Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rest Stop In Charlotte: Music Of The Zink Family Vacations

One thing you can say about the Zink family:  we can mobilize. On Sunday mornings our commanding officers (mom and dad) could have the whole family en route to 7:30 am mass by 7:05 am. From wake up call to the rendezvous point in the van, it typically took most of us between thirty and forty minutes to be ready, leather shoes, wet hair and all.  No small task for a family of ten in a household of 3 showers.

When it came to vacation, we were a resort town strike force ready to deploy as soon as dad got home from work and changed his clothes.  Usually by 6 pm and usually on a Friday, we found ourselves rifling down the highway in a meticulously packed vehicle, stopping only once at a Shell station in Charlotte, Michigan for gas and a restroom break.  (The discovery of a faster route later on changed our refueling point to Ionia, Michigan.)  Meals were taken on the road and were usually leftovers like cold roast beef sandwiches and ice water, which was doled out from an Igloo cooler operated by my mom and held in place on the van’s center console by my dad while drove.

The trip from north central Indiana to Lake Leelanau, Michigan typically took about six hours.  We learned early that the trip went faster with a stack of magazines and books.  We alternated between reading and sleep; sleep becoming the main option once it was too dark to read.  We spread ourselves out on the bench seats and on the floor between the seats, the metronomic “thump thump thump” of the seams in the road lulling us to sleep.  When we arrived at our destination in the wee small hours of the morning, I suspect we might have looked something like the Jonestown massacre on wheels.

Most of these trips were done in an era that preceded personal music players like the Walkman and the iPod.  Even when that technology was available, for whatever reason, I don’t recall my siblings and I listening to music on personal electronics of any sort.  But there was no shortage of music in the car.  Mom and Dad played all the music - usually 8 track compilations that you received when you bought a new GM car.  Actually, a lot more than that, but one thing was clear:  this is not a democracy.  Mom and dad controlled the tape player.  Sure, my older siblings got to play one of their tapes, but that usually happened when we were about fifteen minutes from the lake and when us younger kids were deep in sleep.  “Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 1” usually only made it through a few of songs before we pulled in the drive and unpacked the car.

Because we were all listening to the same thing music was a shared experience for us.  We all got the same input.  And really, I think I’m grateful for that.

That might seem like a lukewarm endorsement for this communal experience. Just play through some of the tracks in the player accompanying this article to see why.  But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t change a thing.  You don’t really get to choose the soundtrack for your life; it often chooses you.  These tracks were the soundtrack for the much cherished Zink family vacations - for all of us.  I can prove it:  if you’re a Zink, and you’re reading this, complete the following lyric in the comments section of this blog entry:
My name is Michael
I’ve got a nickel
I’ve got a nickel shiny and new*

It’s funny to think that I can get warm feelings from hearing a Jerry Vale song or a cover by the Ray Coniff Singers.  And time does nothing to erode the evocative memories attached to songs like “The Gambler”.  They’re all still there.  Mom and dad stuck the memories and the music in my head.  I didn’t stand a chance.  Maybe I wouldn’t want too many people knowing that rocking out to Jerry Vale’s version of “Strangers in the Night” brings me comfort; but it’s comfort, so I’ll take it.

* - If you’re curious about the lyrics, here you go.
P.S. If it is taking a long time for the embedded player to load, click here and see if it loads faster.


  1. This totally strikes a chord in me. We would drive to Maryland to see my Grandma (a lovely 12 hour drive). My favorite family ride was an ugly maroon Volkswagen Vanagon. It seated 7 with the two middle bucket seats facing backwards and a folding table between those and the rear bench. That was great for card games. Being a Mormon family, my parents rocked the Osmonds, The Carpenters, and EFY music (Mormon to real world translation: EFY music is Gospel lyrics with music that copied the styles and sounds of the popular music of the time). It was great for inducing comas necessary for the long drive. And yet, like you said, it brings a comfort. Sorry for the long comment. It's just that you brought back some memories with your post.

  2. I have never heard of EFY music - that's really interesting. I might have to see if I can dig some up. I think your comments kind of reinforce what I'm saying: you thought of those songs, and it all came back to you in a flash, and quite vividly.

    Good comments, Ben - thanks for leaving 'em!

  3. Even though we didn't have a destination we frequented like this, I definitely remember long car rides to Georgia and Virginia, arguing with my brother about who gets the floor and who gets the bench to sleep on.

    For my family it was a lot of Harry Chapin, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and an eclectic mix of 60's and 70's rock, with some occasional country until my brother or I complained about it, although if my grandfather was driving there could be no complaining.