One thing I never did, until I was out of college, was take summer school classes. Summer was for fun! Time to go to the pool, play in the garden, visit places, and spend time with relatives! So, it goes without saying, I didn’t go to summer school. Instead, I went to the Girl Scout Camp for two weeks. When I wasn’t in camp, I was at the neighborhood swimming pool; along with these activity, we would take drives to historic sites, the beach, or visit relatives in Tennessee and West Virginia.
I’ve already said a few good things about Girl Scout camp, but I learned so many personal traits while there. I grew into a young woman and a leader. However, I did not grow into a fashion conscious, makeup using, beauty queen! I grew into an outdoors woman; those times at camp honed my skills in archery, orienteering, music, sailing, canoeing, and storytelling. Those two to four weeks, each summer, I was developing skills that would help me in later life. Learning to persevere, analyze problems, search for solutions, and function as part of a team. The activities that I participated in gave me creative outlets as an adult; they also helped me focus on skills that would become my profession for 43 years, and my avocation for 30 years. Educator by trade and Paramedic/Firefighter/EMS Instructor by free will.
As you recall, I talked about my mother signing me up for every conceivable extracurricular activity. She didn’t just do this during the school year; she also did it during the summertime. During one summer of my junior high school years, she signed me up for a talent show in the park. I vaguely remember her plotting, with my piano teacher, to ensure that I could play at least one decent song in this little competition. On the night of the talent show, I was dressed up in an evening gown, dragged to the Norfolk City Park, and prodded to play that piano. So, there I was all dressed up, playing the snake dance on the piano, in the middle of the park, with all these people watching. Somewhere in the middle of the song, I got lost and could not find my place in the music; so, I just kept repeating the chorus, until I figured out where I belonged, and ended the song. Unbelievably, I won an award. Unbelievable! I hated performing in front of people! Even today I hate people watching me play the piano!
The next course my mother signed me up for was charm lessons. These lessons were taught at the old Center Shops in downtown Norfolk. They trained us to walk, sit, smile, and sip tea. We also learned how to make pomander balls from oranges and cloves. The culmination of this class was a fashion show where I had to model clothing. I was assigned to model a very cute A-line sailor dress and an evening dress. I knew my parents could not afford to purchase either one of those dresses, but I felt like a princess, and my self-esteem was off the charts. Even after paying to have my hair styled, my mother found a way to pay for that sailor dress! I loved it and I loved her!
Sandwiched in between the talent shows and the charm classes were chores. I’m not talking about making your bed, which was a given. I’m talking about cleaning the house and doing yard work. Both my sister and I had specific chores. Chris was responsible for getting dinner started. She almost burnt the house down when she caught the kitchen on fire! My chores were cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and hand-clipping the grass underneath the chain-link fence. When I was old enough, mowing the yard was added to my list of chores. However, mowing was kind of fun, because my parents had an electric lawnmower; you just plugged it into the outside receptacle and made sure you didn’t run over that extension cord. To this day, I abhor weeding flowerbeds and sidewalk cracks, plus performing certain yard work.
Around the end of every month, as I alluded to before, mother bundled us kids in the station wagon and off we would go to the commissary, for our monthly grocery shopping. It pretty much trashed our Saturday, because it took most of the day to purchase the groceries, load them in the car, get them home, unload the groceries, and store the food where it belonged. At least I got to spread out my yardwork chores. I tried to get those finished early in the day, so that I could go to the pool and become a water rat.
During the summers, I can also remember going to the beach in the late afternoons. I don’t mean the Atlantic Ocean; I mean the Chesapeake Bay. One of the perks of being a Navy brat is that your parents can take you to the beach on the amphibious base. I remember the parking lot being covered with some type of metal runway material over the sand; However, the beach was nice, there were lifeguards, and not a lot of people. You see not just anyone could get on that beach! You had to be active duty or retired military, plus have an ID card. We didn’t get to go everyday but we did manage once or twice a week. The rest of my time was spent in a swimming pool. see PHOTOS 1-4
Barbara Taber at the talent show in the park
Larrymore Lawns Community Pool
Larrymore Lawns Community Pool (#2)
We also went on road trips. While Norfolk, Virginia is in the far southeastern corner of Virginia, it is within a day’s drive of Mount Vernon, Monticello, Williamsburg, Appomattox, and Washington DC. With every relative who came to visit us, there was a trip to Virginia Beach and Williamsburg. I think I have toured Colonial Williamsburg about fifty times, during my lifetime. I enjoy walking Duke of Gloucester Street, shopping in the various colonial shops, and eating at Chowning’s or the Raleigh Tavern. I can remember when we would go in the kitchens, behind the tavern, and purchase hot bread and gingersnap cookies. Once we made our purchases, we would find a picnic area, slather butter on the bread, and just have at it! There is nothing like fresh, warm sourdough bread.
In 1962, my parents actually sprung for a several days’ visit to Washington, DC. We stayed in a hotel, quite unusual for our family, and spent our time at the Smithsonian Institute. I remember this specific trip, because Lawrence of Arabia was making its premier, and I did so want to see that movie! Needless to say, I never saw Lawrence of Arabia in a theater. I did, however, get to see the movie on the small screen. I came to realize that you could spend months in Washington and never see everything there is to be seen. On our way home from the Washington trip, we toured Mount Vernon. Because my dad was a history teacher, we had our own expert on colonial history giving us our tour of both the nation’s capital and the first president’s home. see PHOTOS 5-8
Fairfax County, VA
Mount Vernon (#2)
Fairfax County, VA
Westmoreland County, VA
In addition to our local activities and day trips to historic sites, we also traveled to my mom’s family in Parkersburg, West Virginia, along with my Uncle Tom’s and Aunt Mona’s home in Clinton, Tennessee. Our trips to Parkersburg were arduous events. The only way to get from Norfolk to Parkersburg was by way of route 60, a two-lane, twisting, and winding road; however, it actually passed through some of the most beautiful country. Unfortunately, I would get motion sickness and didn’t get to enjoy a lot of the scenery. We would stop at a place called Hawk's Nest, which is a state park in West Virginia. We would have a picnic lunch and drink water coming from a pipe coming out of the side of the mountain. That was some of the best water I ever tasted! Today, people would be horrified that we had done that but, hey, we lived. There is so much we miss these days when we travel the interstates. Sometimes I just love to drive the byways and back roads, which are much more scenic. see PHOTOS 9-12
When we went to Clinton, Tennessee, we stayed with Uncle Tom and Aunt Mona. Being an industrious sort, Uncle Tom had built a pontoon boat to use for fishing and hunting. You will recall Uncle Tom had polio when he was fourteen and was confined to a wheelchair. That never stopped him! He kept his boat at a marina on Lake Norris. We would all pile in cars and drive up to Lake Norris for a day on the lake. As we were cruising around the lake, he would say to me “Babsie, you see those sticks down there in the water?” I’d say, “Yes sir.” He would then state, “Honey, those are whole trees. This lake is 150 to 200 feet deep.” I was informed that I could dive off the boat and never reach the treetops. I was so amazed! Being on Lake Norris was very different than being on Lake Washington in West Virginia. see PHOTO 13
Thomas Jefferson Monument
On the Delaware River, NY
Route 60 in West Virginia
Relative of Barbara Taber
There are many stories about travels on Lake Norris that come to mind. However, the day we took my Granny O on the pontoon boat for a trip and a picnic really stands out. Now, Uncle Tom had installed rollup curtains all around the perimeter of the boat roof. Unless he was camping out on the boat or it was raining, those curtains remained rolled up. Well, that day a great cloud appeared, and we were in the outer reaches of the lake. It was decided that the curtains would be lowered so that the blowing rain wouldn’t drench everyone on the deck. Unbeknownst to us boaters, critters had set up housekeeping in the rolled-up curtains. Now Granny was standing awfully close to one of the curtains; as it was unrolled, a bat comes out! That bat went down my grandmother’s shirt and she did a striptease right there, on the deck, in front of God and country! I don’t think I ever saw Granny O move as fast as she did that day! We all had a good laugh over the bat down the shirt.
As we have all gotten older, I find that I miss family reunions the most.
Things my summer between junior and senior high school taught me:
The road less traveled usually has the best view.
As they say, “that which does not kill you will make you stronger.”
You can learn a lot from your elders; you just must pay attention.
In the words of the immortal Thomas Q Pussycat, “huh hell, you heard me the first time!”
Entertainment doesn’t have to cost much, can be found close to home, and can be educational.
Cherish your family, respect your elders, and you will indeed be a wealthy person.