For those who regularly read my posts for Writing North Idaho, know I am drawn to nostalgia , and find pleasure in reading novels, stories, essays from long ago. So, last week while I was with my mother browsing thrift stores in Lewiston for used books, I came across one titled, Ten Years of Holiday that peeked my interest.
To my surprise, I learned Holiday was a popular travel magazine published from 1946 to 1977. The magazine, published by Curtis Publishing Company, the same company that published Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal, would grow to more than one million subscribers in its hey day. According to some, the reason for the magazines success may be because after World War II, travel overseas became more appealing to Americans, and the editors of Holiday honed in on their passion to travel. I believe another reason may be because of the high quality of writers the magazine enlisted.
Writers like : Frank O' Connor, Richard Llewellyn, Alistair Cooke, E.B. White, Arthur Miller, C.S. Forester, Cleveland Amory, Irwin Shaw, James Thurber.
And one other, Phil Stong , who is most known for his novel State Fair, which was later adapted to the famed Rogers and Hart musical of the same name. In the 1952 December issue of Holiday, Stong wrote Christmas in Iowa. That was the first story I read in the Holiday anthology. I think because Iowa is the birthplace of my family, and I have so many happy memories of living there myself at a very young age. What struck me in Stong's story is it wasn't about travel on foreign shore, but right here in America. He not only wrote of his hometown Keosauqua, Iowa as it was then, after he had lived away twenty years, but as it was when he knew it best, during his childhood years, and the memory it invoked.
It made me think of how travel writing doesn't always have to be about far away and distant places, but towns close and dear, the local cities we grew up in, and helped shaped the people we were, and would become. I thought of my own home town of Bell, California. In the 1950's and 60's a small bedroom community in southeast Los Angeles, where folks were familiar with one another and felt safe in their neighborhood of modestly built homes. Teenage boys pumped gas, checked oil, and cleaned auto windows at the Shell station on the corner of Gage and Wilcox. Other young fellows would box groceries at Arvo's Market on the opposite corner, where I mostly remember buying an oversized grape sucker for a nickel, then would go back to the park to play tether ball with my friend Linda. Parents weren't afraid for their kids to play outside. In Bell, we'd go out early morning to ride our bikes, roller skate, play Hide n Seek and Make Believe and wouldn't return home until late afternoon - sometimes after watching a Saturday matinee at the Alcazar Theater or swimming at the pool. I remember it as a happy time, the best time. When life was good.
I have lived away from Bell for many years now, and only recently returned. It is not the same as I knew it then. The Alcazar is gone, so is Arvo's Market. and Jim's Hairhouse, where so many I knew used to get their haircut. Don's Hamburger's - 5 for a Dollar- on the corner of Heliotrope and Randolph is now a taco stand. But the library and the high school still stand, and my early place of worship, with its Spanish inspired architecture, St. Rose of Lima Church.
Although I have travelled abroad, and throughout the United States, I've never seriously considered writing about my travels. But after reading some of the essays in Ten Years of Holiday, I may give it a try- to write about places I've visited, especially those I know best - the cities where I lived.
As writers, I suggest we all have 'travel' stories we can share. Whether past or present.
For more information and history about Holiday Magazine, check out this well researched and informative article in Vanity Fair Magazine http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/05/holiday-magazine-history