This Nostalgic Life Newsletter Issue #3

This Nostalgic Life issue #3 dropped today. Featured in this issue is Eric telling the story of the longest summer of his life when he was stuck in a town in the middle of nowhere in Texas. In the story, he relates how lonely the time was, and what he did to entertain himself that summer. Mixed in are fun tales of his experience with Live Aid and the theatrical release of The Goonies.

Also in this issue, I provided a Nostalgia Nugget as a backup to Eric’s main feature, and this week’s crop of Recommended Reading links. We also unveil a new feature in this issue, as an audio voice over version of Eric’s feature is available in the post so you can listen to it instead of reading it if you prefer.

I urge you to check it out, and if you like what you find, consider subscribing. We publish a new issue every Wednesday, it gets delivered straight to your email inbox automatically, and it’s free. You can also unsubscribe at any time, but I doubt you will want to. Just click the photo above to be taken to the current issue and see what you think.

Breakfast at McDonald’s Has Always Been Special

I took my family on vacation this past week, and on the drive out of town the first morning, my mind started wandering while I was driving. The sun was up in the blue sky on a warm summer day, and I was headed down the highway. So my mind wandered back to many of the trips I took as a kid with my dad.

I’ve probably explained before but my dad traveled a lot when I was young, and in the summer, I would go on trips with him if he was only going to be gone for a couple of days. There was nothing quite like climbing into the front seat of his truck and pulling out on a sunny summer morning and hitting the road for the day.

It was the trips where we headed north that I really enjoyed, and that’s because we’d always stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. Now back in the mid to late 80s, the closest McDonald’s was 40 miles up the highway. While we had a McDonald’s just 12 miles south of us, we never stopped at it when we’d go south. But when going north we’d always stop. Can you imagine in today’s world not having a McDonald’s closer than 40 miles away?

The ad above represents the breakfast I remember from those days. Back then, they didn’t have biscuits on the menu yet, only the English muffins. I remember getting the Big Breakfast and enjoying the toasted English muffin with grape jelly. And I remember sitting there with my dad talking about the things we’d see along the route of the trip and feeling a lot bigger than I was. After breakfast was over I’d grab an extra coffee stirrer to play with in the truck, and we’d climb back in, push the Willie Nelson tape into the 8-track player, and hit the road again, with smiles on our faces.

Breakfast at McDonald’s always feels special to me. Even if I’m just hitting the drive-thru on my way to work in the mornings, there’s still a little magic in it thanks to those special stops years ago. And those are the memories that came back to me as we were rolling down the highway on vacation last week.

I’ll give you one guess as to where we stopped for breakfast.

My 9/11 Story

It’s often been said that you’ll always remember where you were on 9/11. I certainly remember where I was that day, and this is my story.

This past Saturday marked my wife and I’s 23rd wedding anniversary. I know it’s hard to believe that she has been able to put up with me that long, but it’s true. All the way back on September 9, 2000, we tied the knot. We had a fun honeymoon made up of visiting various places and doing various things for a week. One of the places we visited was the resort town of Gatlinburg TN where we stayed in the honeymoon suite of one of the better hotels there. We thoroughly enjoyed everything the hotel had to offer including the private balcony on the river, the private access to the pool and hot tub area, the fireplace in the room, and the jacuzzi tub.

So as our first anniversary was approaching, we thought it would be great to go back there and stay in the same suite again to celebrate one year of marriage. Not only did we like that idea, but we also liked the idea of once again incorporating several stops and adventures during our week-long celebration just like we did the year before. Gatlinburg and its surrounding areas were going to be our first destination.

We arrived in town on the afternoon of Sunday the 9th of September, and took in a few of the local attractions before calling it a night. On Monday the 10th, we made the hour-long drive across the mountain to the town of Cherokee NC. Cherokee is a historic town that sits in the heart of the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation. After seeing all of the sights and doing some touristy stuff, we headed to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino to spend the evening playing various slot machines. We stayed out late and got back to our hotel in Gatlinburg even later and crashed hard. Without having anywhere in particular to be on Tuesday, no alarms were set to wake up at any certain time.

On Tuesday morning, I sleepily woke up sometime after 9 AM. I turned on the TV, and so I wouldn’t disturb my still-sleeping wife, I muted the volume and started flipping through the channels. I surfed past CNN quickly, but an image caught my eye before I could stop my thumb from pressing the button on the remote, so I had to flip it back. The image on the screen was disturbing. What appeared to be the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was center screen with smoking coming from both. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t make out the scrawl at the bottom of the screen with the details of what I was seeing.

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Holiday Inn Holidomes

As you may remember, for most of my life, my dad traveled for his business. In the summer when I was out of school, there was nothing I liked more than to go with him on his trips every week. While I really enjoyed the road trip itself, most of the time it was the hotels and motels that I got the most enjoyment from.

We didn’t have cable at home, so staying somewhere that did was awesome. Being able to watch AWA Wrestling on ESPN, or catch an episode of The Brady Bunch on TBS which was a TV show that I never knew existed until I saw it on cable in a hotel room. Then there was the fact that dinner most nights while traveling was pizza ordered from Dominos, which we also didn’t have in our area. We stayed in every hotel imaginable. From Best Westerns to Motel 6’s, to mom-and-pop roadside dives, my favorite place to stay was Holiday Inns which had a Holidome.

The Holidomes were like mini amusement parks within the hotel. They all varied somewhat from each other, but some of the common features they had were things like swimming pools, hot tubs, putting greens, air hockey tables, and arcade games. A kid like me could find plenty to do in a Holidome.

The Holidome kind of came in existance in the late 60s’ or early 70’s as some of the Holiday Inn chain owners in the north searched for a solution to their swimming pool problem. That problem being that were were pretty useless nine months out of the year in colder climates. At one Holiday Inn location in North Dakota, the owner built a dome over his pool so it could be enjoyed year round. It didn’t take long for other owners to do the same, and from there it wasn’t long before those owners started adding other little attractions inside the dome to go along with the pool.

Holiday Inn itself took notice and branded these add-ons as Holidomes, and started building them big enough to not only house pools and games, but large spaces that could be rented out for buisness conferences, reunions, and whatever else required a space big enough for a large gathering of people.

After becoming a success in the north, the idea was adopted in other parts of the country too, and became quite poplular in Florida. I guess families going on vacation to Florida could book a stay at a Holidome, and if the weather outside was crap, they could still turn the kids loose in the Holidome for all kinds of fun instead.

I can remember staying at several Holidomes around the country when I was traveling with dad, but one sticks out in particular. I can’t remember the city or town we were in, but I do remember that it was in Pennsylvania. After a dinner that was most likely Domino’s pizza, I headed to the main area of the Holidome for some play time. I can’t recall everything this particular one had to offer, but I certainly remember the pool.

I didn’t know how to swim, so whenever I got into a pool I made sure to stay at the shallow end. There were no diving boards and the like for me. Nope, I pretty much just waded around in waist deep water for the most part. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I fell into the pool on this night. I can remember falling in and flailing away, and then I remember waking up with my brother crouched over me by the side of the pool and he was dripping wet. I had taken water into my lungs I guess and blacked out. He had pulled me out of the pool and pumped the water from my chest just like you see on TV shows and movies.

That event pretty scarred me for life when it comes to water, and I still haven’t learned to swim. From that point on, I never had the desire to go underwater. Hell, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the desire to go under on that night either. But I don’t hold any of this against the Holidome. I loved those places too much to hold a grudge.

Holidomes started going out of style in the late ’80s, and by the early ’90s almost all of them had seen their better days. So when I started traveling for a living in the 2000’s, even though there are still a few scattered around, there were none to be found on my travels. But if there had been, I would have surely stayed at them. ANd it would have been a great time too. Eating DOminos pizza for dinner, and then hitting the Holidome for air hockey, video games, and putting greens.

Here is a home video taken in 1991 of a Holidome in Sharonville OH