Always I have loved vacations. They were a luxury when I was a child, and our family’s first trip to Fairhope, my Dad’s favorite destination, was made in a car that belonged to Daddy’s boss. It was not a luxury vehicle, and my sister and I sat in two little canvas/wooden chairs that were affixed in that backseat space where children’s car seats now have them buckled up for safety. A trip from Sylacauga to Fairhope took twice as long in the 1950’s on the little two-lane roads, and it was twice as hot, with no air conditioning. There were fewer places to stop, and lunch was usually Mom’s fried chicken eaten on the dinner-on- the ground table of a small country church. The narrow roads were interesting, and we counted cows, horses, and mules as we played Cow Poker. We also read all the signs, the religious ones that warned, “Prepare to Meet Thy God,” as well as the Burma Shave signs that kept us amused with the latest rhymes about Ma and Pa, and even funny life issues: “Said Farmer Brown, Who’s bald on top, Wish I could, rotate the crop. Burma Shave.” For those who do not know Burma shave was a tube of shaving soap with a remarkable marketing idea. It was the beginning of men putting away their shaving mugs, brushes, and straight razors.
This year my son and his wife and two precious granddaughters did what they have done before and invited Wendy’s Mom and me to go to Fairhope. My dear cousin was being honored by her family of 13 children (all but two of them adopted), with an eightieth birthday party to be held at the Original Oyster House on the causeway from Spanish Fort to Mobile. My very competent and organized daughter-in-law made all the arrangements and plans so that we could go to the party, spend a couple of days at the Grand Hotel and a couple of days at Weeks Bay in a little house completely furnished with its own pier, pier house and kayaks. It was a very special trip not only because it was a heart trip but also because God blessed us with good weather, good health, good food, and lots of laughter.
The girls, Anna Claire and Madelyn brought the fun and enjoyed swimming, bike riding, kayaking, corn toss, croquet, and even making smores at a campfire by Mobile Bay at the Grand. A group of happy dolphins put on a free performance very near the beach. In my childhood, Daddy often said their presence might mean the possibility of a Jubilee, a strange occurrence along Alabama’s eastern shore when there is an influx of salt water into the fresh water of the Bay. At that time jellyfish and sting rays might also be present, but usually that was in late July on to mid-August. Nothing can ruin a swimmer’s day like a bad sting. Ray Clifton probably remembers when he jumped off the swimming platform onto a pretty big jellyfish. Talking about being at the wrong place at the wrong time!!
Fishing from the pier at what the girls quickly deemed “our house” reminded me it is not easy to get a catfish off a hook, even if it dangles at the end of a Barbie rod. Daddy always had pliers in his tackle box back in the fifties, a little detail I did not include in the gear for the girls. Ouch!! What fun the girls had catching those ouches!!! Watching Daddy, Robert, fishing with his girls was very special to this Granny.
For old-times’ sake we walked all the way to the end of the public pier. Strange how the constant breeze, the faint taste of salt on your lips and the odor of unfortunate shiners or shrimp/mullet bait drying in the sun has not changed though the years have rolled by. Making memories IS important.
Fairhope has changed, but the sunsets over the Bay, the Mobile skyline in the distance, and the uniqueness of this quaint town remains. Our old friends the McKenzies still work hard in the Alabama sun growing potatoes, watermelons, corn, and other vegetables. Operated by four generations of family, McKenzie Farms is on Greeno Road. So many memories there!! Julywyn’s Restaurant, downtown has been open since 1945, and they still serve a melt-in-your-mouth breakfast and a great lunch.
A trip to Point Clear would not be complete without a stop at Punta Clara Kitchen for some of the best homemade candy you will every taste. We bought as much as we could eat, knowing that those goodies don’t travel well in hot summer temperatures.
How I wish I had journaled each vacation taken there, as a child, a teen, a young married woman, a Mom, and now a Granny; but I remember, and that is what makes remembrances so special. Fairhope Tourist Camp, Oak Haven Cottages, a rental cottage on the beach where we slept on screen porches listening to the sounds of summer mingling with the soft lapping of the Bay just beyond our cots. The giggles of cousins in the long ago were echoed in the giggles of my granddaughters and that perennial question, “How much further till we get home?” Seems like we just left, and it was not so long ago at that.