mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

La-di-da Missouri

MissouriThis week on ebay I'm selling a 1950s booklet on recreation in Missouri. As I was listing it, I didn't expect the wave of nostalgia. In the vast flatness from western Ohio and to the Rocky Mountains, the southern half of Missouri forms a pleasant break. It is hill country, more Appalachia than Great Plains.

My parents weren't great recreationalists. We didn't have a basement full of fishing and boating gear (or whatever it is people do outdoors). "Vacation" in those sweltering St. Louis summers before widespread air conditioning meant jumping in the car, rolling down the windows, and heading for the hills — otherwise known as "blowing the stink off." 

As a family, our destination requirements were simple: someplace where my mom didn't have to cook (camping was way ruled out) and someplace with a swimming pool.

One year about 1960 we headed out of the city on Route 66 for somewhere in the environs of Lake of the Ozarks. It was one of those days when air blowing through the car windows was as refreshing as a blast furnace. The kind of day the word "torpor" was invented for.

Carney Motel Route 66 MissouriAs we approached Rolla, billboards began appearing for a roadside motel with a big blue swimming pool. The minute we saw it — vision on a hill — we had found our oasis: the Carney Motel. That was our vacation. And my brother and I even insisted that we go back the next year.

Years earlier, we did get all the way to the Lake of the Ozarks. I must have been about 5 and we went with a couple other families. We visited Bagnell Dam and took a ride on a big cruiser. It was called the "Larry Don" but I heard it as the "La-di-da."

We didn't need a big trip to California or Florida. We didn't even need to go as far as the Wisconsin Dells. Blowing the stink off in Missouri was "La-di-da" enough for me.