The Cray Cray Vaycay (Part 1)

When I was growing up, I watched a lot of TV. It didn’t matter what was on TV, what mattered was that the TV was on. Just about anything would do.

I had preferences of, course. I chose The Addams Family over The Munsters, All in the Family over The Jeffersons, Gilligan’s Island over The Brady Bunch, and The Gong Show over The Newlywed Game, but I wasn’t going to get all bent out of shape searching for the perfect show because, well, there were no perfect shows when I was growing up. They were all varying degrees of crap.

But the best crap, the most eccentric crap could be found on the local TV stations. Those were the stations that ran ancient Betty Boop cartoons, Our Gang shorts, B movies, and silent films. They also aired original programming that looked like it was shot in some guy’s garage.

I was all over that stuff. When I controlled the TV dial, it almost always landed on WOR’s channel 9 or WPIX’s channel 11.

Watching local stations also meant watching lots of local commercials, which I found pretty cool. These businesses were just a short drive away; it was of like living next door to a celebrity.

But one commercial caught my attention like no other. Its catchy jingle wormed its way into my impressionable 12-year-old brain.

I’m not sure why it captivated me so, but whenever it aired, I had to share its information with the world.

“Mom!” I yelled one Saturday afternoon, my face inches away from the TV screen.

Mom’s reply came from some far, forgotten corner of the house. “Why aren’t you outside?” she yelled.

Oh, boy. I had violated a Cardinal Allegra Family Rule. On Saturdays I was supposed to be out of the house getting “Fresh Air.” It didn’t matter if it was sunny, hurricane-y, or raining fire, I was to follow The Rule. Always.

To be more accurate, I was supposed to follow four rules:

  1. Leave the house after breakfast.
  2. Return to the house at around noon for lunch and (if needed) first aid.
  3. Immediately leave the house again.
  4. Return to the house at 5:30 for dinner.

TV played no role in these rules whatsoever.

“Why aren’t you outside?” Mom repeated, her tone growing grouchier.

“Because there’s a helicopter outside spraying for gypsy moths!” I yelled.

This was true. Aerial-based poisoning was fairly common back then.

Mom sighed. As much as she wanted me out of the house, she understood that poison spray was the opposite of Fresh Air. Whether she liked it or not, she was stuck with me until the helicopter fluttered off to begin its attack on the neighboring town of Ho-Ho-Kus.

“Well, stop yelling!” Mom yelled. “If you want to talk to me, come here!”

I found her in Dad’s office (a room Dad never, ever used) wielding a rag and and can of Pledge. “Okay, what do you want,” she asked.

“I want to go to the Poconos!”

Mom was the only person in my family who didn’t think I was a weirdo. But once in a while my weirdness go so weird it was impossible for her to ignore.

The Pledge can halted in mid-spritz. “You want to go where?

I couldn’t imagine a better time to burst into song: “At our host with the most in the Pocanooooooos! Beauuuuutiful Mount Airy Looooooodge!”

Mom peeked out the window to see if the pesticide helicopter had moved on. It hadn’t.

I interpreted Mom’s silence as genuine interest, so I kept going. “They have beautiful rooms! Fabulous food! And headline entertainment!”

“But…” Mom began. “Mount Airy Lodge?”

It was a valid question. Shouldn’t a 12-year old be begging to go to Disney World or Hawaii or something?

But if Mom had seen the commercials as many times as I had, she would’ve understood.

Mount Airy Lodge looked amazing! There was tennis! (I didn’t play tennis, but that didn’t matter.) They had a pond with paddle boats! (I wasn’t exactly fond of paddle boating; you had to expend way too much energy to move way too slowly. But that didn’t matter either.) And when the commercial said “headline entertainment” they showed a quick still image of a guy who just might’ve been Rodney Dangerfield. (I liked Rodney Dangerfield, but had no idea when or if he would ever appear at Mount Airy Lodge.) And I was certain that one of the commercials showed a bathtub shaped like a Champagne glass; I found this elegant instead of sleazy.

In retrospect, my passion for Mount Airy Lodge made no sense at all.

But I had planted a seed­­­—a seed that I kept replanting anew every time I saw the commercial. Months went by. I hummed the jingle while brushing my teeth. I talked up the beauty of the Pocono Mountains at the dinner table.

I had gone insane.

And, yet, my tireless efforts paid off. At dinner one evening, it was announced that Mom, Dad, my older sister Gina, and I would spend a summer weekend at Mount Airy Lodge!

I don’t know why Mom listened to me. Maybe the price was right. Maybe she got caught up in my Mount Airy Madness. Or, most likely, she just got worn out by my relentless sales pitch.

But I didn’t care why! We were going! I couldn’t remember a time I felt so giddily and impossibly happy!

It would be the worst vacation of our lives.


Now that you’ve read that, read Part Two!



55 Replies to “The Cray Cray Vaycay (Part 1)”

  1. I am eagerly awaiting part two anticipating whether this vacation outing was a dream or nightmare, but I do know it will provide a laugh (gypsy moths? seriously?)

    1. Yep. Gypsy moths. There were times in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the outbreak of caterpillars was so crazy, choppers swarmed entire towns spraying like crazy.

      Ahh, the days before EPA regulations.

      1. We went through several years of spraying malathion for Mediterranian fruit flies (Medfly).

  2. Well… way to leave a cliff hanger!! But you did say it was the worst vacation of your lives. So there’s that! I can’t wait to find out what happened. I bet your mother never listened to your vacation advice again…lol! 😉

  3. OMG I’m so glad I bothered to read this (well, most of it). I was obsessed with those commercials too. And many years later, my friends went for a weekend and here are the two highlights from their visit:

    1) as they were packing, the husband showed his wife his empty suitcase before closing it. Why aren’t you packed, she asked? Because according to the commercial, he replied, all you have to bring is your love of everything. (This is why I’m friends with him.)

    2) they were not able to actually soak in the champagne-fluted tub in their room because the two of them together exceeded the weight limit of the glass.

    Love it!!

    On Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 8:27 AM, heylookawriterfellow wrote:

    > heylookawriterfellow posted: “When I was growing up, I watched a lot of > TV. It didn’t matter what was on TV, what mattered was that the TV was on. > Just about anything would do. I had preferences of, course. I chose The > Addams Family over The Munsters, All in the Family over The Jef” >

    1. You almost read the whole thing, eh? Well, thanks, I suppose.

      And, wait, you mean to tell me that the champagne glass tub was so poorly designed it couldn’t support the weight of two people? Isn’t that the whole point of a champagne glass tub?

  4. Dang! I have to wait a week to find out what happened. There was an allure to the Poconos. I loved visiting friends there. Your description made me think of the movie Dirty Dancing.

  5. I’m having a really crappy day (well okay the day isn’t that crappy but I’m feeling sorry for myself today) and then I find out after I read all of the post, I have to wait for the conclusion????
    Also, I’m betting my vacation from hell would top your cray cray one. Your descriptions of your family life, really make me love your family. They were a normal, nutty family. Just like mine.
    They didn’t spray for Gypsy Moths here. They sprayed for mosquitoes. They would drive around town in these trucks that sprayed a fog out the back to kill mosquitoes. Some of my classmates remember chasing the truck and inhaling that fog. They were probably the ones that went on to harder drugs as they got older.
    I’m going to be waiting for part 2, but because I have a spotty memory, I will forget all about it in an hour or two.

  6. Ah….the advertising experts were celebrating a victory over that one. i wonder how many people actually went to Pocomos because of those ads?

    Didn’t anyone ever tell you that TV will rot your brain?

  7. I avoided watching the clip fearing that awful earworm of a jingle. But now it is anchored into my Monday.
    And yes, the choices on TV weren’t great, although something could be said for Gilligan’s Island: The writers researched their facts, like the one about curari as a sedative. I don’t live in the States anymore and I do miss that innocent selection of locally run junk, although I can catch Scooby-Doo on kids’ television and other things on YouTube.

    1. I don’t think I have ever seen the words “Gilligan’s Island” and “researched” in the same sentence. It’s a bit jarring.

      What country do you live in now? More importantly, in light of the recent U.S. political situation, may I crash on your sofa for a while?

      1. I know it sounds odd, but I remember Russel Johnson (The Professor) being interviewed and talking about that. So when you hear about curari or about certain scientific things, these things would have been researched. I even think the one about having found a map on getting to the island (but not off) was also on that research list.

        As for the sofa, sure, We’ve got a couple extra. I think that we are all looking for a little escape and reprieve from the political reality show.

        On the other side of the coin, you get to explain a lot to the natives as to why America is being led around by the nose by the current administration. And the atmosphere here is not truly better when people you thought you knew think it would be better to let refugees drown at sea “to set an example”.

  8. OMG! TV at its finest! That was commercial was pretty high tech for its time. All those grainy stills pretending they were actually film. Wow! I was born and raised in Niagara Falls. There wasn’t a kid in that town that didn’t go around singing the “Marineland Jingle. It started out like this and ended up this This song has become so hated by everyone who has ever been exposed to it that there are petitions against it. The singer who recorded the most famous version of it (the one used endlessly) has gone to court to have her voice removed from it. You get the idea. I’m thinking if you used a jingle against your parents you got what you deserved but I can’t wait to read about it.

    1. Wow, they sure padded out that commercial with a lot of flipping dolphins. Someone should’ve told those Marineland folks that TV ads can be 30 seconds, too.

      The Marineland jingle, I’d argue, is not as catchy as Mount Airy Lodge’s. It is, however, is a whole lot better than “I Don’t Wanna Play In Your Yard.”

      1. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that was knife right to heart!
        Believe me when I tell you the shorter the better when it come to Marineland. Not everyone loves Marineland! It will be interesting, as the very controversial owner passed away over the weekend, to see what will become of it.

  9. You are bringing back so many NJ memories for me, Mike. My favorite place in the summer was on the couch with a book in my hand (TV was up in my parents’ bedroom, where I was only allowed to watch from 6 to 8 p.m.). My mom shouted at me constantly to GET OUTSIDE AND PLAY. I used the spraying excuse as often as possible. That stuff stank, but that was before it was deemed cancerous and dangerous to all living beings. So she still pushed me out the door. But at night – those Pocono ads – all I saw (how did you miss this??) was the heart-shaped bathtubs. The first ones I ever witnessed. On TV, because I was not as good a convincer as you. Can’t wait to read Part II.

    1. Wow, your mom pushed you out into the pesticide? I guess mine was a real pushover.

      I, too, have always preferred staycataions to vacations. We Allegras don’t travel very well. According to my cousin Celeste, we are a crabby, difficult-to-please race of people.

  10. back when tv was the lure, and the commercials were less than half truths! yes, the good old days when you didn’t need to wear a bike helmet, and stayed out with friends for hours never worrying about where you wandered in the neighborhood. love this nostalgic look, Mike, keep em coming!

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