Group travelers

By: 

Kay Reminger, Leader Columnist

In 1964, when I was 8 years old my folks packed us all up and took their little family on a road trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. My older sister was 11, my twin brother and sister were 6. My brother battled asthma, and from what I recall, the doctor suggested a warmer climate and a treatment that required a trip south.

Now, looking back, I am in awe of the preplanning and sheer magnitude of it all. We never took trips. Taking a trip meant leaving Shawano County and entering Waupaca County, visiting my cousin in New London.

Our family was always together and we made our own fun. Saturday night Lawrence Welk on a black and white TV, freshly bathed and pin-curled was anticipated with great pleasure because we were together. We did everything collectively back then, and it secured my little world in a hedge of protection and love.

Back in the day, we owned land in Big Falls, I believe 40 acres or so. We had heifers there that were wild as deer. Every little while, we’d all pack into our car and head out to Big Falls to fill the water tanks for the heifers. While the tanks were filling, my siblings and I would play under the cedar trees.

We’d build our houses there, making paths for sidewalks and entrance ways to our dwellings. Bringing baler twine along, we fashioned makeshift cedar-bough brooms and swept the forest floor clean. We’d have kitchens and bedrooms and living spaces, with strategically placed rocks for chairs and a TV. Our open-air fireplaces were elaborate affairs straddled with y-shaped sticks over which we could hang our suppers to cook. While playing, I’d glance at Mom and Dad, watching them work at getting the water going, occasionally giggling, heads bent together intent at their task.

Every time we went back we’d have to repair our houses, and I never could figure out who was messing them up when we weren’t there. Unbeknownst to us kids, the raccoons and skunks and squirrels, those little critters of the forest, were creating havoc while we were away.
Perhaps even a bear; good thing I didn’t know.

I never felt more secure, safer and protected, than while we were all squished together in our 1956 Ford hardtop Fairlane Town Victoria. Now, stating so boldly the fact that we had a 1956 Ford hardtop Fairlane Town Victoria is a bit of a stretch. We sisters were gathered at one of our sister days, and the topic came up, just what did Mom and Dad haul us all around in back in 1964 when we went on our excursion to Mississippi? One said a Thunderbird.

“No way did Dad ever buy a Ford Thunderbird. No.”

“Was it a 1964 Ford?”

“No. Dad would never buy a brand new car back in 1964. It must have been an older model, but I think he liked Fords.”

We wracked our brains and the subject was dropped before it was finished, a usual occurrence when the Nohr girls get together. My dear sister-in-law joins in the chaos. We never completely exhaust a topic before the next one gets introduced. We flit.

At any rate, driving to Mississippi was an experience we will never forget. We got sent off with much commotion because let’s face it, this was quite the undertaking. My aunt came over (all the way from Waupaca County) with a bag of her famous chocolate chip cookies and during the trip my brother ate one too many and Mom had a mess to deal with, somewhere in Kentucky.

Dad had to get all the chores handled by someone. We sisters agreed this was Grandpa and Grandma, (who actually lived with us for a time until we all drove Grandpa crazy and then they moved to town) and a hired man. I am simply amazed that my mother organized this trip and we actually made it there and back in one piece. Us four kids were squished together in the back of that Ford four-door and nobody was wearing any kind of seat belt.

We rented a trailer in a trailer court for a week and it had a railroad track close by. One night, my little sister fell out of her bunk bed as the train rattled our trailer in such a manner as to toss her from her perch. Mom made sure nothing was broken and she tucked her back in and we all went back to sleep.

At one point we went to a beach and while there, covered my mother up to her neck in sand, all the while squealing with glee. Her delightful giggling prompted us to action and we moved more sand in less time than any other four kids ever would. It was sheer heaven.

There was a maintenance guy at the trailer park named Gordon and we were thrilled because that was our dad’s name and this guy was a black man. We little kids looked up at this cheerful guy with his very dark skin and even, pearly white teeth and his ear-to-ear grin with eyes wide open in wonderment. We had never seen an African-American before. Ever. We loved Gordon.

Traveling everywhere as a group in our Ford, from New London to Big Falls to Mississippi, cemented my awareness of belonging, raised snug within a deep-seated sense of love and safety, for which I will always be grateful.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for group-traveling through life.

(“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32:17-18)