As children of a public high school teacher, we enjoyed many summer trips as a family, growing up in the 1950s and ’60s.

There were four of us children, eldest brother Sandy, me, sister Robin (Zinchuk of Bethel) and younger brother Randy. We mostly camped at state and national parks, and visited many historic places as our parents had friends and family all over the USA. It was mostly very pleasant and interesting traveling, especially coming from New Jersey.

In the summer of 1967, our dad, Louis Horvath, who now lives in Holden, was chosen . . . for a six-week class at San Jose State College in California. He flew out earlier than the rest of us, and our older brother chose to stay home that summer.

So, it was up to our mother, Jeanne, to drive the brand new Chevy Malibu convertible (better to enjoy the California redwoods) out to San Jose with the three younger kids. I was 12 that year, Robin was 10 and, Randy, 9. Our mom would have been 39 that year.

I always had motion sickness when in the back seat and could read a map pretty well, so I was the navigator while Robin and Randy tangled around in the back seat like a couple of puppies.

The trip across the country took about five days; mom could really “put the hammer down.”

We must have stayed at some low-budget motels because none of the accommodations stood out until we got to San Jose, where we lived in a garden apartment complex for five weeks (or so). It was the summer of’ ’67 and we saw hippies in California all over the place, but, I digress.

. . . Most of the trip was uneventful, except for the time there was too much commotion in the back seat to suit our mother and she slapped the first flesh she could hit (while driving) and brought up quite a welt on poor Robin’s leg. We never thought of it as child abuse; hell, she probably deserved it. We were all very impressed, because our parents were actually big pacifists who basically spoiled us like crazy.

Somewhere along the way, we bought a big bag of perfectly ripe peaches. They were a great snack and we all were enjoying them. Then we came to the border of Nevada and California. They have always been very strict about fruit and vegetables out there and the border guard said he needed to take the rest of the bag of fruit before he could let us get into California.

Well, our mother, being a child of the Great Depression, said “No way. We will sit here and eat them all,” so that is what we proceeded to do.

The border guard was horrified and kept saying “But ma’am, they’re rotten!” It hadn’t even occurred to us kids, since the fruit wasn’t rotten. It was just so ripe that the juices ran freely, and we just all laughed like crazy.

Once we had eaten all the fruit, we went on our way. But forever more, whenever we didn’t like what we were being served, that became our motto: “But, ma’am, they’re rotten!” We really never let her live that down and the memory has become very fond for all of us.

Our family was of average means, but my parents thought it was of prime importance for us to do those trips, and I am sure we “did without” in other ways to be able to do it. I am also sure that it was not as much fun for our mother, who still was cooking (usually in a campground setting), finding laundromats weekly, grocery shopping, etc.

I have always attributed all that traveling early in life to my ability to hunker down here in the country; and also how well rounded it made all of us.

My mother always called our family’s trips “forced group therapy,” and she was right! Really, so far away from home, we had to work out our petty differences and it really became the way we got along. What else were we going to do?

Wendy Newmeyer lives in West Paris.


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