A few months after marrying our stepmother, Beatrice, Dad thought it would be a good idea for our blended family to go on a family vacation. I think he considered it a forced opportunity for us kids to bond.
Our first trip was to Chicago. Since we had grown up there, my sister Abby and I thought we had the whole city down. Little did we know that we had only seen a portion of Chicago – the neighborhood we grew up in.
My sister Abby, being the oldest, was in charge of “the children” while our parents went by themselves to have some alone time. Our new little brother disappeared at The Museum of Science and Industry. We were frantic in our search for him. After all, we hardly knew him and would have had difficulty giving a description to the police. Thankfully, we found him eating food (we still do not know the source of the food) and averted the disaster of losing one of the new family members.
Our next trip was to the Wisconsin Dells. The most memorable event was our stepmother Beatrice sobbing uncontrollably because the “family suite” was just a great big room with wall to wall beds. So much for a bit of privacy.
Our dad knew he must find another place for us to stay if he wished to remain sane. Soon we were moving from the giant room to a resort on a lake where we were allowed some space to ourselves.
The second most memorable event was discovering the All You Can Eat, Lumberjack Meals Buffet. This was like Heaven on Earth for the four of us children, as each of us had hearty, lumberjack appetites.
It was a rather primitive resort but had a swimming pool which was well used by all four of us kids. Our stepmother did not enjoy being outdoors, did not enjoy swimming and did not enjoy spending so much time with the new, blended family. This was not her idea of family fun.
The four of us kids learned that you could charge food to your room and we made extensive use of this perk. We charged snacks, pop, candy and meals. Since all the food came with no request for money in exchange for all the crap we ordered, we assumed it was free. As you can imagine, Dad was in for quite a surprise on our departure when he was presented with the bill for the damages done by the stomachs of four little chow hounds.
At the Dells, they also had a bowling machine in the bar and we played it with wild abandon. I thought I was good at bowling until I actually went to a real bowling alley. Turned out the machine I had been playing on was rigged to let me win.
Upon our return, our stepmother let it be known that she was done with these family vacations. Her resolve was firm until Dad discussed going to French Lick, Indiana. Something about the magic of seeing our hillbilly “kin” was too much for her to pass up. Either that or it was purely morbid curiosity.