Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” came out in April, 1968. I always heard the chorus as “All gone to look for America.” The Internet tells me I’ve heard that line wrong for nearly 50 years – it’s really “All come to look for America.” But, I think my mishearing is a better title for this series of blog posts on a trip back in 1968.
In 1968, our parents took our family plus Grandma on a major trip – a cross country trip mostly by train, returning eastward across Canada. It was an amazing few weeks and fueled my lifelong love of travel. It was also challenging at times for my folks who were traveling with 4 children under the age of 12 – I was 11, Carrie was 10, Jeff was 8 (had his 9th birthday on a train in Canada) and Terry was 3 (turned 4 not long after we got home). This was not the kind of trip middle class families made in the ’60s but my grandfather had died in late ’66 leaving some money for extras like this trip.
The main argument I had with Mom over this trip was her refusal to fly. She was phobic about flying, and this phobia extended to Dad (who occasionally had to fly on business) and her kids. Her stepmother would fly, but she traveled with us for most of the trip. She left us in Canada for a separate trip to Banff; don’t remember if she flew home from there or not.
This story of our trip will be mostly lacking something important – photographs. I know Dad took a fair number of photos as he stored them in photo envelopes in his office drawer for decades. Over the last few years, both of my parents have died. One thing we have yet to find after two years of combing over their stuff – most of the photos from that trip. The one family picture I have from early that summer just before the trip is the single most ugly shot of the four of us, so horrifying in its utter dorkiness that one brother has begged me to never put it online and I agreed. How bad is that photo? Well, here’s the picture of me from that photo, and, I agree, it is one of the worst photos of me ever.
Here’s a travel shot of us taken in Canada in 1967 (we were all bigger by ’68, me especially).
And our youngest brother looked roughly like this in 1968 (though smaller in this case)
And, finally, here’s a photo of my parents, taken around the time of the big trip.
While most of the photos of that summer are probably still buried in a box somewhere, one thing we did unearth last fall was the itinerary. My folks used a local travel agent who arranged the hotels and the like. So I can tell you that we left Union Station, Worcester, MA on Friday August 2, 5:10pm and took the train to Chicago. We had sleeper bunks in the train and got to Chicago the next morning. We stayed at the Harrison Hotel (now the Travelodge on East Harrison St.). I never had many memories of Chicago, other than it was the first huge city I’d ever been to. I think we went to one of the museums and walked around. I think we took a sightseeing trip on Lake Michigan. But the reason I have so few memories of Chicago from that trip is we were only there for about a day and a half. By early Sunday evening, we were on a train, heading west for Flagstaff, Arizona.