It was Christmas in July when Dad brought home the silver Plymouth Fury station wagon. It meant that my brother, sister and I no longer had to fight over who had to sit in the middle of the back seat with their feet on the hump (where the drive shaft used to be). Someone got to ride in the rear-facing third seat, stretched out on the luxurious naugahyde, like Cleopatra on her chaise, napping or making faces at the passengers in the car behind us. This was a huge deal because summer meant vacation and vacation meant road trip. I was the oldest. I was the loudest. I got that back seat.
One of our favorite locations was Lake George, the threshold to New York’s Adirondacks. My parents had visited as newlyweds (he’s the one in the stocks at Fort William Henry). Attractions included Storytown USA, an amusement park that combined an area devoted to nursery rhymes with one simulating the Wild West. We prospected at Barton’s Garnet Mines. The birthstone ring I purchased in the gift shop continues to occupy a special place in my jewelry box even though it turned my finger ogre-green that summer. Accommodations were roadside motels with ice cold swimming pools or bungalows situated on the frigid lake.
Nighttime meant mini-golf, the arcade, and ice cream.
We went back with our kids and things hadn’t changed much at all. Storytown’s now a Great American theme park and a large hotel was constructed with an indoor water park, permitting swimming without the risk of hypothermia. The Mohican and the Minne Ha Ha, an authentic paddlewheeler, keep cruising the lake, operated by the Lake George Steamship Company, founded in 1817. The motels still line Route 9 and their pools are ringed by Solair chairs, the plastic bowls with holes that created monstrous grid patterns on my thighs in 1973. It’s not cellulite; it’s residual pool chair damage. It rained during most of our stay at Roaring Brook Ranch, but we took the kids on their first horseback rides, taught them how to play pool, and participated in the evening variety show. I volunteered as the hypnotist’s victim. To this day, they’ve kept the details of that evening a secret. I love them for that.
This is the stuff of summer vacations with the family. I’d like this to be a bit of a show and tell section. Please send your memories and photos about Lake George this month and I’ll post ’em. Next month, let’s go the Cape – Cod, that is. Lobster rolls. Cranberry glass. Ptown.