August 4, 1969: A Fair!

Got a good start but had to stop 2 hours to get Tim a shot of cortisone. Camped at the free campsite in Atlantic, Iowa. Had another town pool plus a fair to visit.

Marge Binder, August 4, 1969

Looks like Tim was still battling “something poison,” so we stopped for two hours to get him some cortisone. But hey, free campsite. And a fair! (Note: exclamation is mine, not Mom’s.)

A Fair to Remember, or not.

I had a nice post planned: I figured I’d research this fair in Atlantic, Iowa and paint a nice picture of community, tradition and middle America. Early on in my (internet) research, I learned that Atlantic is the seat of Cass County, so the fair Mom references must have been the Cass County Fair.

The Cass County Fair looks spectacular on the internet. Its site has lots of historical depth and artifacts dating back to the 1850s. I learned that over the years the fair had been touched by the Civil War (there were loyalists on both sides), the construction of the Pacific Railroad through town (the fair had to relocate a few blocks away), as well as local politics and public taste.

What a lovely all-American story and event…200 miles away in Cass County, Missouri. Check it out.

The next Cass County Fair I fell in love with I soon discovered occurs in Cassopolis, Michigan — celebrating 168 years! Check out this neat program.

Turns out there is also a Cass County Fair in Weeping Water, Nebraska; Pine River, Minnesota; and Logansport, Indiana. (There are nine counties in the country named Cass, all of them after Lewis Cass, the losing candidate for president in 1848.)

But I digress.

Image result for cass county fair, iowa

Finally I found my virtual way to the Cass County Fair in Atlantic, Iowa. Once I confirmed I was in the right place, I felt a pang of disappointed that the Iowa version doesn’t match the scale and significance of the others. Here’s the Facebook page for Iowa’s version of the Cass County Fair. Claim to fame: “largest free fair in all of Iowa.”

According to the Atlantic News Telegraph website, this Cass County Fair includes an early morning Beef Show, followed “one hour later” by the “beef fitting contest.” Color me curious.

Fairs vs Carnivals

Growing up in Vienna, Virginia we had an annual summer carnival — not a fair — housed in the parking lot of the Giant and Peoples Drug stores. When Bob’s Big Boy got built (where the Outback Steakhouse is now), the carnies moved to a plot of scrubby land off Church Street (now a proper park). Vienna’s carnival had a midway of food and games and the latest rides like the Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, a Ferris wheel, swings. Here’s a wiki of some of those wicked carny rides through history.

Cows at a 1960s Cass County Fair — in Missouri

My wife knows the difference between a carnival and a fair. The woman I believed to be a Chardonnay-sipping sophisticate was a closet county fair fan all along. She grew up in Missouri (but never heard of Cass County) and was involved with the 4H Club. I’ve learned that a proper fair might have a carnival component, but the heart and soul are the animals. I’ve spent more time around pigs and cows in the past 10 years than I did in my first 44. Quality fairs also celebrate local lore and culture, like food, art and photo competitions, tractor pulls and demolition derbies, and campy (and big name) entertainment of all kinds.

We have at least two county fairs to visit this summer — here in California and in Michigan.

And someday, maybe, we’ll roadtrip to all those Cass County Fairs throughout the midwest, starting in Missouri.

July 31, 1969: A Kid Drowned!

You can see (kind of) that much of the interstate construction was not complete in this area of the country.

Also, I spoke with Mom today, and she recalled that the “mountain stream” she describes here made her uneasy. She’d seen flooding before and she worried that, because we were perched on a bend, just a bit of a rise might wipe away our tent.

More Wyoming then Colorado—short day for a change. Set up on rocky ground next to a mountain stream at Eldorado Springs. Mike & Doug swam in a big pool there and saw a drowning.

Marge Binder, July 31, 1969
This appears to be a recent photo of the “nationally known swimming pool,” and it still has a diving board!

This episode I (think I) remember. Great pool, lots of kids, lots of activity, Mike and me splashing about. And then everything stopped. Silence. Something weird was going on.

It’s one of those memories, like the Redwoods and “Bomb Cambodia” a few weeks back, where I might be melding it with others. As I recall, this sad occasion is when Mom offered the advice: Don’t swim for an hour after eating. If it did happen like this, it was brilliant of her, because I still subscribe to that advice today.

Mom picked a great place to spend a few days (note the three Ws in the ad below; that’s Woodall’s highest rating!). I don’t remember anything else, but her diary lists out Mike’s allergy shots, shopping and some car maintenance. I have to think there was also plenty of hiking, playing and other things that make childhood childhood in a place like Colorado.

Sorry for that kid though.

I love that the ad for the campground welcomes “wagons.” I’m picturing a wagon train emerging Brigadoon-style from a dust storm on the prairie and finding this place most welcoming. Act II: Everyone is strung out on “modern restrooms” and “sanitary.” Act III: We’re staying.

Also, as I mentioned above, the place had a “nationally known pool.” Gotta say, the only other that can boast that is the Reflecting Pool in DC. I don’t recommend diving.

July 26, 1969: 1969 in Dollars

Went to see the Lloyd shopping center. Visited Jo Doty and we took the kids swimming and talked. Went back to camp early so Tim could fish.

Marge Binder, July 26, 1969

A few things here. Jo Doty was Mom’s roommate at Central Michigan when she and Dad met.

As for the Lloyd Shopping Center, it was a big deal! For a while it was the largest shopping center in the country. Huh, an open-air mall in rainy Portland: Genius! Someone finally figured out that a roof might help with the shopping experiences. Happily, it is indeed now enclosed.

Also, Tim fished.

The Price of Things…

It’s no surprise that prices increase over time, whether due to inflation or compassionate corporate stewardship. Here’s a sampling of some key items for families, including the ingredients for a killer cheese sandwich, a roadtrip staple.

ITEM1969 Average2019 Sampling/Average
Loaf of bread$0.23$2.19
Velveeta$0.68 (on sale! see below)$7.98
Yellow mustard$0.34$3.43
Gallon of gas$0.32CA:$3.84 MI:$2.75 VA:$2.49
Dozen eggs$0.62CA: $2 MI: $0.48 VA: $0.98
A&W Papa burger
A&W Mama burger
$0.95
$0.55
$3.99
$2.99 (only in Canada!)
In-state college tuition$1410$20,150
Movie ticket$1.42 $13.49
Annual wageMen: $6,860
Women: $2,250
Men: $38,900
Women: $24,900
Dollar$1$6.92

A late addition here, and I couldn’t get this table to update:

The first KOA in Billings, Montana charged $1.75 when it opened in the mid-60s. I just tried to book at the same place for a tent campsite. $55 a night! Maybe the campground business IS the future!

Back on June 26, I showed you how you could buy yourself a KOA. Too easy? Then check out how to BUILD one.

July 19, 1969: Tim Sees a Doctor

Mike has a friend next door named Mark—6 ½ yrs old, several inches taller than Mike and over 100 lbs. Took them on a hike with the ranger. Went to town to buy groceries and have a doctor look at Tim’s rash. Swam and went to the camp fire. 100° by the river but nice & cool at night.

Marge Binder, July 19, 1969

Okay, I’ll admit the headline “Tim Sees a Doctor” seems a little unexceptional. Thing is, it’s huge. Tim avoided doctors his whole life, so I don’t think he went willingly back in 1969, especially for a measly rash.

In his life, Tim experienced several injuries that would require anything from stitches to not-simple surgery. The ones I can remember from the last 20 years or so: he got bit by a copperhead snake and watched his hand swell and turn black, waiting several days to seek treatment; he dropped a fish-cleaning knife into his foot, severing a major tendon and was goaded by Dad into finally seeing a doctor, only to forego the kind of therapy he needed to heal; a few years before he passed, he twisted his knee in an unfortunate encounter with his car on an icy driveway, so he used a cane from then on rather than get help.

That was Tim, and he was proud of it.

In the book we made for our parents’ 60th anniversary, Tim contributed an essay about one of these doctor-avoidance episodes, something I called “Medical Attention Deficit Disorder.” Here is an excerpt:

Until the last few years, fish-cleaning was done on a makeshift table
in the garage. In 2002, I was butchering a bountiful day’s catch with a
murderous and electric fish-fillet knife. Between salmon, this implement
fell — while switched on — off the table and onto my right instep, slicing
a tendon neatly in two, and causing blood to gush. It also caused a vocal
argument between Boss, who advised a trip to the emergency room, and
I, who wanted to wrap it in gauze and duct-tape and go fishing the next
morning. As Captain of the ship, Boss’s will prevailed. Besides sutures,
the local doctor advised surgical splicing of the tendon, which I declined
when told this would keep me off the water for several precious days.

T. James Binder, 2010

July 14, 1969: Hippies!

This must have been a spectacular drive along the coast; it is indeed “scenic.” We passed within a few miles of where I live today. In fact, in one of the earliest posts in this blog I cited Interstate 280 as being among the most scenic and sinuous of highways. But back in 1969, it wasn’t yet finished. So up Highway 1 we traveled, along its twisty, hilly, white knuckle contours overlooking the Pacific. (Note in the AAA guide book: the roads are “not recommended for the timid driver.”)

So when it recently come to light that I spent the day with a bucket in my lap, I can’t say I was surprised, given my track record with projectile car-sickness.

By the end of the day, we were ensconced on Mt. Tamalpais north of San Francisco, communing with hippies!

Packed up and got an early start. Took the scenic route along the Big Sur coast and Doug got sick again. Went through San Francisco and got a spot on Mt. Tamalpais—Bootjack Camp. Had to carry everything in.

Marge Binder, July 14, 1969
https://calstate.aaa.com/via/road-trips/-mount-tam-mill-valley-day-trip
From 1969 edition of AAA Tour Book, California-Nevada

July 10, 1969: When A&W Ruled

Got Mike’s shot and new tennis shoes. Packed and drove along the coast thru L.A. to Pismo Beach. Set up at state beach park. Ate at the A&W.

Marge Binder, July 10, 1969

Though there was a McDonald’s in our little hometown of Vienna, VA, we didn’t patronize a single one on this entire journey — at least not according to Maw’s diary. As I’ve observed before, there were very few fast food chains back in the day. And the ones that existed like Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even Taco Bell were limited in area and number. Dave Thomas was still four months away from opening the first Wendy’s.

Here’s a little wiki-history of fast food that reaches back to ancient Rome. Good luck getting them to “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce.”

We were an A&W family. Papa Burgers, Mama Burgers, Teen Burgers, Baby Burgers, Olive Burgers, so much selection! Of course, the A&W root beer was second to none. A root beer float passed into the backseat at one of their drive-ins? Sugary, creamy, carbonated heaven. And such convenience!

Here’s a little history of A&W, not including the fact that the Mama Burger is now only available in Canada. Canada!

Fun Fact

A&W celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1969, meaning that they are now 100 years old!

Un-fun Fact

A&W doesn’t even rank in the Top 50 fast food chains anymore. It has fewer than 600 stores in the US (only about 300 stand-alones), compared with 14,000 McDonalds and more than 25,000 Subways. [insert Sad Burger emoji]

July 9, 1969: Happy Anniversaries!

I had originally titled this post “The Sea Slug” (see Mom’s entry below). But then this Washington Post story came across my feed yesterday (as well as a second sighting by Steven Pine from the NYT).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/07/07/driving-cross-country-was-crazy-idea-an-army-convoy-set-out-show-it-could-be-done/?utm_term=.1cbc4d7f0ace

For those keeping score: in 2019, San Diego is celebrating 250 years, the first “successful” coast-to-coast roadtrip happened 100 years ago, and our little jaunt turns 50. Btw, Mom made better time, served better food and planned for more swimming and fishing than Ike & Co.


Went on a 2 hour harbor cruise. Had pizza and walked and drove around a bit. Tim and the others swam and then caught more sharks, rays and a sea slug. I got the oil changed and did the washing, etc.

Marge Binder, July 9, 1969

I don’t think that’s a “sea slug.” And I don’t think the photo is from this trip. But that is Tim holding something gross and dead. So it fits Mom’s narrative.

July 8, 1969: The Zoo

Visited the San Diego Zoo. It is tremendous. Ate lunch in Balboa Park. The boys swam at the campsite. Barbecued hamburgers. Tim caught several sharks and a manta ray.

Marge Binder, July 8, 1969

I’m gonna say this is the San Diego Zoo because Dad would have been there to take this pic. It could be Marineland. Or it might be the National Zoo in DC. Know what? it could be anyplace that kind of looks like a zoo. No matter, I grew up to dislike both zoos and aquariums. But I thank Mom for trying.

July 6, 1969: Once Upon a Time…

“…in Hollywood.”

Took a drive around Beverly Hills. Had hamburgers in Hollywood. The boys swam at Redondo Beach.

Marge Binder, July 6, 1969

In addition to it being the 50th anniversary of Marge Binder’s Epic Adventure, this summer also marks 50 years since the Tate-LaBianca murders at the hands of the Manson family. That’s why there is a picture of Leo D on this page: he’s starring in a new Tarantino movie about the crime. Looks good, except for it starring Leo.

Tomorrow’s post looks at other memorable events of 1969. Spoiler: It was a pretty good year, compared to the previous few.

Casting Call!

Here’s a thought: If Quentin did a movie about the roadtrip, who would play Mom? Too bad MTM has passed. She was Mom: fun and smart, a loving wife/mother like Laura Petrie. A trailblazer like Mary Richards. And as pretty as they come.

What about Uma? Pretty badass. That’d work too.

Mom wasn’t really a smoker, but she knew how to get a laugh.

July 4, 1969: Memories

“Misty water-colored memories…”

I’ll admit it: I have no recollection of this day. Chances are I was still fretting over the sad fate of Mr. Lincoln. Or perhaps the Disneyland fireworks were still popping inside my brain.

Actually, I don’t remember most of this trip. So when I started tinkering with the idea of recounting it, I knew I needed some meat. What a revelation to find Mom’s diary (thank you, Helen Binder!) and to get her permission to use it. The surviving photos offered some assistance as well (Thanks Miko!). But the actual memories are few and far between; I’ve conveyed them in here when applicable.

I’ve also attempted not to co-mingle memories from other trips and similar experiences. So I didn’t include a picture of Mike and me in the Redwoods in 1969 because — as I discovered a few weeks ago — it wasn’t taken in the Redwoods in 1969. It was, in fact, taken in the early 70s in front of very Redwood-looking trees towering over north-central Michigan.

One of my other distinct memories I had attributed to this trip was at Pismo Beach, where Mike and I stormed the surf, throwing rocks and yelling “Bomb Cambodia!” (We Binders were a hawkish bunch back then.) Mom recently set me straight: Bomb Cambodia happened somewhere in Ohio a few years later. Figures. Mom remembers best.

Got the car washed. The kids swam twice at Redondo Beach. Had fried chicken and toured Ports of Call at San Pedro.

Marge Binder, July 4, 1969

I almost forgot! Here’s an interesting article about “childhood amnesia.”