Showing posts with label baloney sandwiches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baloney sandwiches. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2022

Kool-Aid and Baloney Sandwiches: The Days of Cheap Road Trips Are Over

In Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton sang that you are only poor if you choose to be. That was my parents' philosophy when I was a kid. We ain't poor; we're middle class.

Perhaps to prove that we were climbing upward on America's economic ladder, my parents took us kids to Disney Land in 1958. My dad bought a Chevy station wagon without air conditioning, and we were on our way. 

We headed west on Highway 66--America's Mother Road. We stopped for lunch at rest stops along the way, where my mom would slap a slice of baloney between two pieces of Wonder Bread. That was lunch--along with Koolaid, which Mom mixed herself.

In those days, people couldn't book hotel rooms online like we can today. On the road west, my dad would drive the family from one motel to another every evening until we found one with the right price.  I imagine that was a little stressful for my parents.

As I said, our Chevy wasn't air-conditioned, but my dad borrowed a tube-shaped air conditioner that fitted on a passenger window.  Didn't work too well.  

Dad also borrowed a canvas waterbag that pictured a Native American in a war bonnet. He hung the bag on the car's front grille. Dad would turn the hose on the waterbag every time we stopped for gas. 

Of course, the water on the waterbag evaporated quickly under the hot Southwestern sun. Theoretically, this evaporation cooled the water inside the waterbag. Theoretically.

On the way home, our car broke down in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and we had to spend a night there. The repair cost for fixing the transmission was astronomical--one hundred bucks!

Looking back, I now realize that it wasn't easy for my family to drive to California in 1958. Still, we saw everything a middle-class American family would want to see: the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Disney Land, Sea World, Knott's Berry Farm, and the friggin' Pacific Ocean.

Oh, those were the Good Old Days! 

Today most families would head for Disney World in Florida--not Disney Land in California. A middle-class family would drive to the resort by car and stay in a respectable chain hotel.  The family would likely eat their meals in restaurants rather than make their own sandwiches at roadside parks. 

But maybe not. Inflation has gone up so fast and so high that many people who consider themselves middle-class may be priced out of a trip to Disney World.

First, the cost of four-day theme-park tickets for a family of four is about two grand.  Five nights in one of Disney's moderate-priced hotels will cost $1600 for a standard room with two queen-size beds. Meals for six days will cost a family of four about $1600 (according to Urban Tastebuds).

So, we're talking five grand plus the cost of driving to the world's grandest theme park.  Gas is projected to hit $6.00 a gallon by summer's end.

And souvenirs--don't forget the cost of souvenirs. Mickey and Minnie don't come cheap.

Altogether, a one-week vacation to Disney World will cost a family of four about $6,000. 

You can't handle that? Don't worry. As Dolly Parton reminded us, we're only poor if we choose to be.  

So if you can't afford a summer vacation for your family this year, just tell yourself you're still in the middle class. And keep telling yourself that until you believe it. 

Who needs bottled water?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"My neighbor burns trash in a barrel out back": And why the hell not?

 It is the province of the elderly to lament the good old days when life was sweeter, and it is the province of the young to scoff at such nonsense.

Nevertheless, I recently heard a tune by a band called Southern Culture on the Skids titled "My neighbor burns trash in a barrel out back," and it made me think of my childhood in Anadarko, Oklahoma.  

Our family indeed burned trash in a barrel out back, but as far as I know, we never set anyone's house on fire. Of course, some things don't burn--empty cans of Demonte green beans, milk bottles, etc.  So my father took the noncombustible stuff to the town dump, which was located on the bank of the majestic Washita River.  Hell, everyone did that.

I remember going with my dad on a dump run when I was about four, and he allowed me to play in a gigantic pile of rusty tin cans. I slipped and fell and got a nasty cut on my wrist. Seventy years later, I still see the scar--a reminder of happy times!

When I was a kid, small-town Oklahomans believed in the constitutional right to own guns, but fortunately, most of us were too poor to buy one. We also held a strong belief in our dogs' common-law right to run freely about the neighborhood, pooping where they chose.

Most dogs exercised this right responsibly, but there were a few renegades. My childhood friends will remember Captain, a vicious collie that became a legend in southwestern Oklahoma. Although he looked exactly like the kindly Lassie we saw on television, he was, in fact, a terrorist. He was the anti-Lassie.

Captain struck a primal fear into the hearts of every child in Anadarko. This ruthless sociopath was known to visit Sunset Elementary School for the sole purpose of biting small children during recess.  I'm not making that up. Captain knew when the kids let out for morning playtime, and he traveled eight blocks from his abode on Colorado Street to maim schoolkids.

As a paperboy, Captain would occasionally ambush me on my paper route, but I developed a tactic for dealing with him.

 I carried a few extra newspapers in my canvas newspaper bag, which I rolled up tightly with rubber bands.  When Captain loped out of a ligustrum hedge to bite me, I would tuck my legs up high on my bike and pelt the son of a bitch with old copies of the Anadarko Daily News.

After a couple of encounters, Captain left me alone.

The town fathers (and mothers) were powerless to stop Captain from biting the citizenry. But finally, some high-school kids from the nearby town of Fort Cobb dispensed vigilante justice. They caught the dog, tied him to a chain, and dragged him behind a car through the streets of Anadarko until he died.

 It was sort of an Oklahoma version of The Magnificent Seven. The townsfolk were deeply grateful.

My family was poor when I was a child. I know that now because I remember the food we ate. We made grilled cheese sandwiches out of Velveeta, not cheddar, and we often ate Spam for dinner--scored of course so that it looked a bit like a grilled steak. And we put margarine on our baked potatoes, not butter. 

Then, there were those lunchmeat sandwiches, which we dressed with Miraclewhip instead of mayonnaise because Miraclewhip was cheaper.  Baloney, Oliveloaf, Liverwurst, cold hot dogs pressed between two slices of Wonderbread. If I had a dollar for every lunchmeat sandwich I ate as a kid, I could retire to the Caymans.

When I was about five, I remember coming home from our neighborhood grocery store, which an elderly woman operated in the front room of her house. Maybe I went there to buy a pack of Kool-Aid, which only cost a nickel.

While I was in the store, an older kid told me I was poor, and I went home crying.

But my mother told me that was nonsense. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We lived on the east side of town, it was true, but at least our renthouse was west of the railroad tracks.  The kids who lived on the east side of the tracks--the kids who lived near the stockyards or the peanut mill--now those kids were poor. 

Gradually, imperceptibly in my child's eyes, my mother and father clawed their way into the middle class--where, we believed, we had always belonged. After I went away to college, my parents' status elevated to an even higher level. My parents repudiated their blood-oath loyalty to Chevrolet and began driving Buicks.  They built a house with two full bathrooms--two!

Do I miss my childhood days in Anadarko? Decidedly, I do not. 

But I have a growing respect for all the families who scratched out a living in small towns like Anadarko back in the 1960s. Some were middle class, but most of them were poor--at least by present-day standards. These families shared one bathroom, and dad bought retread tires to keep the family car on the road. Kids picked up soda bottles on the side of the road to claim the 2-cent deposit.

To live like that now would seriously depress me. But, curiously, when I was a child, the way my family lived was enough.

Anadarko: dogs could roam where they pleased, and nobody was poor!