During my World War II childhood in New York, my mother, my sister, and I escaped the city and went to Maine every summer. We left the car in the garage all winter, took buses and subways, and saved our gas rationing coupons for the summer trip.
It took two full days to drive the 350 miles to Maine since the wartime speed limit was thirty-five miles an hour. We watched the cows in the fields and read the Burma Shave shaving cream signs along the sides of the two-lane roads.
“His cheek was rough His chick vamoose
And now she won’t Come home to roost
The first night we stopped at a tourist home in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Someone told my father about this new kind of place out West called a motel. You’d just drive your car right up to the door of your room and carry in your own suitcases. “Keep your eyes peeled for a motel,” Dad told us, but we never saw any. All we saw were cows and Burma Shave signs.
The next day we drove to Maine through all these little town on Route 1—York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk. More Burma Shave signs entertained us.
“To kiss a mug That’s like a cactus
Takes more nerve Than it does practice
We stayed a couple of days in Portland with our aunts and uncle. Whenever our uncle had fun somewhere, he’d say, “Gorry, it was a real whiz-bang.”
They saved their meat coupons for our visits. Aunt Edith cooked huge roasts. If we stayed over a Saturday night, she made baked beans and brown bread. Aunt Edith knew a good bean baker. She took her bean pot over in the morning, he baked it all day, and then she picked it up that night. I loved the spicy smell and the soft dark bread.
We stayed in Portland long enough to get gold fillings from Dr. Woods, Dad’s dentist. He never used Novocain. “If I hit a nerve I want to know it,” he’d say. Boy, did I know it. He drilled awhile, squirted cold air on the tooth when it got hot, then swabbed the cavity with iodine or something before he filled it. It was awful, but it was only once a year.
Next we drove up the coast to the camp. Dad stayed a few days before he took the train back to New York. In August he’d take the train back up to get us and we’d drive back to New York in time for school.
We were so lucky we could spend summers in Maine away from hot New York City with its danger of polio.