So the Fourth of July has passed and we are now in full summer. (Not for us old-timers this modern custom of beginning summer with memorial Day weekend. Summer isn’t fully underway until we start seeing watermelon and corn on the cob in the grocery…yeah, I know they’re there all year round now, but you could have let me indulge my recollections at LEAST until the second paragraph. Whose blog do you think this is?)
The origin of the concept of the summer vacation is lost in the mists of time, but those of our ancestors who had the money understood well the appeal of living one place in the cold of winter and somewhere else in the heat of summer. Royalty had their winter palaces, and society had their homes in the country. And for the lower classes, temporary residence in a quiet, restful spot was available at least by the middle of the nineteenth century. (One of the earliest surviving obscene sound recordings, from the 1880s, deals with an old joke about a vacation cottage developer.)
Along with this custom of getting away during the sweaty months came a realization (as in the joke mentioned above) about the gap between expectations and reality. Postcards detailing exactly HOW much fun it was to get away from your house to the lake or beach abounded in the 1950s, and covered as many joys as possible, a handful of which can be seen here.
Sunburn was especially a feature of such celebrations after the turn of midcentury. Women had to wait for the change of fashions As the makers of parasols to keep the sun off Milady’s delicate complexion started to go bankrupt, makers of sunburn lotions and home remedies intended for a similar purpose experienced a boom.
Men, and indeed women, had been experiencing sunburn for centuries, of course, but it required the twentieth century to observe that it seemed to be obligatory to go out in search of it at certain times of year. The change of fashion helped, too, as it gave postcard artists another excuse to portray women in skimpier attire.
But the whole family of man understood about mosquitoes from an early age. Early in the twentieth century, cartoonists made it clear that these bloodsuckers were waiting for your vacation time as eagetrly as you were.
And just like you, went through a whole pre-vacation period of planning for the big occasion, making sure everything was set and ready.
Travelers who wanted to describe a vacation not only bragged about the size of the fish that were caught, but the size of the mosquito that caught THEM.
Literature is filled with fine old jokes (I know you didn’t get an old joke quiz this week because of the holiday, so this will have to do) about the mosquitoes the size of a horse who carried away tourists telling each other, “Yeah,. I hate these type O guys too, but just take what you can get before the BIG guys come and take ‘em all.”
In spite of all of this,. However, people stuck to their vacation spots (or simply couldn’t get past the sentries to get home.)