by Susan J. Decuir
Before scrapbooking became popular in the 1980s, I was scrapbooking in the 1950s, inspired by my dad’s love for scrapbooking. Thanks, Mom, for leaving them with me. Without them, I would have never known that Dad went to the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair when he was fifteen or that he wrote a camp gossip column called Camp Purrs while in the Army during WW II stationed in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he met you.
My most coveted scrapbook memorabilia are the national park brochures, pamphlets, event parking tickets, photos, and souvenirs I collected from my favorite and last family summer vacation with Dad before he went to heaven due to kidney disease in 1960.
In 1959, Dad loaded up his family of five into his brand-new air conditioned 1959 Plymouth and drove across historic Route 66 from Texas to California to visit his brother and see all the sites along the way. Route 66 was a curvy, narrow two-lane road, and every time Dad passed a vehicle going slower than the 50 MPH speed limit, I’m pretty sure I heard Mom praying. My little brother and I hunkered down in the backseat. Our older brother scrunched between Mom and Dad in the front. Kept the peace that way.
In New Mexico, Dad took us kids on an adventurous, educational guided tour into the depths of Carlsbad Caverns; we ran barefoot across the warm gypsum crystal sand dunes at White Sands National Monument; and in Mesa Verde National Park in Montezuma County Colorado, we marveled over the magnificent Indian Cliff Dwellings built along the sides of and under the overhangs of cliffs in the Four Corners area where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet. We took turns standing on the four corners.
Dad, a kid a heart, stopped at every snake and alligator farm along the way. My brothers loved it. Gave me the creeps. Mom stayed in the car, preferring souvenir shops and custard stops.
Arizona was one breathtaking display after another of God’s handiwork: The Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world, was spectacular and a little scary standing high above the colorful canyon gazing into its depth and across the wide expanse. I asked Dad a lot of questions at the intriguing Petrified Forest. I still remember the beauty of the multi-colored Painted Desert. In Nevada, even I, at twelve, discerned that Hoover Dam was an engineering marvel.
Once we reached California and completed our visit with Dad’s brother’s family, we headed for Disneyland. We just missed the June 14, 1959 Grand Opening of the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail, Matterhorn bobsleds, and Submarine Voyage. But the coupon books Dad bought us included all of the rides from Main Street to Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland, and us kids, even Dad, rode nearly every ride. My coupon book with the unused tickets is pasted into my scrapbook. Hmm. I wonder if they’re worth anything?
Mom, the keeper of the purse, bypassed the Carlsbad Cavern tour and the Disneyland rides so we didn’t go over the tight vacation budget.
When we thought we had seen it all, Dad took us to Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood to view our favorite actors’ handprints, Knotts Berry Farm Amusement Park and to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park where we saw the tallest trees we had ever seen, making the trees in Texas look like bushes.
Today I take caution when I reach for a scrapbook, lest the closet shelf collapses, lined with a multitude of scrapbooks filled with handmade greeting cards, coloring pages, school essays, school programs, etc. from my two children and three grandchildren.