3. The Florida Trips

My mother’s parents lived in Fort Myers, Florida in a modest trailer park designed for retirees.  They had an Airstream mobile home with a beautiful mahogany interior and they were perhaps the happiest couple I had ever known.  These were kind, loving, and unassuming people.  JT-GP-2Over the coming years, I would play many games of pinochle with my grandmother and my grandfather would teach me to fish.  Somehow, he seemed in tune with all things in nature.  We would sit on the porch and he would crack peanuts or pecans for us to eat.  Then he would stop and hold a single peanut in the palm of his hand and wait.  Sure enough, a beautiful red cardinal would fly in and land on his finger, snatch the peanut, and fly away.  It was magical to be there.

Once a year, usually in February, we would take our vacation to Ft. Myers.  My father would rent a beach house and we would spend lots of time visiting the grandparents and playing on the beach.  I have only vague memories of those times although I do remember sailing a toy sailboat on the Gulf, climbing an orange tree and FM-beachhousepicking oranges, and walking the beach and collecting shells.  Then there was the year I was out in the sun too long and my ears were burned so badly I had to stay inside.  That was not fun.

 The really cool part for me was the trip down to Florida.  This was before the Interstate Highway System was constructed.  President Eisenhower had conceived of the system during WWII in Europe and construction had barely begun.  The trip consisted of a series of 2-lane roads that passed through every town along the way.  The sensible thing to do of course was to fly there and rent a car.  But my father, famously, ranted that he ‘already owned a car and why would he want to rent someone else’s car when he got there?’  Therefore, he always drove to Florida, usually at a dizzying pace.  To us he represented the cartoon of the man who arrives in Florida with snow still on his car.

Usually one or more of my sisters would accompany him for the drive.  My mother and I would always fly.  Among my friends, I was the only kid that had ever been on an airplane and I got to do it every year!  This wasn’t just any airplane, this was a 4-engine propeller driven Lockheed Constellation.  It was beyond cool.  I was always the youngest person on the flight and usually I was invited up to the cockpit (while we were in flight) to see all the magical dials and gadgets.  If there was a heaven on earth for a young boy, this was surelyJT-GP-1 it!

The good part of flying to Florida (besides the magical dials and gadgets) was that we got there a couple of days before the rest of the family.  I got to visit with my grandparents for a while and had their complete attention.  I could also play at the beach, collect shells, and pretty much do whatever I wanted without any competition from my sisters.  The bad part about flying, even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, was that I didn’t get to see the country along the way.  At my young age though, flying was much cooler.  There would come a time in my life when I would take advantage of the opportunity so see the whole country.

© J T Weaver

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About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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31 Responses to 3. The Florida Trips

  1. Nice photos. Great memories. Flying, fishing, happy days. Grandparents are called “grand” for a reason. My mother’s parents seemed to know how to simply live and to love without putting on parental agendas. Nice….

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  2. Carol Ervin says:

    Love those black and white photos. Also B-W movies! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. laphillips52 says:

    I know I’ve read this before but it still makes me think back to visiting my grandparents. They were Kansas farmers (both sets). We’d drive across country, always excited, we did not appreciate the scenery along the way we were just focused on all of our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Thanks again for the memories!

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  4. tchistorygal says:

    Very fun. My mother’s best friend from high school lived in Punta Gorda FL. Mom, Randy and I would drive down in early August – I know crazy – about two weeks later, Dad would fly into Tampa and spend his two week vacation, then we would all drive home. How cool to ride in the plane, though. I thought it was great going through the Blue Ridge Mountains and seeing all the bears along side of the road. People would stop and put their babies on the bear’s shoulders and take their pictures. I wanted a picture witha bear so badly, but my dad said, “No, they were wild animals.” To a five year old little girl, seeing all those babies on bears’ backs it just seemed that Dad didn’t have a clue! Whew!

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  5. To have been in that cockpit… that never happens any more.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Magical, simply magical. I flew in one of the first 707 jets as well but I was too old for the cockpit at that point. Of course all this was before DB Cooper spoiled it all for everyone.

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  6. Gallivanta says:

    Such sweet photos to go with your post.

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  7. mixedupmeme says:

    I wonder if anybody plays pinochle anymore with all the fancy computer games etc.
    My husband and I play two handed pinochle quite a bit. We also play casino and cribbage.
    “Hey, hon. Let’s have a hand before supper!”
    Bury me with a deck of cards please!

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    • J T Weaver says:

      We play canasta sometimes, haven’t played cribbage in many years. My grandparents were the only ones that I knew that played pinocle. I’m glad you liked it.

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  8. andreabittle says:

    Sweet memories! I also remember the early days of flying and how magical it was. And visiting grandparents every summer, sunburned ears and all! Thank you JT for this and for following my writing about teaching (bateacher@wordpress.com). I look forward to more of your stories!

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  9. Great set of memories. What a wonderful location your Grandparents chose for you to visit. I never went on a Constellation in those years. I just flew short haul in Europe on Vikings and Viscounts, which were still exciting. Nice posts.

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    • J T Weaver says:

      Thanks. I’m glad you are enjoying them. I remember what a big deal it was to fly on my first 707 in the early 60s. They treated you like a king, Eastern Airlines I think it was, Boston-Miami.

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  10. wendysmullin says:

    Wow…thank you for bringing back sweet memories of my Grandparents. You have a sweet gift that I am grateful to be a part of. Days with Grandparents are pure magic.

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  11. Cindy Wayland says:

    I remember making trips to Florida myself — same coast, but a bit farther north — to Sarasota, where my grandparents lived. We traveled there in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Some of the states between Alexandria, VA (where we lived) and Sarasota had Interstate roads constructed, but we, too, drove through many small towns on 2-lane roads. Thanks for bringing to my mind wonderful memories of summer vacations in Florida, as well as the road trip there and back!

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