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The Williamsburg Vacation Story

Before 1989, our vacations tended to be either to the seashore, as we called it, or sometimes a combination of day trips. We went to beaches in New Jersey, including Cape May, which I remember best. A new type of trip began in 1989. We started to visit other types of destinations. By then, Dad was a Sales Rep for a corrugated box company, and I’m sure that helped us. Williamsburg was the first of the new type of vacations that I had the opportunity to experience.

Though I don’t remember much about travelling there, I do know that it was my first trip into Virginia. Williamsburg is a Colonial town. Though it has businesses and shops, it also has a historical section that is separated from the hustle and bustle of downtown. This area preserves the historical section, and give tourists the feeling of what life might have been like during its time as a seventeenth century southern town. This is in contrast to Gettysburg, a place I know well, where the historical places, related to the Battle of Gettysburg, have been mixed in with the modern businesses, houses, restaurants, etc.

When we arrived, the first noticeable thing was that the hotel was thin walled. Guests could easily hear what was going on in adjacent rooms. Each floor had a soda machine. I have always been a soda connoisseur since I was a young child. These machines were different. Instead of being a Pepsi or Coke machine similar to most establishments, this hotel opted for an RC machine. RC is short for Royal Crown Cola, which is a smaller company that tends to be more popular in the south. RC is similar to Pepsi or Coke, but has a unique taste making it less desirable if you really like Pepsi or Coke.

On the first day we were pounced upon by a representative from a timeshare agency. They would give free tickets to Colonial Williamsburg for simply listening to a speech about their timeshares. They took us on a bus to their model unit where they provided a short tour before returning us to a clubhouse-like building to try to sell us a timeshare. They did not want children along. They provided babysitting services for children. People on their tour also attended their talk which ultimately could lead to a person buying a timeshare. Mom didn’t want some random person babysitting her children, so she refused to utilize that service. Dave and I (three and eight respectively at the time) also went along on the bus trip.

My parents listened politely to the presentation which was long, though I don’t believe they had any interest in purchasing a timeshare. Eddie, the rep, was long winded, and there were big pauses where he would disappear. Though he was friendly in the beginning like on the bus tour, his attitude soured during the second phase where he was to convince us to buy a timeshare, but we weren’t interested. I found the presentation to be extremely boring. Every now and then people would cheer when another timeshare was sold. I tried my best to be patient, as patient as an eight year old child can be. I can’t imagine how Dave (age three) did it. Eventually, my parents had enough. They wanted to be done with the presentation. It was already longer than we had been told to expect, but the presenter kept going on and on. It seemed that he wouldn’t accept being turned down.

Mom and Dad played a trick on them. Dave and I were usually well-behaved children. Mom and Dad did a great job in raising us, and we knew how to act in public. In this case my parents wanted to get going, and needed an easy way out. What did they do? They told Dave and me to act up, so that the presenter would want to get rid of us. So that is what we did, and it seemed to work. The presenter stopped trying to promote a sale, acted miffed, and didn’t speak to us. We were free to leave, though the whole trip did waste a lot of time. One thing to keep in mind, is unlike the Florida vacations, and subsequent vacations after, our first vacations to tourist attractions were relatively short, meaning that wasting a partial day with a timeshare agent, did give us considerably less time to spend in the historic section. On a positive note, that evening is when Mom discovered the Nehi Grape (known affectionately as “Hiney” Grape) which gave me an opportunity to be able to drink some soda, which for me was a big deal. As mentioned earlier our hotel had RC Cola machines. It just happens that the company that made RC was founded as the Nehi Company, and thus had a robust selection of Nehi soda choices for many years. Only later did RC become the flagship soda, and the prominent branding. Besides their flagship soda, they also made fruit-flavored sodas. They had Nehi Orange and Nehi Grape sodas in their machines. Mom was interested in the Nehi Grape as it was reminiscent of Grape Nehi, Radar O’ Reilly’s favorite drink of choice, from the TV show M*A*S*H, which she watched constantly in the nineteen eighties. Naturally she wanted to try a Nehi Grape, and the family shared a can of Nehi Grape. Being at the hotel for several days, we also had an opportunity to try Nehi Orange, as well as RC Cola, which is what led to my observation comparing RC to Pepsi, and also Coca-Cola. I still love soda to this day.

The next day, we went into the Colonial town. As mentioned earlier, it was set apart from the business district. They had old buildings to tour and read about. They had examples of the old colonial way of punishment. They had a replica of the pillory and stocks. People could get their pictures taken beside them, or as a novel idea, in them as if they were being punished back in the times. They also had a costumed marching band that played Colonial era music, with the instruments of the time, that people could watch and hear.

There were other things to do besides touring the old town. My family discovered the first all Christmas store known to us. It was decked in Christmas lights and cheer, though we were visiting in the middle of the summer! The name of the store was Christmas Mouse, and it really excited me. As the reader may know by now, I really like Christmas, and tend to want to get into the spirit as soon as the weather starts to cool. Here was an opportunity to experience Christmas in the summer. They had many bright Christmas lights (the mini-light variety) hanging inside and outside their store. Besides the lights, they had Christmas ornaments as well as other decorative things for sale. It was the greatest thing. The only two places that are similar that I know about are the Christmas Museum in Lancaster (which has mostly Christmas displays), and of course Bronner’s which is a Christmas store located in Frankenmuth, MI, that is also open all year around, which I visited in 2019. It’s hard to explain the excitement of finding my first Christmas store!

The other business discovered in Williamsburg during the trip was The Pottery, a place that Mom really enjoyed. Though Dave and I didn’t particularly find it interesting, it was still an important part of the trip. Outside they had those exciting coin-operated rides such as the rides found in the shopping malls of the eighties and early nineties. One of the rides was shaped like a cat. This was great as I loved cats, and of course still do. Another note, this was the first place I saw a ride in the shape of a cat, meaning this was my first opportunity for such a ride. I enjoyed riding the cat, while Dave rode a ride in the shape of a car. This would be one of two opportunities I would have to “ride the cat” the other being at Gatorland Zoo in Florida in 1991.

Inside The Pottery, Mom liked looking at all their merchandise. Mom and Dad enjoyed fixing up rooms in our house, giving them makeovers— making the rooms up to date. Colors change, and my parents wanted to update the rooms to colors that were in style (I’m sure it helped that blue came in style, which my parents love.) Anyway, Mom has liked to look at these types of stores, so naturally wanted to spend some time there. Though I didn’t have interest in looking around the store, most of it was average to me other than the dreaded silk flower aisle. I did not enjoy the aisle, as sometime during kindergarten year (1986-1987) I stopped liking flowers. The aisle seemed to take forever, but I did have a trick up my sleeve. I pretended that the aisle was a road. Back home one of the major roads we traveled on, had a section that I really liked, and a section that I wasn’t a fan of. What I did was imagined that the aisle we were in, and the aisle directly behind me were a road (in this case route 999), and that we were simply heading down the road. What this meant to me, was that though the aisle we were in seemed to take forever, we would eventually be done with it, and move on to something else (I probably thought that we would continue into the next aisle across from the flower aisle.) I also pretended that the road eventually headed to the basement of our house on Shippensburg Road. Roads were important to me from a very young age, and I liked to imagine roads. It was a good way to pass the time when out and about. And though I wasn’t a fan of flowers, another thing that helped in the scenario of the flower aisle were the dark green flowers. I might not have liked flowers, but green flowers were certainly different and unique as they simply don’t usually come in that color, and green is my favorite color! In plants, green is typically used for Chlorophyll for the leaves, and stems, thus plants tend not to have green blossoms.

So, this is what my first full-fledged vacation away from the beach was like. I thought the town was interesting, and really enjoyed the Christmas store. I also enjoyed riding on the cat. There were some imperfections, but this is life, which isn’t perfect. It can be expected. All and all, it was a good vacation, and would prove to segue into more trips to various places. Plus, we all learned to avoid most timeshare presentations!

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