Towards the end of August 1993, Dad needed to travel to Rome, Georgia for work. Rome had a paper mill, and Dad was a sales representative at the time, for a company that made corrugated cardboard boxes. What we decided to do, was go to Rome with Dad, and stay in the hotel room during the day while he was working. We also tacked on a small vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina the weekend before driving to Rome.
Before leaving for the trip, Mom interviewed for a first grade teaching position at Upper Adams School District. She was a part time reading teacher, and there were threats to cut her position to save money. Mom wasn’t sure if first grade was a good fit, but thought there was more stability in a fulltime classroom job than as a part time reading teacher. The timing of the interview wasn’t the best. A problem would have been preparing the classroom for the students with little time. Mom wasn’t confident in how she did, but also wasn’t too worried as she wasn’t sure if she really wanted the job anyway. She liked teaching children who were a bit older.
The trip to the beach started similarly to the previous trips to Florida including taking I-95, and traveling through Maryland, Virginia, and into North Carolina. In North Carolina, we took a south eastern route to get to Myrtle Beach which was located in South Carolina by the North Carolina border.
We stayed at the Coral Beach resort. The hotel was along the beach, and had both a swimming pool and a whirlpool. A bowling alley was inside the hotel. While Myrtle Beach didn’t have a boardwalk at the time, there were many beach-type stores along the main drag.
Our room was an efficiency. In fact, on the first day, we went across the street, and over a block to Greene’s Grocery Store to get some food for the room to cut down on costs. We also bowled at the resort’s bowling alley that day. We had fun, though none of us were good bowlers. It was my brother Dave’s and my first-time bowling. I remember putting on the special shoes, and the grass green bowling ball that had the words Coral Beach Resort engraved into the ball.
We spent time at the beach which was nice. Mom and Dad had chairs on the beach, while Dave and I would search the sand for seashells. We also stood at the edge of the water, and felt the water come in and out touching our toes while looking into the ocean. Mom and Dad would take turns going out to the water with us. One trip to the beach when I felt the waves it made me think of Wave Man who is a robot master (a major enemy character) from Mega Man 5, which was a Nintendo game that Dave and I had bought at K-mart in Shippensburg at the end of July. I pretended that I was in Wave Man’s stage.
We also used the swimming pool. Dave and I stayed in the three- and four-feet deep area. One time Dad had me venture farther out into deeper water. I found I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool and was scared. Dad said, “swim, keep swimming” until I was back in the comfortable section of the pool. I was afraid of deep water ever since!
I also noticed the resort had palm trees including around the pool. This surprised me as I thought palm trees grew farther south. I found out that the palm trees at Myrtle Beach were grown special there. When I originally heard of palm trees, I pictured them in forests in the south. I also thought that pine trees didn’t grow in the Southern United States. As I found out in 1991, the South had plenty of pine trees in their forests, and palm trees grew in small clusters.
I was introduced to Yahtzee during this trip, and thus it was the big rage as a game to play when we were in the hotel room in the evenings. We also took long walks in the evenings along the street the hotel was on. There were many shops with “beachy” type souvenirs. On one of the trips, I bought a small gray square container of seashells for my collection. My parents bought the family a blow-up pool float. It was white, had Myrtle Beach printed on it, and had a large picture of a sail boat. On another nightly walk we came across an annoying Elvis Presley impersonator singing, that my parents liked listening to. On the way back, we passed many hotels that were along the water including the Tropical Sands hotel.
I was never sure when we would arrive at our hotel. When we would get there, I felt that the sign that said “Coral Beach” in bright blue lettering would “sneak-up” on me. The concept of “sneaking-up” dates back to an earlier trip I was on, in which we were heading home from looking at Christmas lights in Gettysburg. The windows fogged up and I wasn’t sure where we were. When Dave managed to clear the fog off of his window, I saw the familiar “blue Christmas trees” looming ahead which meant that we were close to home. The effect of something all the sudden appearing like the trees or in the case of the Myrtle Beach vacation, the Coral Beach sign became known as “sneaking-up.”
At the end of the weekend, we packed up, and Dad drove us to Rome, Georgia. Rome isn’t that far from the Georgia/Alabama border. The town has a paper mill. Because of the size, and not being a touristy place, they had few lodging choices. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Sky-top Center which was the nicest hotel in town. The hotel was up on a hill. It was actually more like a motel, being one story high, and sat along U.S. 411 a major highway. When we arrived we walked around the premises. Sadly, compared to the Coral Beach resort, and plenty of other hotels we stayed at, this place wasn’t that nice. They had a swimming pool (actually two swimming pools) and a whirlpool as promised, but they were kind-of dirty. Their two pools were strange in my opinion. The outside pool had sections where the water was three, six, and eight feet deep. On the deep end of the pool a boat was floating. They also had an indoor pool with water in the four, five, and seven-feet range. I couldn’t figure out why so much deep water. The pools were connected as water flowed underneath the building from one pool to the other. We also noticed a flat Mylar balloon hanging on a door with the message, “Just Married.” The hotel did not seem suitable for a couples’ honeymoon.
We spent a week in Rome. Dad would work during the day while Mom, Dave, and I would stay back at the hotel. Since the hotel was next to the highway, there was no real place to go other than walk around the parking lot. Mom had brought peanut butter and bread along, and we had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. There wasn’t a good place to eat at the hotel. Dave and I brought tinker toys along, and we played with them during the day. We took a walk one of the days around the property. We saw a path that led into the woods. We started walking on the path, until we met a group of barking dogs! We turned around, and returned to our hotel room. After a while, Mom did allow us to use the pool. We chose the outside one, since it seemed to have more space in the shallow end. We also broke down, and tried using the stagnant whirlpool. The water wasn’t very hot, and did not move. We sat in the water for some time thinking that the pool was weak. Eventually a man said to us, “Want some current?” as he pressed a button turning the whirlpool on. With the current, the pool was better, but paled in comparison to the warmer whirlpools at previous hotels we stayed at. We also had never experienced a whirlpool before that the user had to start themselves.
Rome had an oddity. They didn’t have any bookstores! In the evening when Dad was finished with work, we would go into town, and look for a nice place to eat. Dad also wanted to purchase a book to read in the evening. One problem. None of the malls in the area had book stores. This seemed odd to us as Waldenbooks and to some degree B. Dalton Bookseller were prevalent back home. I guess in Rome, reading wasn’t a popular activity. Eventually we found a few books in the back of a greeting card store.
Finally, it was time to go back home. I thought I knew the trek south well. This was the third time my family went south for a vacation, and we went through the same states every time. Dad told us that we were going to be driving through a “new” state on our way back. We would drive into Tennessee to get on I-81. We left Rome, and went north into North Carolina where we traveled on I-40 west. It seemed to take forever until we entered Tennessee. As it turns out, Tennessee wasn’t much different than the other southern states, we were in. I did notice that the exits started in the four hundreds. This was my introduction to the mileage based exit system, though it would be years before I understood why the exit numbers were so high.
After getting on I-81, we headed north towards Chambersburg. Not understanding roads well at the time, since we were on Interstate 81, I thought we would be brought into Carlisle, one of the more familiar places to get on I-81. I forgot about the highway going through Chambersburg. North of Tennessee on I-81 was Virginia, and then the trek remained similar to the one we took to South Carolina, other than the short stint in West Virginia. Similarly, to our first Disney vacation though we strove to return home in a day, we became tired around Winchester, Virginia. We spent the night at a Days Inn that reeked of cigarette smoke. We were so tired, we drifted off to sleep.
When we returned home, it was right before school started. Besides unpacking and other after-vacation activities, it was time for school to start. Mom was a still reading teacher, and had in-services days on that Monday and Tuesday. I started 7th grade on Wednesday which made me nervous as I would be starting classes in a new, “large” location (high school) which is a huge challenge for those with autism. The day before school started Mom, Dave and I went into the school to follow my schedule to help me figure out where my classes were located. The building was open, and teachers were decorating the seventh grade hallway to welcome the incoming seventh graders.
The vacation in 1993 was fun though relatively short. I have fond memories of Myrtle Beach. Though Rome was lackluster, it now makes a funny story to tell. Also, it was nice to be able to spend the evening with Dad, when he was on one of his trips for work. And I believe we did a good job, working with what we had when in Rome!
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