Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Maine Event, Part I

Sometime in the early 1960’s, in one summer that seemed rather chilly (imagine that – a cool summer in New York) we began the tradition of the summer family vacations.  In previous posts I wrote about the Martins and their years in the sun of Cape Cod. But before we ever found Dennisport, the Pancake Man, and all the little treasures of the South Shore, we needed a few practice runs.

Like New Hampshire and Maine.  We packed up the car – my parents, sister and brother, and headed off to New England, glibly sure that any place would be glad to have us and open their arms to us Flatlanders.

And they would have opened their arms, but they were all a might busy attending to the tourists who actually made reservations.  Learning this, as you may have read earlier, was about a decade long progress and did not really sink in until the first Nixon Administration.  So we traveled on in our 1961 Chevy Impala..

which is a great way to move 4 people around, but slightly harder when there’s five, so the littlest one (me) was shoved in between my parents (no bucket seats, fortunately) or stuck in the back with my older brother and sister and the torture older siblings can inflict on younger ones, such as noogies, or in a more sinister mood, Indian Rope Burn.  We made our way east and up to New Hampshire or Maine, no one is quite sure now and it didn’t matter anyway because everyplace was already rented.  We were about to give up in disgust and start the blame game when we saw a place called the Hollywood Cabins.  Small wooden structures about the size of my garden shed that seemed to be able to house as many as one needed. Each cabin was named after a Hollywood movie star. We were placed in:

Zsa Zsa Gabor, um, so to speak.  I, having no idea what a ZsaZsaGabor was, and merely laughed when everyone else did about it. Then we had to get real, and squish five people in a place meant for three small ones. Cots were borrowed and maneuvered around.  We survived however long we stayed.

The Martins were never a heavy picture taking group, and, now that most of the people who went on these vacations are gone, all I can do is call up in my own memory of some black white pictures.  One is four of the five of us standing in front of the Zsa Zsa, my mother looking harried, my sister perfectly tomboyish, and me, well, I’m just there.  I’m not sure if its my father or brother in the picture as well. The picture fades out before I can tell.

The one shot I do remember was during our big trip to Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.  There was one picture taken, and I’m again not sure where the picture is now, but it had my parents, my sister, and me at the front of the trolley where the conductor stood, my father proudly having hand on brake. Big smiles.

When Jackie and I went up to Maine a few years back, I asked if we could find if the train, let alone the museum, still existed. She did, we did, and it does.  I have a bookmark from the place. And someplace is a slightly blurred picture of me, my hand on the brake, big smile, just like Lou.

One other moment from the first trip to New Hampshire/Maine.  We went to Old Orchard Beach because, well, that’s where you go.  My parents put me on a carousel (in Lansingburgh speak – Merry Go Round) but on one of the seats, as I had my doubts about the fire breathing animals other parents were sacrificing their children to.  So I sat there waiting to go around in a circle when a woman with dark hair and brown sweater carrying a child came over to my cubicle and said:

“Que mon fils monter avec vous, s’il vou plait?”

I gazed at her dumbfounded.  What is wrong with this person? Is she just speaking gibberish and handing a new little brother or sister over to me?  Is that how I got here with the people now living at ZsaZsaGabor?  Someone just hands you a baby?

My father came over and told me to move down on the seat so the little boy (new baby brother?).  Then my father turned to the brown haired and said something just a nonsensical to the woman, waved at me and went over to probably tell the other people I live with that we just won a new kid.  He’s not staying in my room.

That must be the secret code for parents, what that lady said.  And my father can speak it.  He later told me were Canucks which sounded faintly bird like, and that Canucks speak Frenchy.  Since this was good gig I had going, I kept quiet.  Over the last few years I’ve found that Paul and Anna Martin had moved from Quebec to the US in the 1880s and that I was descended from them and my father, being around French Canadians, knew some French.  I wondered who stopped Paul and Anna on their way to Troy and gave them my grandfather.

Anyway, I got my ride, the lady took the kid back, which made me breathe easier, though that kid would have been next in line for noogies.  My noogies. 

We went back to Maine a few years later, and things took yet another interesting turn.  More on that soon. And RIP Zsa Zsa.

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