“Does it have a pool?” was the same question us five Zaitz kids asked everyday on our six-week road trip around the United States back in the early Seventies
A station wagon pulling an Airstream trailer, the family departed in the summer (after the strawberry picking season was done) from our Keizer home headed off for a 10,000-mile trip that touched just about every part of the country.
Mom and dad used the Kampground of America (KOA) guidebook to plan where we will settle down for the night in Idaho, Missouri, Florida, Virginia or Ohio. And everyday the question from us kids was the same: “Does it have a pool?” If dad decided a KOA was that night’s stop, all we wanted to know was if it had a pool. If so, then score! If not, dejection and the unspoken thought of how cheated we were.
To this day the Zaitz children are stilled amazed that dad (owner of the weekly Keizer News) not only could take six weeks off but paid for those six weeks of travel for seven people. Of course, these were the days before inflation changed everything in the mid-1970s.
A swimming pool was vital to us because our Buick station wagon did not have air conditioning. Drving through the Midwest and the South in August was less than comfortable. Mom and dad in the front seat, three oldest boys in the backseat and the two youngest in the way back, every window rolled down. Our only respite from the summer swelter was when dad stopped at a store to get a bag of ice. Each of us cooled down, greedily hoarding our own cup of ice. Sure that kind of traveling builds character but I’d rather have had air conditioning.
When we pulled into a KOA, or other campground, that had a swimming pool, all we could think of was getting into our swim trunks and racing to the pool. Not so fast. The trailer, once parked, the water and sewer had to be hooked up. Those were the days before automatic levelers so we had to assure the trailer was situated correctly, front to back, side to side. We didn’t care about that; we could sleep on an incline. We wanted to get to the pool.
Our family of seven spent the night in campgrounds and trailer parks of every type. Some nights our site was little more than a dusty, gravelly spot with little vegetation. Others were lush, riverside sites. The worse were those trailer parks in cities, usually in an industrial park; any port in a storm, I suppose.
Dad was a great travel host. He had, himself, traversed the country many times. The Zaitz kids benefited from his knowledge. We marvelled at the magnificent sites, both natural and man-made. National parks in the mountains, on the prairies. The Gulf of Mexico, the Keys of Florida. Those were matched by the biggest cities we had ever been to; Portland was the biggest city we knew, but, oh boy, to see downtown Dallas or New York was spectacular.
History was usually on the menu—Civil War sites, Colonial America, Washington, DC. It wasn’t all historical and nature beauty. My brother, Leland, was fascinated with Disney. Using dad’s letterhead, he wrote to DisneyWorld in Florida weeks before our departure, requeting a tour of the theme park, still under construction. The request was granted and we saw what was behind the scene.
A six-week road trip around the country offers kids, aged 9 to 15, a wonderful adventure. I am sure it was not all fun for my folks who had to contend with five children, with shifting alliances, fighting over something as inconsequential as a road map.
Regardless of how hot, boring or tense the day may have been, when we pulled into a KOA with a swimming pool, we were one happy family.
(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)