Scanning Around With Gene: Vacationland USA
Summer is the time of vacations, which for many people these days means a stay-at-home week off of work to do chores around the house and get caught up with life. But for the lucky ones, a vacation still means a visit to someplace new or an old favorite destination that brings back fond memories.
In honor of summer and the travel that it often represents, I thought I'd share vintage travel posters for destinations around the United States. I'll focus on international destinations another time. My own travel poster collection is rather thin, so today's images come from one of my favorite Websites, Vintagerio. There you can, for a modest fee, download tons of vintage copyright-free art. Often the scans are high-enough resolution to make good-size prints. Click on any image for a larger version.
Travel posters were popular when there were travel agencies in every town--storefronts with window displays of exotic destinations and a model airplane on the counter. If you went by train, plane, or ship, you most likely booked through a travel agent.
Posters came from the airlines, train companies, and cruise lines, and during the Depression the Works Progress Administration commissioned many posters to promote travel within the United States.
Most airlines and train companies had offices in the larger cities where you could purchase tickets directly, and you'd see lots of travel posters at airports, train stations, and the like.
My own family vacations were always by automobile, so our pre-vacation preparation consisted mostly of visiting the AAA for free maps and appropriate tour books.
For many years, we spent each summer vacation in San Diego, always staying at the Bahia Motor Lodge, which had a great swimming pool and a dock where my father could launch the boat he had built in our garage.
I was too young to water ski back then, though my sisters enjoyed it. My father tried to interest me in fishing, but the sport of fishing was a lot less attractive than hanging out at the motel pool. To this day I'm not much of a fish eater.
At the motel pool, in addition to swimming, I enjoyed Zagnut candy bars from the vending machine. They cost a nickel back then. Our two-week-long vacation seemed much longer--like half the summer.
We took day trips to the San Diego Zoo, across the border to Mexico, and to the local amusement park, where my father would try to entice us to go on the scary rides.
These days I tend more toward the stay-cation (though I hate the cuteness of that term). The last thing I feel like doing when I have a few days off is to get on a plane or into my car for a trip. Somewhere along the line the novelty wore off and I became a homebody.
This summer, however, I do plan to take one road trip down to Los Angeles from where I live in the Bay Area to visit my sister and brother-in-law and check in on a few childhood haunts.
After looking at some of these posters, I grew a little nostalgic for the days when going someplace new was not just fun, but could change your life. A vacation was an escape from the routine. Once you stepped on to that plane or turned the key in the ignition, it was all about what lay ahead. And that was very exciting.
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