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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Going to Neverland in 1976

In 1976, a bicentennial year, my parents, brother and I packed up the old blue Chevy and headed off on our first real vacation. We drove north with no air conditioning or seat belts because back then no one buckled up. In fact, if my memory serves me well, my father actually took a switch blade and cut the dirty hanging things right off. My mother had to look pretty for her trip, so before leaving the house she washed her hair and put her rollers on and then wrapped her head with a scarf. I don't know if it was a cultural thing or if it was a trend at that time, but she would go out into the street with those pink, purple and green rollers in her head all the time, so of course, I thought it was perfectly normal. I, on the other hand, preferred the natural look since my hair was so curly anyway.

Because we had no air conditioning in the car and it was so unbearably hot, we welcomed the wind in our face with open arms. First, we stopped in Naples, rented a room at a Howard Johnson with a huge pool. It may not have actually been huge but for a kid it sure was big. After a swim in the pool, a nap and dinner, we anxiously went to bed in anticipation without a clue as to where my parents would take us the following day. My brother and I grew up in strict household. Our parents expected us to obey and remain silent and for the better part of our young lives I suppose we did just that, so of course we did not dare ask Father where we were going. In the morning, we were ordered to get our swimsuits on and grab the beach bags as we drove to a beautiful white sandy beach with tons of trees along the shore. In my eyes, it was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. The crystal clear water housed dozens of small fish that my brother and I swore we would catch. Years later my husband, the kids and I returned to that same strip of beach, but this time found multi-million dollar homes now occupied that sandy shore. The beach as I knew it was no more, but I can see it again anytime I want in the 8 mm film that I still keep of that vacation.

From Naples we drove north and then east to Orlando. There we entered another world: Walt Disney's. Unlike today, where a person just pays a fee and rides anything at anytime, back then we purchased booklets. The booklets contained coupons for different rides, and I may be wrong, but I don't remember riding the same ride twice. Oh, how I remember the parades, the castle, the pirates and the tree house. Voyaging through It's a Small World I thought my heart would jump out of my body with excitement. But then, I road the most incredible ride; it was like no ride I would ever experience again in my life. I had read the story, seen the movie and watched the play, but no one could have ever prepared me for "The Ride." I sat next to my mother in our very own boat, and my brother sat with my father in the boat behind us. Then, we set sail into a land filled with adventure, magical pirates, a flying boy and a man eating crocodile. I was on my way to see the one and only Peter Pan. The ride probably only lasted a few minutes for my mother,but I was on it for days, at least it felt that way. I looked up at the sky and yelled in amazement, "look the stars." Then, a few seconds later I leaned over the side of my flying vessel and yelled, "look at all the cars down there." My mother reprimanded me and reminded me that everyone could hear me. She said I had to contain my joy, and so I whispered, "Dad did you see him?" Every corner of that humongous room sprinkled me with magic that day. And yes, still years later I found myself still believing in fairies, fairy tales and magical places where all my dreams would come true. I guess it's all Peter's fault that I am a romantic...

I have never forgotten that trip, the places we visited or my mother walking around Disney World and Sea World with rollers in her head, a sleeveless blouse, shorts and sandals. Amazingly, even my father wore shorts on that trip. He smiled a lot and seemed to enjoy himself almost as much as we did. He was happy...We were all happy.


  1. Mme. Fearless, I know this story. Destination the same. The cast of characters are different, the year is different and the rollers are yellow. This post is wonderful! Reminds me of a time when things were gentler. I graduated high school in 1976. Ahh, the memories came flooding back. Wasn't it wonderful? - Nards

  2. I love your story ,and you tell it so well! I believe disney is a magical place and always have been,although it was my first time ( that i could remember)i was told i went when i was 2yrs, old ,but when i attended gradnite i only went on a couple of rides with hesitation. There is a wonderful feeling of disney its a place of enjoyment that ANYONE can be a kid AGAIN! the atmosphere is delightful and welcoming you never want to leave!

  3. I smiled the whole time while reading this post! It sounds like a page from my own family diaries..unknown family vacation destinations, 'belt less' car rides and hot, hot summers.
    The magic of Disney is exactly as you describe it to a young girl. (My captivation was A Small World) but every detail of the vacation is still so vivid!
    ..Thanks for inviting us on your journey into memories past..(and rekindling some memories of our own!)

  4. It is nice to remember days and events where everyone was happy and had a good time.
    I bet the pictures are great and comforting.

  5. Ahhhhhahahahahahahahahahaha, fearless this is priceless! I really enjoyed reading this, and it gave me flashbacks of curlers in my own mothers hair, she is in her 50's now and thankfully the bright pink curlers are long gone hahaha. I was sitting here though and it was like I was on this trip with you and your family, my mouth was open and I was like too cool of a vivid account.

    I have never been to disneyland, but know what it would have meant had I been able to go as a child
    :0) so it was certainly nice to hear anothers account of it.

    P.S your mom was and is still beautiful ;0) I really enjoyed the pics.

    thanks again!


  6. I enjoyed reading your wonderful story. Also, your mom is so pretty.That's a good idea to honor your mother in the fearless blog in this special day.Happy mother's day to you.


  7. From the comments left by your students: it is obvious that you are very good at teaching about writing; and from what I just read: it is obvvious that you are very good at actually writing, as well.

  8. I do believe that we were there too. My children had eyes full of wonder and I was as enchanted has they were.

    I posted a challenge yesterday. I thought you might be interested. You are the perfect example of writing with a happy heart!


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