.

There was a time, O Best Beloved, when people didn’t — couldn’t — go all that far for a vacation.

When my family traveled to Disneyland in 1959, it was quite the exotic adventure: We flew on a jet airplane all the way across the country, then spent a few days at Disneyland before visiting Capistrano and La Jolla and San Francisco and probably some places I was too young to remember.


Disneyland was only four years old at the time, but I was only nine, and I’d seen Mickey Mouse Club since about the time the park opened, so I was stoked!

Mickey Mouse Club wasn’t a program-length commercial, though the Wonderful World of Disney often was, but Walt had also timed things wisely — The combination of interstate highways, less expensive airline travel and the existence of Disneyland transformed vacations.


Consider when Lucy and the gang went from New York to California earlier in ’55, bearing in mind also that, while it was a vacation for Lucy, Fred and Ethel, it was a working gig for Ricky.

Whether they could have afforded it otherwise, they drove on local roads and it was a long enough process that they had many adventures along the way.

In those days, there were regional vacation places, and — using NYC as the hub — people rented cottages on Long Island or the Jersey shore, or traveled up into the Catskills, the Poconos or more distant places like the Adirondacks, Vermont and New Hampshire.

The Adirondacks required more of a time/distance commitment, which is why people honeymooned at Ausable Chasm (or headed west to Niagara Falls).

McKinley even set up a summer White House at the Hotel Champlain on the shores of Lake Champlain and anyone who wanted to confer with him  had to take the train up from DC.  (This being a more laid back time before we began ruling, and seizing, the planet.)

For families that repaired to the shore, it was customary for Mom and the kids to take a couple of weeks, and for Dad to take the train and join them on weekends, and perhaps for a stretch of one week if he could get away.

It wasn’t simply indulgence: There was nothing to do in the city, and, while the days of coal were drawing to a close, it was still around and city air was worth avoiding.


And before Disney and his followers destroyed their market, there were small tourist places throughout those areas, like the Land of Make Believe in Upper Jay, NY, which was designed by Arto Monaco, who not only created a variety of similar places in the Adirondacks, but had a hand in Disneyland as well.

Most of those places are gone, precisely because folks can jump on a plane and be in Anaheim or Orlando without saving for a lifetime. Others have been absorbed by Great Escape-type parks.

And the days of breadwinners taking one week’s vacation while the rest of the family takes two or three are gone, along with the days when families only needed one breadwinner.

Though I sometimes wonder if you could pull it off by having one car, one bathroom, doing dishes by hand and vacationing in the Catskills.


Grumpy Vacation-themed Juxtaposition of the Day

(Pearls Before Swine)

(The Argyle Sweater)

We’re about six weeks out from leaf-peeping season, when we do still get city folks to vacation up this way, and these two comics remind us that, first of all, some moments of beauty should simply be enjoyed, and, second, that they can be faked and ruined by digital trickery.


I’ll confess to having shared some autumn shots on my pre-CSotD blog, but I certainly wasn’t using filters to add exotic colors where none are needed.

In fact, when my ex-in-laws came from Colorado to visit one autumn, they commented that the foliage was so spectacular that they were surprised: They kind of thought it only looked that way on calendars.

Which was how I felt when I first saw the Rockies. I don’t think anyone has found a filter to ruin that first impression, but please don’t come to New England thinking we have Day-Glo leaves.


Leave a Tender Minute Alone, Part Two

On a very-much-related topic, this Rhymes With Orange hit me at a good time.

I’ve never understood the appeal of cover bands to begin with, and perhaps I was spoiled because, in college, we had a kickass rock band that did a lot of covers very, very well.

In fact, yesterday, the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept-a Rollin’” came up on my player in the car and I realized that, since I first encountered it as played by that college band, my emotional response is not tied up in the original but in the cover.

They were good on their own, mind you, and one of the guys even won a Grammy later on. But even had they stunk, my affection for the song was formed when they were the band playing it.

I feel that way about most songs, and, while I’m sympathetic to the fact that a lot of rockers have been robbed of residuals, I don’t respond to new versions of their old songs. The emotional rush is in the original.

Which came to a head this week when I saw that there is a Janis Joplin musical making the rounds.

I’m well aware that there are Gloria Estefan and Carole King and Four Seasons musicals touring the country, but I was struck by the hubris of thinking you could find a skinny girl with long hair, dress her in bell-bottoms and have her sing like Janis Joplin.

And the gullibility of paying to watch her try.

At least Beethoven wrote his music to be played by cover bands.


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