The weather sucked for most of the past three days in Detroit, so I spent much of my time inside museums. The Henry Ford Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts brought back memories from my travel life.
There is no real theme here, except seeing items I remember from past travels. Many things I had not seen in years reminded me of my youth.
Auto Bingo (1960-1970)
Auto Bingo game card at Henry Ford Museum.
This game card was produced from 1960 to 1970. Between 1964 and 1969 my father was a U.S. Army sergeant stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for about three years on three different occasions. Both sets of my grandparents lived in California and we made several road trips between Oklahoma and California in repositioning moves and summer trips.
I remember playing this Auto Bingo game for hours with my sister.
Airline Wing Pins (1960-1980)
In 1967 when my father was in Vietnam and I was in 1st grade, my uncle paid for an airline ticket to bring me from southern California to San Francisco for a visit with my cousin. As an unaccompanied minor, the airline stewardess watched over me. At the end of the flight I got to visit the cockpit and meet the pilot. These were the days when airlines gave children wing pins. I remember keeping a TWA pin for many years; one of those travel souvenirs that was lost or tossed somewhere in time.
Wing Pins display at Henry Ford Museum.
My birthday was last Sunday. I turned 54.
In 1974, I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on my 14th birthday after a day sightseeing in London. We lived on a small U.S. Army helicopter base about ten miles from Mainz, Germany for 21 months. I had lived near Stuttgart, Germany in 1969-70. The U.S. Dollar had high purchasing value in West Germany in 1970. The dollar had lost nearly 40% of its value by 1974. Since hotels were too expensive for the family, we towed a trailer tent behind our car for camping around Europe.
The best feature of a trailer tent as a teenager was getting the opportunity to meet people in campgrounds from so many different European countries. Living outdoors meant friendships were quickly forged despite language barriers. Neighbors shared food and supplies. These camping experiences taught me that language is only one means of communication. Sometimes I spent hours playing with other children who spoke constantly while I did not understand a word being said.
This trailer tent from the 1940s is shaped like my family’s 1974 trailer tent.
But our trailer tent setup more closely resembled this VW Westpahlia without the van.
My family visited 13 countries in western Europe in 1974-75 traveling and living in a trailer tent on numerous campgrounds.
Travel Alarm Clock
Phinney-Walker travel alarm clock from Germany. This display at the Henry Ford Museum tripped me out. I remember having one of these clocks. Also, in 1972-73 I lived near Colonial Williamsburg. I used to make packing lists too for my bicycle daytrips on the rural roads through the woods.
I have not made packing lists for years. I still should, since I forgot to bring business cards and toothpaste on my current trip to Detroit.
Motor + Hotel = Motel
As I wandered through the Henry Ford Museum automobile exhibit, I was excited to see the development of the automobile through the decades coincide with peoples’ desire for travel and sightseeing around the country. The exhibit transformed from automobile to lodging with museum displays on hotel chains.
Chain Lodging from motels to highway hotels.
By the 1950s, travelers’ expectations were growing. Tourist-court and motel owners made frequent upgrades to meet their customers’ new demands and faced challenges from the new chain hotels. Corporate chains guaranteed travelers a standardized experience – and eventually dominated the market.
Early Holiday Inn sign at Henry Ford Museum.
Holiday Inn room from 1965 at Henry Ford Museum.
The last display in the automobile section shows hotel key cards and pens from 2010. The display has items from Radisson, Kimpton, Marriott, Howard Johnson (Wyndham) and a ‘Stay Green’ environmental awareness card.
I still feel like a kid much of the time, even at 54 years of age. Walking through the Henry Ford Museum kind of revealed to me that I am passing through time in this American life.
Travel remembrances of things past.
You might be a Baby Boomer if you…
- Were born between 1946 and 1964.
- Remember how different your music sounded on the radio, with a stereo and as an 8-track.
- Grew up with TV – unlike your parents.
- Knew someone your age who dropped out of mainstream society and joined a commune.
So, tune in, man.
This could be your place in time!
Feels like home to me.
Baby boomer display at Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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