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Disney vs. Sticky Vinyl Upholstery and AM Radio Car Trips

When I was a kid my sister and I would go on summer vacations with our dad. We’d get up early in morning, pile into the (non-air conditioned) car and then find ourselves in exotic locales such as Pigeon Roost or Lincoln City, Indiana. Some of our trips actually crossed state lines. While my friends ventured off to Disney World, we went to Chattanooga, Tennessee and Chickamauga, Georgia. (My dad, in case you haven’t figured this out, had a thing for local history and Civil War battlefields.)

Was I jealous of friends who, unlike me, came home with tans that were not of the “farmer’s” variety or whose souvenir purchases involved pretty pink seashells or Mickey Mouse earrings? Sure, but not as much as you might think.

I always liked riding in the backseat, hair whipping around my face, straining to hear the radio, watching the flat stretches of Central Indiana turn into hills, valleys, and mountains. I entertained myself by making up stories; complex tales that allowed for a little girl to be in the middle of the pivotal historical moments my dad was determined my sister and I appreciate.

Riding in the back of that car, I spent time as a conductor on the Underground Rail Road, a Civil War spy, a Native American scout and so much more. I think this is part of the reason I always did so well in history. Even the most boring textbook had the potential for excitement because I would just put myself into whatever I was reading. I knew, even at a young age, that a little girl would never be involved in these events, but I didn’t care. My way of doing history was more fun. Besides, come test time, I knew how to separate fact from fiction.

I don’t mean to knock Disney World. I’m sure it’s a great place and I imagine my childhood friends who went there cherish their memories just as much as I cherish mine. But I’m grateful for all those hours in back of my dad’s 1980 Le Car … well, maybe not the Le Car part.



ErinErin Kelley is the public programs coordinator for the Indiana Historical Society. She develops stuff to do at the History Center and builds community partnerships. A native of Indiana, Erin owns two greyhounds, a husband (she doesn't exactly “own” him), and enjoys cooking and traveling.

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