July 15, 1969: More Hippies!

Hippie Tree Photo

Before we get to the hippies, there’s another thing that happened this day. I got separated from the family at Fishermann’s Wharf. I have visual memories of the terror: strange crowds and cars and noise and movement in every direction; and no Mom! Maw says she was equally freaked.

We were reunited soon enough because I followed my parents’ advice: “If you get lost, just stay put and we’ll find you.” Or maybe they taught me that after this episode. Anyway, it makes sense.

Okay, now on to Dad’s favorite people: hippies!

https://allthatsinteresting.com/san-francisco-1960s-photos

Hippies were everywhere by 1969, but the Bay Area was still the epicenter of the peace and love action. They seemed nice enough to me, a little dirty and odiferous. For Dad, though, hippies represented a culture counter to his own. He was an establishment man and a veteran of WWII. As the editor-in-chief of ARMY magazine, he was working with a positive narrative on the events in Vietnam. It’s a topic we hashed out many years later; much to my fascination, Dad was both clear-eyed and clear of conscience.

And for all his disparagement, I think Dad liked being around them at Bootjack. I think he found them fun-loving and non-threatening.

We have a beautiful view and the road isn’t too bad. Went to Tiburon and then S.F. Had fish at Fisherman’s Wharf and saw several ships & a museum. Took a cable car & taxi ride. Many hippies at Bootjack.

Marge Binder, July 15, 1969

Dad also liked to recount an event from this day that Mom glosses over in her diary. As he tells it, we were preparing to jump aboard a cable car. While he waited for one to slow, he saw Mom in his periphery hop aboard the runner with me dangling from one arm. Somehow he managed to get aboard, along with Tim and Mike

July 11, 1969: My Brother Mike

Foggy ‘till late. Bought groceries. We all went to San Luis Obispo and visited the mission. The boys swam and then took a long walk up the beach. Doug and I cooked supper. Mike shut his finger in the car door.

Marge Binder, July 11, 1969

When I first read this entry from Maw’s diary and saw, “Mike shut his finger in the door,” my reaction was, “Yep, that’s Mike.”

I felt bad, for sure, but things like this were always happening to my brother Mike. I think he’d agree today: thus has been his existence. Mike is the middle child, and he possesses much of the pseudo-psycho baggage that goes with that (along with the virtues like leadership and modesty). But that’s just the beginning.

I don’t think my joints do that anymore. Now I know why.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen that we stopped every seven days in one little town or another to get Mike an allergy shot. Later on in the trip, he’ll get poison ivy and visit a hospital in Illinois for an ear situation. In the years to come, Mike will suffer bouts with more allergies and god-awful plantar warts. Being in the room when he was having one of those things removed was terrifying for me; I can’t imagine what it was like for him.

(Mike and I share a few bum knees too, but I am grateful that our family didn’t suffer anything more nefarious. Very grateful.)

In her diary, Mom seems to cluster Mike and me together in many situations. Even though he was eight and I was four, Mom referred to us as “the little guys” in one entry. We swam while Tim fished. While Tim fished we swam. And on and on.

The scout befriends a native.

But Mike and I were very different kids. He excelled in math and science. I relished the liberal arts and sports. He was obsessed with “Star Trek.” I made appointment TV with “Wide World of Sports.” He studied his ass off. I did what I needed to get by. Mike became an Eagle Scout. He put himself through the University of Virginia (which he didn’t have to do) by driving buses around Charlottesville. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, got several advanced degrees, researched at CERN in Switzerland and then got another degree in architecture.

I have a BA in English.

We are no longer the little guys. For 50 years we’ve charted different courses, chased different dreams, and we’ve somehow got more in common now than ever. We are both creative and artistic, curious, considerate and compassionate. All traits we no doubt learned from Mom.

Yet, differences remain. I consider my big brother Mike to be one of the most honest, modest, sincere and hard working persons I have known in my life. Something I can only aspire to.

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 7, 1969: The News of 1969

1969: A Good Year…Comparatively.

The 60s were a thing. Lots of mystique and tumult, triumph and tragedy. War, assassinations, race riots, civil rights, the moon landing. The Beatles. JFK. The Summer of Love. Freedom Rides, MLK, RFK. My birth.

As I was preparing this blog, I looked back at the events of 1969 to see if there was a way or a reason to correlate the events of our days with the events of the day. Turns out, 1969 wasn’t the s**tshow of the previous two years.

In fact, June and July 1969 were surprisingly un-60s-like. Yes, troops were still in Vietnam and Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge. The Stonewall uprising happened, but it wasn’t in the news outside New York for a while.

The one current event Mom includes in her diary is the moon landing in July 20.

Woodstock happened in August. It was three days of rain, drugs and misery that have been romanticized into something altogether different. That same month saw the Tate-LaBianca murders in Benedict Canyon, at the hands of the Manson clan. This is featured in yesterday’s post.

By year’s end there would be death at a low-rent Woodstock wannabe (Altamont), which some people cite as the end of the Age of Aquarius. Conveniently, that was also the end of the 60s. The 70s, to me, were the hangover (and puberty).

As for the 80s. The best decade. Ever. News-wise, I know that’s debatable.

Packed, washed and headed for San Diego. Found the state beach park full so we settled at Mission Bay in an unfinished Camplands. Took a drive around.

Marge Binder, July 7, 1969

Another Deluxe Campground

Maw says that she called ahead to some of the campgrounds, especially if she was in need of a deluxe experience (i.e., showers). This one was a beauty, and the unfinished Camplands looks to be thriving today after 50 years. Happy Anniversary!

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.”

July 3, 1969: Lincoln Lives!

In my head: “Wait, I’m pretty sure that dude is dead. He definitely has some issues with mobility and speech. Poor Abraham Lincoln. Let’s go ride the train.”

Seriously, this show freaked me out. We boys had been immersed in American history in our few years in Virginia, so I was one confused little 4-year-old.

I don’t remember much more of that day at Disneyland. I was too small to ride the Matterhorn (something I finally checked off my list 25 years later). I have the feeling my first day at Disney was a strictly A-Ticket affair.

FUN FACT: E-Tickets Matter!

Those old Disney ticket books could be worth big coin! Even if you just have a few individual tickets from way back when, Guest Relations at the parks can calculate what they’re worth and pay you on the spot. If you have complete books in good condition, Ebay can calculate what they’re worth, and the sum total might be worth college tuition to a decent, in-state school.

Had a time getting Mike’s allergy shot but finally managed. Picked up Jim and got to Disneyland about 12:30. Had pancakes etc and visited everything. Stayed until 9 o’clock fireworks. Big crowd.

Marge Binder, July 3, 1969

Disney and Life

This was my first Disney park experience. I wouldn’t return to Disneyland until 2001.

In the meantime, I was introduced to Walt Disney World just a few months after it opened in 1971. As I do the math, that was a scant two years after my Lincoln freak-out. No matter, WDW became a big part of my youth; Mom and Dad arranged for the Family to spend every other Christmas there for years. More fond memories of roadtrips and camping and so much more. (Blog-worthy, yes, but not nearly as epic as this journey we’re on.)

When I worked at WDW in the 80s, in a number of capacities, I thought of my Mom whenever I dealt with families in distress. They’d planned, they were protecting family, they just wanted to enjoy the experience, but sometimes things don’t pan out as they’d hoped. If I had the ability to make things right (which I most often did in Guest Relations), I would, because I know what it would mean to Mom.

That empathy made me really good in those WDW jobs, and I think it affects my approach to work and people to this day.

July 2, 1969: It’s Dad!

Did battle with Sears but still couldn’t get top poles. Visited Huntington Park. Drove to Burbank, getting lost often, to take the NBC studio tour. Had pizza and visited Jim at the Sportsman’s Lodge. The boys swam and we all had ice cream. He stayed. We came back.

Marge Binder, July 2, 1969

My memory of seeing Dad at the Sportsmen’s Lodge is mesh-melded with the episode of “I Love Lucy” when they road trip to California and get put up in a swank Hollywood hotel (perhaps marking the first-ever shark-jumping moment in television).

In my mind’s eye, the furnishings and view from the Ricardos’ room is the same as Dad’s, but Dad’s place is in color. He resided there a few more days, while Mom and the rest of us slunk back to the tent in Lomita. As Mom put it: “He stayed. We came back.”

I think that’s when I started appreciating the five-star hotel lifestyle over other modes of lodging.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge is still there. According to its website, it is “The Soul of Iconic Hollywood.”

http://museumsanfernandovalley.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-grand-old-sportsmens-lodge.html

June 30, 1969: Part 1

“25 miles north of Azusa…”

…A place which will live in infamy.

Had trouble pulling stakes & had to leave several. Drove down that terrible road. Doug threw up his crackers and kool-aid when we got to Azuza. Visited Uncle Russ & Aunt Marge. Had lunch. Phoned campgrounds. Set up at Lomita trailer park. Visited the Pacific.

That “terrible road.”

This is the road Mom references. Looking at it, I’m feeling the kool-aid and crackers gurgling up even now!

Seriously, what could go wrong when you load a four-year-old up with crackers and Kool-Aid, stuff him in the back seat and then traverse this serpentine nightmare?

As I recall (which might have been a dream), I erupted forth with a smooth pink sloosh into the front passenger seat, right down Tim’s back.

Ever since, Mom considered this episode a highlight and a low point of the trip and my childhood. To this day, Mom refers to this moment by its exact geography: “25 miles north of Azusa.”