Life in our Foothills August 2023 – Postcard Summers – A Nostalgic Look at Vacationing

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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“Having a great time! Wish you were here!” was the standard postcard greeting to let friends and neighbors know you were thinking of them while traveling to enticing vacation locations. Part of every excursion included time spent in a souvenir shop or local drugstore, spinning a rack of postcards, looking for the right card that showed the spot on the map where you were sightseeing.

Old postcards are a treasure trove of memories. One summer our mother, a fourth-grade teacher who had summers off, decided we, (my sister Lucy, age 15, me age 13 and our mother) would venture to the Wild West. It was the mid-1950s. We lived in northern New York State and this sounded like an exciting adventure. What made it even more exciting was her plan for us to camp along the way to save money. 

Let me mention that we had never before camped. She purchased a tent, cots, a camp stove, and ordered tickets from AAA. We set off in our Chevrolet on July 8, to see the USA. I can only describe it as a trip filled with memories of tourist spots, car sickness, twisty mountain roads, Yellowstone bears and geysers, swimming in the Great Salt Lake with so much salt we couldn’t sink and viewing the majestic Mt Rushmore. I must add that neither my sister nor I have ever camped again. 

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When we find ourselves in a nostalgic mood, we pull out the album my mother put together filled with postcards from the many places we visited, including cards picked up at motels where we stayed when weary of camping. Photo film was black and white, so the postcards offer a more colorful story highlighting our trip. 

July 18 found us in Hannibal, Missouri, and included a visit to Tom Sawyer’s house. The famous white fence that Tom persuaded his friends to paint is adjacent to the house. A postcard of Becky Thatcher’s house sports signs for Tom Sawyer’s restaurant and the Becky Thatcher Book Shop, plus a notation on the door to let weary travelers know it was air-conditioned, an important feature in the 50s.

Then on to Kansas. A picture of an American Flag perched on a stone structure describes this point in Lebanon, Kansas as the U.S. Geographical Center, just off Route 36, with a note added stating that the wind blows there all the time. 

Leaving Kansas, and heading into Colorado, the magnificent Rockies came into view. A postcard showing the Denver Post Office describes it as the most beautiful post office in the country. Continuing to Colorado Springs and Woodland Park, a postcard depicts Motel X, calling itself “The West’s Most Beautiful Spot.” Two more cards highlight the trip to Pikes Peak, hairpin curves on the way up by bus and the trip down via the Cog Railroad. Berthoud Pass and the Continental Divide on Rt. 40 are pictured with a historical marker showing the elevation to be 11,314 feet.

July 24 and 25, it was on to Utah and Salt Lake City. We learned about the Mormons settling in Utah at the “This Is The Place” monument. The Great Salt Lake has evaporated over the years to be a small lake that is in danger of drying up. However, our postcards depict it as a wonderful playground called SaltAir Park, with people floating in the lake.

 Jackson Hole, Wyoming was our next destination. The album says we arrived July 27 and includes a postcard of an arch made of elk horns. Another card advertises the “Cowboy Bar,” touting floor shows to appeal to tourists. Camping in Yellowstone brought us up close to bears, Morning Glory Pool and Mammoth Hot Springs. Old Faithful is about to erupt in a postcard view of Yellowstone. On July 30, found ourselves camping in Cody, Wyoming.

We arrived at Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota on August 1. A photo of Mount Rushmore marks the turnaround point to start the trip home. One of the last postcards from this western adventure is from the Town and Country Cafe on Highway 16 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We arrived home on August 13, our car filled with souvenirs; our memories filled with cowboys and Indians, rodeos, mountains, and campsites spread across the roadsides.

The following summer found us dreaming of palm trees and beaches. We’d never seen the Atlantic Ocean or a palm tree. We abandoned camping and searched out air-conditioned motels and swimming pools. The first postcard in the book shows the Twilight Motel on US 17 in Shalotte, NC. Rooms were $10 a night.

After a stop in Myrtle Beach and our first swim in the ocean, we headed on to St Augustine and the “Fountain Of Youth.” Pictured on the postcard is a small spring with a stone cross embedded in the grass. My mother pasted a paper cup in the book stating that we drank from the Fountain of Youth.

Next, we visited Marineland on Highway A1A in St. Augustine to watch the trained porpoise. Driving past Daytona Beach, we were surprised to see cars driving and parked right on the beach. The sun and fun began when we hit Miami. A postcard of the Otis motel was $10 a night and right on the ocean. Another card calls to us with “Hello from Parrot Jungle” on Red Road, Miami. Postcards display a variety of parrots plus a bright-colored peacock showing off its feathers. Crossing the Tamiami Trail led us to swimming in the Gulf at Lido Beach and a visit to Sarasota and the Museum of the American Circus.

Disneyworld and Universal Studios weren’t even a dream in the fifties. Florida presented other spectacles for tourists searching out attractions. Silver Springs offered glass bottom boat rides over underwater geological formations. Cypress Gardens featured daring water ski shows along with Southern belles dressed in frilly dresses. Our album of memories ends with a postcard from the Peach State Court Motel in Brunswick, GA. A handwritten note tabulates t, 3,700 miles, and the cost of the 16-day trip, including all expenses, was $436.04.

Did you know there are postcard shows frequently held in cities around the country? Checking gives dates and locations of shows held this summer. We’ve added postcards to our collection including some from New York City, the Panama Canal, Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite, a Civil War painting of “The Battle Of Lookout Mountain” in Tennessee, plus a “penny postcard,” actually 4 cents, from the US Post Office. 

Stop in a souvenir shop on your future vacation travels and purchase postcards to send to friends. Save a few to paste into an album. As years go by, it will be more nostalgic than all the forgotten photos on your phone.