By Mike Sokol
What do model rockets and the first lunar landing have to do with camping? Turns out, quite a lot…
When I was a young lad of perhaps 10 years old, my dad thought it would be a good idea for the family to go camping. After all, my dad was a school teacher who had most of his summers off (except for the part-time jobs to help pay the bills), so he had the grand idea of going tent camping at Swallow Falls.
He borrowed an actual army surplus tent from one of his buddies, and figured that since he had three strong boys ages 10, 10 and 8 (yes, I’m a twin), it would be possible to pack us all in the station wagon for a weekend of cheap fun.
That first camping trip was a disaster because our cub scout skills failed to make a fire to cook breakfast, so Dad ended up burning all the comic books I brought along for entertainment. So after the first breakfast of raw bacon and burned eggs, he decided to call it quits on the first trip. But that didn’t stop Dad from trying.
Camping trip #2 was to Assateague Island to watch the ponies swim. Same army surplus canvas tent, but now we had a Coleman gas stove and lantern. However, camping near the beach in a tent with sleeping bags on the floor meant that sand got into everything.
There was a huge mosquito attack in the evening so we spent most of the time in the Rambler station wagon. And yes, after our first day of sunburns and mosquito bites, trying to sleep with sand in our sleeping bags was like laying on sandpaper. So dad went to the local pharmacy to get some Benadryl ointment for us kids. But it turned out that Mom was deathly allergic to Benadryl and her hands and arms swelled up so badly we had to take her to the emergency room. That was the end of camping trip #2, especially since us kids went on strike and refused to set up a heavy canvas army surplus tent again.
But undeterred, the following year Dad then went and bought a Cox pop-up camper and had a tow hitch installed on our new Plymouth station wagon. While that was a pretty humble camper by today’s standards, it did the trick for us. We could set it up in a few minutes, there were separate sleeping areas on each end for the parents and us three boys, plus you could convert the dinette area into a separate bed for my sister. To top it off there were foam cushions we could sleep on instead of the hard ground. Our next 100 camping trips were great, and by the time I turned 15 we had been through 40 states and half of Canada, all in our little Cox Camper and station wagon.
But all good things come to an end, and so it was for camping with my parents. By the time I was 16 years old I was already working a summer job in a truck stop refueling semi-trucks, changing those huge tires, and even helping to rebuild big 6-cylinder Cummins diesel engines in Mack Trucks. So I was no longer interested in taking a month-long camping trip each summer with my family. However, my last big trip with my family happened in July of 1969. Yes, at the exact time that man was landing on the moon, we were set up in Canada in a Cox pop-up somewhere in the woods.
And there I was with my project of the week, building an Estes model rocket (I believe it was this very one I’m holding in my hand right now). Of course, like all kids at the time we were really interested in space travel (and still are). But since we were in the Canadian woods at the time there were no television sets to be had.
So instead I listened to man land on the moon and Neil Armstrong take his first steps, all on my AM battery-powered transistor radio while building my Estes model rocket in my parents’ Cox pop-up camper. And yes, I remember it like it happened yesterday.
Thanks dad, for persevering and taking the family camping even though trips #1 and #2 were complete disasters. So if you don’t realize that taking your kids and grandkids camping helps build family memories, think again. This is still one of the most vivid memories I have from my youth some 50 years ago.
Let’s play safe out there…
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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