BLOOMINGTON - The official start of summer and Father's Day are on the same day this year, making it a perfect time to reflect on summer vacations with our dads.
With that in mind, we invited Pantagraph readers to share favorite summer memories with their fathers. You'll recognize some of the names; others won't be familiar - except to their family and friends, that is. What they all have in common is fond remembrances of summers past.
At the same time, fathers and their children are making new memories. Steve Baker and his daughter, Grace, 5, sat on a park bench last week enjoying slushy drinks and planning their Father's Day weekend to Chicago.
They'll go to the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, the Sears Tower and visit friends, said Baker, who remembers trips in the late 1970s with his dad to visit Old Chicago, a now-closed indoor amusement park.
"It's not really the Sears Tower - it's Willis Tower now," said Grace. You see, her friend, whose name is Willis, told her so.
"I'm going to eat snails," said Grace, who likes trying new things and wants to sample escargot in Chicago, said her dad. "My dad wasn't that adventurous," he added.
Following are some of the stories about summers and dads submitted by readers.
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THE CB expert
"My father recently passed and there isn't a day that I don't think about him. Summer vacations with my father were and will always be memorable. I remember one summer vacation in particular when we drove from Illinois to South Carolina.
We never flew anywhere on vacation because of the expense, and my father loved to drive and talk on the 'CB.' He thought that he had to set some sort of world record on how far he could drive without stopping. He turned into a different person; there was no reasoning with him.
He drove like a mad man trying to get to our destination. My mother packed the cooler full of food and drinks because the only stops that were going to be made were for gas and possibly a restroom.
No matter how much my brother and I complained about not stopping, my father would continue to drive (totally focused) and talking on the 'CB.' Of course, the obsessed driving and 'CB' lingo drove us all over the edge … we would break out in uncontrollable laughter … We still laugh about my father's antics today although he is no longer with us. Summer vacations will never be the same."
Mike Williams, Bloomington; employee of State Farm
IN PLANE SIGHT
"From as far back as I can remember, my father loved planes and looked forward to attending the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Fly-In every summer. The whole family used to go with him when it was held at the Rockford Airport because that was close to home.
We used to walk around for what seemed like hours, looking at planes and flight-related memorabilia. When the Fly-In was moved up to Oshkosh, Wis., he wasn't able to talk us into going with him, so he went alone and met up with lots of friends and acquaintances that he had made over the years.
That was the highlight of his summers. He attended until the last few years of his life, when his health just wasn't good enough for him to travel. Every time I hear a plane, I look up. I guess it's genetic."
Liz Hoisington, Normal; faculty member at Heartland Community College
A trip to remember
"My dad is the best father of four daughters. He is a farmer and over the years has collected Indian arrowheads, and had an interest in the Indians in our area. Many years ago we surprised him with a trip to Dixon Mounds. We would probably have enjoyed doing something else, but knew what he would enjoy.
Over the years, I have always remembered that as one of my favorite Father's Days. We had a great day, lots of fun just being with our dad."
- Kathy Thomas-Sullivan, Clinton; financial manager at Wilson Chrysler-Jeep
"My dad loved to drive on vacation. Yellowstone was the destinations the summer I was 7 or 8. What I will never forget about that trip was arriving and seeing a bear along the road leading into the park. My dad had one of those old Polaroid cameras that immediately spit out a print (you waved it around so it would dry).
He told my little brother and me to get out of the station wagon and stand on the side of the road so he could take a picture with the bear behind us - we were both wearing these big cowboy hats. We kept stepping forward, afraid the bear would move in our direction. It never did, but it took about a minute for my dad to get the shot. I don't remember if he got mad at us or not, but once he took the shot, my brother and I literally dove back into the car. Despite my "close" encounter, I've always found that my favorite animal is the bear."
- Mark Pickering, Bloomington; Pantagraph editor
One night only
"Best, and only, camping trip with Dad was when we took the old grain truck and drove to the 'river' for an overnight campout - but we had to be back home early the next morning to milk the cows!"
- Roberta Oberpriller, formerly of Arrowsmith; software support specialist
"My father came to the United States as an 18-year-old, non-English speaking young man from Denmark. He instilled in each of us, my brother, my sister and me, several values that have served us well.
We would take two-week driving vacations along Route 66 during the summer as part of my father's love for the United States. We drove to Roswell, N.M. to see my brother who was stationed at Walker Air Force base three consecutive summers. I want to point out that we drove in 1956 and 1959 Chevrolets, neither of which was air-conditioned.
Our driving vacations provided many hours of sightseeing and an appreciation of the beauty and size of the United States. My father passed away many years ago. However, there is not a day that goes by that I do not remember my father's words of encouragement and the lessons he taught me.''
- Robert S. Nielsen, Bloomington; superintendent of District 87 School District