Family Vacation - Part Two


By the time we got to Lake George my mom and I would be ravenous.  Let me tell you why....  My dad was the type of guy that would get behind the wheel of a car to go somewhere and not stop until he got to his destination.  I don't know if this particular DNA was in all American males in the 1960s, but it was certainly part of my dad's basic programming.  I remember my mother saying that it was time for lunch.  Dad would agree.  Mom would suggest we take the next exit off the highway.  Dad would drive right by that exit and say things like:  "That didn't look like a good one.  There's a better spot about 10 miles down the road from here."  However....   Dad had never been on this particular highway before.  He had no clue what the next exit would have or not have.  The man just kept driving like it was his job. 

Getting off the highway at Lake George would have been a perfect time to just go get lunch.  But again, dad wouldn't stop until he was at his destination.  It didn't matter that we hadn't eaten since leaving home.  Dad would say:  "Well, let's check in first and make sure everything is OK."  Remember - dad's lineage is Swedish.  And that lineage meant that when you start something - you finish it.  If this is the driving part of the trip - you drive to the end.  Period. 

The destination was a place that consisted of maybe 12 cabins right on the lake.  The way this property was laid out - there was a parking lot as soon as you got there.  All the cars for the cabins had to park there.  After you had checked in at the "desk" you were given the key to your cabin for the week.  We always got the same one.  Again, I'm sure that dad liked that cabin, knew that cabin, and specifically booked that cabin every year.  Just to be clear, the cabins were all exactly the same.  I'm sure of it.  But dad's favorite one was about halfway from the parking lot at the top of the hill to the beach.  I'm sure that dad would have thought that the cabins near the beach were too noisy, and the cabins at the top of the hill were too far away from the water.  But the one halfway up - on the right side - was JUST RIGHT. 

After we moved our stuff from the car to the cabin and settled in a bit, we could head out for lunch.  If memory serves me correctly, there was a small kitchen area in the cabin, but I have no memory of having a meal there.  Every meal we had was at one of the small family-run restaurants between our cabins and the town.  One of my favorites was a pancake house that we went to a lot.

Once we were in that cabin, there were only three things that we did - for the entire week:  go out for meals, spend the day at the property, and go out to amusement parks.  Let me talk about amusement parks in the 1960s at Lake George...

The amusement parks had names like:  "Magic Forest", "Storytown", "Ghost Town", "Jungle Land", "Frontier Town", and "Gaslight Village".  These little places were not the caliber of "Six Flags" or any Disney park.  Not by a long shot.  These were just spots in the forest where someone had built a few things, and put in a couple of kiddy rides, and had a hamburger stand.  They were hoaky and old and had oversized statues throughout the park that mirrored the theme of the park.  These parks were designed for very young children to be delighted, and everything was tucked into the forest instead of being on top of asphalt and concrete like today's amusement parks.  

Magic Forest had its claim to fame by having the nation's only DIVING HORSE.  That's right.  Once an hour, they would take some poor horse, march it up a wooden incline, and get it to jump into a pool of water about 6 feet below.  Every hour they were open, the loudspeakers all around the park would start announcing that the horse was going to dive in 15 minutes, and you don't want to miss it!   

Gaslight Village was near the center of town and was only open at night.  This was genius in those days - to have the only amusement park that could draw an evening crowd!  My very favorite "ride" was getting to drive the antique cars.  Yes, they were on a track, so you weren't driving them anywhere you wanted, but to have to power to get into a car and drive it when you're a kid?  Priceless.

Most of the days at Lake George were spent on the little beach near the cabin.  Mom and dad would have "fold-up" lawn chairs that they would set up under a tree so that they could read and daydream.  I'd be in the water and trying to make friends with the other kids whose parents were in their chairs under a tree.  

Life was simple.  Vacations were simple.  Everything was predictable.  No one had cell phones back then.  There weren't any TVs in the cabins.  When you were on vacation - YOU WERE ON VACATION.  Those were the good old days...