Cousin Camp, as my daughters call our house in the summer, did not originate with us. Just carrying on an old family tradition, as some song goes. Mom had six grandchildren, three of whom lived across the street and dropped in for a drink of water at grandma’s as often as at home. The other three, my two girls and my niece, came for summers. This pensione arrangement was punctuated by other activities closer to their homes for the three girls.
Our Lake County Y was my other resource. The big diversion for a couple of years was a week at Camp Fitch, a Y camp in western Pennsylvania, and about an hour east from the house in Mentor, straight out Interstate 90, then a few back roads to the camp. I dropped them at the lodge on a Sunday afternoon and retrieved them the following Saturday afternoon.
Mom, my brother Walt and his three boys were visiting one Saturday when it was time to get the girls. So we all piled into my car, the Dodge Colt wagon, to go to Camp Fitch. It was possible to fit five children and three adults inside that car, in a configuration that would have all adults imprisoned today. They were kids; they didn’t know they shouldn’t like sitting cross legged in the back, playing cards for an hour, and signaling passing semi’s to blow the horn.
When the girls were stowed and we were heading out the camp gates, Mom, the queen of alternate routes, told Walt, the driver, take this road and that, not that road and this. We could drive home a short part of the way along US Route 20, right along Lake Erie.
Of course she had an ulterior motive. In Conneaut, all of five miles from the camp, she told Walt “Pull in at that Dairy Queen®.” She treated to ice cream all around; five kids and three adults, with ice creams, settled back for the rest of the trip. Walt headed west again, down US 20. He saw the Dairy Queen® in Ashtabula first, pulled right in and filled up on ice cream again.
Five kids hoped they really were in ice cream heaven as we continued down the road. Oh, the speculation. As we approached Geneva ten eyes were scanning the horizon. “There it is, Dad!” “It’s just at the next light, Uncle Walt!” Another Dairy Queen®. Another round of ice cream.
I’m sure the grown-ups dropped out, but those five kids were up for it. They found the Dairy Queen® in Painesville, and of course my two knew exactly how to get Uncle Walt to the Dairy Queen® in their home town.
The Great Dairy Queen® run became legend in our family. All those kids in the Dodge Colt thought Uncle Walt was the hero. I wonder if they remember Grandma Lytle started it.
Here is most of the gang, a year or two before the JGreat Dairy QueenJ Run. Walt’s boys, my girls. Roy, Beth, Grandma Lytle, Shelly, John, and Mark on Mom’s lap. I know this is early; Mark is too young to eat that much ice cream. I think.