It is summertime and that means family vacations! During my childhood, that meant loading up the family station wagon and going camping. Later, after my grandparents bought a camper, we would use that instead. For my husband, he says they went on one family vacation that didn’t turn out so well with four young boys in the back seat of a Plymouth whining and fighting the entire time.
Fortunately for us, the Robbins Barstow family of Connecticut loved to camp and take home movies, too, from the early 1950s through the 1961 when they made it their quest to visit “all 48 states” (obviously, their adventure began before Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union). When Mr. Barstow was in his eighties, he decided to edit and narrate their adventures. The movies are too long to post here, but you can find them here and here if you are interested.
But their dream vacation happened in 1956 when they won a nationwide contest sponsored by 3M Corporation: A trip for a family of four to Disneyland, which had just opened the year before. They had a family of five, so the movie also shares how they made arrangements so that no one was left behind.
What I love about this old home movie is that there is no embarrassment in Mr. Barstow’s voice as he describes how they managed to stretch the $300 vacation budget so that they could ensure that they were having a good time.
Modern chuckle at myself: As I was watching the Barstow’s visit my “back yard,” I was amazed that they stayed in Pasadena instead of Anaheim. And then I remembered that at that time, Disneyland was out in the middle of nowhere. Even well into the 1960’s, the Matterhorn was the tallest structure around (aside from Anaheim stadium). They could have stayed at the Disneyland Hotel but it didn’t officially open until late summer in 1956–too late for the Barstow’s visit.
My husband and I also got a kick out of the matching jackets that Mrs. Barstow made for each family member. Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but I just can’t imagine a modern family doing it these days. Finally, I remember when entire neighborhoods would get together to send a family off on a “big vacation” like this. Shoot, my parents threw a graduation/bon voyage party for me when I graduated from high school and took a four-week student trip to Europe. Back then, it was a really big deal. Now my students and classmates talk about flying off to Europe for a long weekend!
This film is a little over 30 minutes long and worth the time simply for the nostalgic effect. An added bonus for this film is that in December 2008, “Disneyland Dream” was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
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