Dimes And Dreams Of Disney
Growing up on the East Coast in the 1950s and ‘60s, a trip to Disneyland seemed as outlandish as, well, a ski trip to Stowe or a vacation in Paris.
It wasn’t something working class families did. Or thought about.
Every summer we borrowed a neighbor’s camper and headed off for a one- or two-week road trip. Our destinations ranged from Niagara Falls to Maine and all the state parks in between. We ate at picnic tables, prayed for flush toilets - not every campground had them - and bought souvenirs that always smelled of cedar.
A trip to Anaheim, Califonia? Too far. Too expensive.
Then one of my dad’s co-workers at John A. Roebling’s Sons - makers of wire rope - took his kids to Disneyland. We were sick with envy.
If the Schwagers could go, why couldn’t we?
My father said it would cost too much.
But not long after that one of my parents read an inspirational story in Reader’s Digest about a family that religiously saved dimes - literally just thin 10-cent pieces - for several years and were able to finance some wild extravagance.
A new vacuum cleaner, perhaps. Or a toaster.
“Whaddya say?” Dad exclaimed. “We all agree to save every single dime we get and in a couple of years we’ll have enough money to go to Disneyland!”
Yes! Dimes! What could be easier?
Mom bought a plastic pig and painted “Perry” on his fat belly with red nail polish. He sat on the kitchen counter and every night we emptied our pockets. Any dimes we had went straight into the slot in Perry’s head.
The Doughertys were going to Disneyland!
At first the dimes made clanking noises. Then, as they piled up they made a much softer sound.
We saved and saved. Perry was so heavy I could barely lift him.
I’d like to tell you that we cracked open the plastic pig one day and had enough to get a family of four to the West Coast.
But we never went to Disneyland.
Last week I asked my brother what happened to all those Disney dimes. He said he didn’t know. In fact, he’d forgotten all about our brilliant savings plan.
Did we take a family trip to the race track and bet it all on a gray? I asked. Did we squander it on a household appliance? Or did we take a vote - with my dad’s outweighing all of ours - and decide to go to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame instead?
I think I know what happened. To be perfectly honest, our family was never very good at following through. We were the kind of people who’d look at seed packets, eagerly plant a garden and then forget to water it.
Knowing us, a year or so after we hatched our plan we lost interest and began to “borrow” from Perry.
It probably started with school lunch money being shaken out. Then school trip fees. I’ll bet my mother started paying the paper boy with dimes.
Next thing we knew, Perry was empty and there we were. Toasting marshmallows and swatting mosquitoes back at the KOA.