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I do not know how long it took to get to my grandmother's in Oklahoma or from her house to Portland. But I do remember one night during the trip.

In 1953 I was a sophomore at Coral Gables High School. Coral Gables, Florida is seven miles south of Miami where my father was minister of a downtown church. That year, my dad was President Elect of the National Convention of the Disciples of Christ to be held in Portland, Oregon. We had to leave before school was out to allow time for a cross country trip that included a visit with my grandmother in Oklahoma. I missed my final exams.

I do not know how long it took to get to my grandmother's in Oklahoma or from her house to Portland. But I do remember one night during the trip. We made an overnight stop in Yellowstone Park. We stayed in a tent-top cabin built on a wooden platform with five-foot-high wooden walls and a tent for the roof. There were two beds, one for my parents, and one for me. We were issued two blankets for each bed. That night it was cold, very cold. My dad's heart problems caused him chest pains. Mom had us all climb fully dressed into one bed using all four blankets to stay warm.

My favorite part of this trip was learning to drive. I was only fifteen and did not have a license, but it became hard for my dad to keep up the daily grind of the long drive. I did a good job driving, but I found one point nerve-racking. There was no interstate system in 1953 and very few multi-lane highways. Two-lane, narrow bridges made me nervous. I drove over a lot of them. Occasionally, I would meet a large truck coming the opposite direction on a narrow bridge. I was panicked. It did not look like enough room for the two of us. I feared I might side-swipe the truck or the steel girders of the bridge. I just held my breath and metaphorically closed my eyes. There was always room, but it did not appear that way to a young inexperienced driver. I am still a bit nervous on narrow two-lane bridges.

My parents made a big deal when we drove through Eugene, Oregon. Eugene is my middle name.

I met some other high school students at the convention, some a year or two older that could drive legally. They asked me to go swimming with them. I had to borrow a swimsuit. After the swim at Janzten Beach, we went to Oaks Amusement Park to ride the roller coaster. I wrapped the borrowed swimsuit in a hotel towel. As the roller coaster ascended the first peak, I put the towel and swimsuit on the floor of the roller coaster car. I really don't recall the ride, only the aftereffects. The towel and bathing suit disappeared during the ride. The operator allowed me to search under the roller coaster, but I could not find the borrowed swimsuit. I was very embarrassed. Funny how embarrassing experiences can burn a memory into the brain that last for over six decades.

When my family returned home I had to study for the Latin final exam I missed by leaving school early. I forgot so much Latin on the trip, I needed a tutor. The trip was lots of fun, especially getting to drive but studying for a Latin final exam was pure torture when all my friends were out enjoying themselves.

That summer I resolved to switch to Spanish to meet my language requirement. After a of week of Spanish it dawned on me. If I stayed in Spanish, I would be obligated for two more years of language classes. I switched back to Latin. While difficult, Latin has served me well.

Cecil Denney is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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