Philip Wolf: Who wants shredded cardboard for breakfast?

If someone says “summer vacation” what immediately springs to mind?


“Well, I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”

— Clark Griswold


So who’s ready for their annual quest for fun?

If someone says “summer vacation” what immediately springs to mind? Do you harken back to your childhood, driving across country with the family? Think of adventures with your own kids?

Or perhaps it simply means sitting with your feet dangling off the dock at the lake of your choice, or tossing back a few pops on your deck.

For me, the notion of the summer holiday is divided into three distinct memory groups — nostalgic childhood trips; the more hedonistic sojourns with your friends as a young adult; and then coming full circle as a parent and being responsible for plotting out summertime fun.

But anytime the subject of summer holidays comes up, a pair of wildly random thoughts pop into my head.

I was about 10 years old, and we piled into the rented RV to head to South Dakota, to visit some relatives on their farm in a tiny town called Sisseton.

Decades later, I have a lot of fuzzy memories of the entire journey, but one bizarre thing has always stuck with me. As we neared the farm, we went past a cemetery, and there was a little gravestone (fake or otherwise) and it read:


Ma loved Pa

Pa loved wimmin

Ma caught Pa with two in swimmin’

Here lies Pa


For some reason, 10-year-old me thought that was just about the greatest thing ever. Better than the barn cat piddling on my mesh Steve Largent replica jersey; better than the “if you don’t behave, I’ll turn this thing around” threats in the middle of a desolate stretch of Saskatchewan highway; and even better than those old invisible ink activity books that would occasionally keep us quiet. (Note: If anyone still has any of those books in unused condition, I know a really old “kid” who will still take them off your hands).

The other odd thing my cluttered mind equates with summer vacation is those little variety packs of cereal.

Remember those?

There were always a few good ones, like Apple Jacks or Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops. Then there were the borderline-acceptable ones like Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes. Then the dregs: Bran Flakes (it actually said ‘A Natural Laxative Cereal’ on the box… yummy), Pep (eat this shredded cardboard for a boost of energy) and whatever other nasty “good for you” ones they could fit in there.

Anyone else nearly come to blows fighting over those?

“Mu-ummmmm. Philip ate the Apple Jacks AND the Froot Loops and I think he took the Frosted Flakes, too!”

“Well, dear,  Bran Flakes will keep you very regular…”

Fortunately for today’s youngsters, the cereal companies have acquiesced to their love for sugar and some the variety packs are better-designed to avoid campground brawls.

Speaking of campgrounds, am I the only one who’s not a huge fan of camping? Even today, when it involves an air-conditioned fifth-wheel, featuring semi-comfortable beds and a TV set, it’s not my thing. Give me a hotel, anytime.

You wake up in the morning, head off for a day of fun, and when you come back, the magic has happened and your bed is nicely made. If you’re hungry, you call downstairs, and they bring you whatever you want. Then you put your dishes outside the door and the magic genie carts them away as well. There’s even eight-dollar Coffee Crisps sitting right there if you need a snack. Awesome.

Mostly though, summer vacations are about creating memories. I asked around the office and every person pretty much said “there’s so many memories, I couldn’t possibly choose one.”

Then they proceeded to rattle them off:

“My children singing ‘clang, clang, clang goes the trolley’ in San Francisco.”

“My aunt’s false teeth flying out of her mouth at the gravity house in Oregon.”

“Stringing a skipping rope between two trees, tossing a blanket over it and calling it a tent.”

“Having the back seat ‘divided’ in two, and sticking my foot on to my brother’s side.”

And on and on.

As always, I want to hear your stories. What does a summer vacation mean to you? Tent trailers and ferry lineups? Sunburn and roasting marshmallows? An endless 8-track loop of Charlie Pride as the soundtrack of your cross-Canada journey?

Let me know.

“Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second-largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”


Philip Wolf is a regional editor for Black Press. He can be reached at philip.wolf@black or on Twitter @philipwolf13

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