My 1965 Winter Vacation in Las Vegas and Colorado

Holiday memories

With the end of another holiday season, I found myself reminded of Christmas vacations from my childhood.  Some holidays fade with time, but others stand out vividly because they were unique.  In December of 1965, my parents took a vacation to Colorado and Nevada with stops in California and New Mexico also on the schedule.  It was a summer vacation in winter, and it was fun and memorable.  My folks arranged with our teachers at Saint John’s School for us to begin Christmas break a few days early, and we traveled by car to our winter destinations.  I offer my recollections of the Christmas of 1965, with some help in establishing chronology coming from my mother’s diary.


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We chose Route 66 to reach our holiday destinations
We chose Route 66 to reach our holiday destinations
Albuquerque is a sprawling city that is beautiful from a distance
Albuquerque is a sprawling city that is beautiful from a distance
Las Vegas in 1965
Las Vegas in 1965
Allen, Mike and GI Joe
Allen, Mike and GI Joe
The Disneyland sign in 1965
The Disneyland sign in 1965
Pinocchio and a guest in Disneyland 1965
Pinocchio and a guest in Disneyland 1965
Mom in California 1965
Mom in California 1965
My father enjoyed visiting this historic Las Vegas hotel, pictured as it was in 1965
My father enjoyed visiting this historic Las Vegas hotel, pictured as it was in 1965
How many relatives can fit on one couch?
How many relatives can fit on one couch?
Denver in the winter is magnificent
Denver in the winter is magnificent
It was good to be home
It was good to be home

The winter of 1965


We left Lawrence at 1:30 AM for Las Vegas, Nevada.  I’m not certain why my father preferred driving at night, but it was a habit I took from him and now consider an essential ingredient of road trips.  It was a crystal clear night with countless stars visible in the night sky.  The radio played Dean Martin’s “Chapel in the Moonlight”, which is still a road tunes staple for me. 

Interstate 70 was the quickest way to get to Las Vegas, but it snaked through the Rocky Mountains and would have been treacherous in December.  The famous Route 66 was a more reliable road to traverse in winter and we headed west toward Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Approximately 150 miles into our journey, the car picked up a nail and blew a tire.  The spare tire was stored in a panel underneath the trunk, packed full of suitcases which had to be removed to get to the tire and jack.  I’m sure it took considerable strength to jack up a car filled with kids, but my father never suggested we get out and wait in the cold to make it easier for him—a touching gesture I never forgot. 

When we reached Albuquerque, we stayed at the Motor Horn Motel in the middle of the city, just around the corner from a tiny diner similar in style and ambiance to “Mel’s Diner” in the television series “Alice”.  I don’t know how my parents discovered this place, but it served chili everyone raved about.  I was allergic to beans so chili was off limits, and unfortunately there was nothing else served there fit for human consumption.  I threw up on a hamburger.  In subsequent visits, I ordered a fifty cent box of Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes….

The next day, we drove north toward Las Vegas, Nevada.  Billboard signs along the side of the road counted down miles to the Stardust, the Riviera, and other hotels on the strip.  The signs stirred our excitement after a long and tiresome drive, and we watched the odometer roll over each mile as the car raced through the desert toward our destination.  Reservations at a hotel with a casino were not a consideration with small children in tow and we stayed at a place called the Valley Motel, approximately 10 blocks from downtown.  We ate dinner at Bob Baskin’s Restaurant, a homey place that offered traditional foods kids would enjoy. My parents liked the food as well, although Dad once got upset with the service and referred to the place as “Bob Bastard’s”.  They served a chicken pot pie my brother liked, and their hot chocolate was loaded with whipped cream on top.  The walls were filled with photographs of celebrity guests with handwritten notes of appreciation and friendship to the owner.    

My father preferred gambling at the El Cortez, a modest but historic hotel and casino built in Las Vegas in the 1950’s.  This wasn’t the only place he tried his luck at the poker tables or slot machines, but it was his main stop because he was lucky there.  Meanwhile, my mother frequently took us shopping.  There were no malls or shopping centers yet, but Fremont Street had JC Penney’s and other solid places to shop.  Penney’s actually occupied two buildings—you stepped out the back door and crossed an alley to find the children’s clothing department.  There were also smaller clothing stores and souvenir shops nearby, so it was easy to spend a half-day browsing or selecting clothes for school.

On Christmas Day, Mom and Dad woke us early in the morning to give us Christmas presents.  It wasn’t the most traditional Christmas ever, but nice nonetheless.  Among the gifts I received was a GI Joe I still have in my possession.  After we opened our gifts, we drove west to California and Disneyland.  It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a wonderful Christmas gift.  The weather was warm enough to make the day enjoyable.  We rode on the Matterhorn, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the Mad Tea Party “cups and saucers”.  We saw the “It’s A Small World” attraction for the first time—a boat ride winding through a series of rooms that displayed dolls representing all countries and cultures of the world.  The dolls sang “It’s A Small World” in many different languages, emphasizing that we are all alike, despite differences in appearance and culture.  It was a point eloquently made and driven home by this overly memorable tune.  We left the park that night exhausted and happy.

The next day we intended to visit the Griffith Park Planetarium.  My brother was interested in astronomy and wanted very much to see it.  Like the Griswold’s visiting Wally World in “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, however, when we arrived we saw a sign that told visitors the planetarium was closed on Mondays.  We left in disappointment, and there was no moose to punch to make us feel better.  We visited several other tourist spots before returning to Las Vegas, where we remained for several more days.  We ate good meals and played arcade games in the hotels.  In the heart of Sin City, we enjoyed a nice family vacation.

On December 28, we left Las Vegas.  We ate lunch en route at the Lumberjack Café, where “heavenly chicken” was featured on the menu.  We tried it, and Mom remarked that heavenly chicken tasted like hell.  We stopped in Albuquerque again for another bowl of chili—my personal hell.  I didn’t throw up a second time, though, so the Sugar Frosted Flakes did their job.

Before we returned home, we headed north to Denver and visited my older sister and her family.  They lived in a tiny house that suggested money was in short supply, but they cheerfully welcomed us into their home.  They even gave us Christmas presents—a touching gesture from a struggling young couple with kids of their own.  My most vivid memories include one particular meal at their house; when my sister told her kids to clean their plates, her daughter waited for just the right moment to grab a handful of mashed potatoes and lob it onto my plate. 

On New Year’s Eve, we visited my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Harold in Fort Lupton, Colorado.  They owned a liquor store in town and lived behind it, an arrangement that fascinated me.  With mirrors and bells on the front door, they kept their store open for business while enjoying the comforts of home.  Dorothy suffered from arthritis and her fingers were bent and gnarled.  Harold was quiet and moved slowly, and their infirmities made them seem old.  They were kind to us but I didn’t know them very well, so these reunions were somewhat dull for me.  Dorothy and Harold had nothing in their home of interest to children either, so there was little for kids to do when we were there.  My brother and I were allowed to drink Coca-Cola or strawberry soda and we enjoyed that, but we were bored and ready to leave by mid-afternoon.  We headed back to Denver for a New Year’s Eve celebration. 

That evening, my sister took us all to a party held at the home of a friend.  My brother and I were ushered into a bedroom where all the children of other guests played.  We stood with our backs to the wall without speaking and watched in horror as a loud, overweight child indulged in mock wrestling matches with his friends.  This ugly, red-faced boy shouted and sweated through the entire evening, and with a relief normally reserved for executive pardons granted to death row inmates, we were freed several hours later to return home. 

We left for Lawrence on New Year’s Day.  The weather was good, although there was snow on the ground throughout Kansas.  Our wintertime vacation was enjoyable, but it was nice to return to the normalcy of home.  There were still a few days left before school resumed, and they were well spent in the company of neighborhood friends eager to show us what they received for Christmas.


Thanks for reading

And so the 1965 holiday season ended for us.  1966 would be a year of great change for my family, and these types of trips were eventually limited to summers.  The merging of the holiday season and family vacation was fun, and it was an occasion I will always remember.  I thank you, the reader, for indulging my childhood memories.  I hope yours are as pleasant.

A Vacation Update


It has been several years since I wrote these words, and more than five years since I have taken a vacation. Responsibilities, finances and opportunity have kept me from traveling throughout the United States or abroad. The length of time that has passed since my last vacation has forced me to value the memories of vacations more than ever.

I am grateful for the opportunities to travel that I have enjoyed, and I hope to find the resources to enjoy traveling again in the future. I have been from California to Florida, from Texas to Canada, and lots of places in-between. I have seen the majesty and beauty the United States has to offer. I have stood before Mt. Rushmore and flown by helicopter to the Grand Canyon. I have been to Disneyland and Las Vegas. I have enjoyed fishing in the mountains of Colorado. I have stood with my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I have eaten fine meals in the best restaurants and dined on cheeseburgers at a Dairy Queen. I've seen Indianapolis, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Lincoln, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I've also spent time in tiny mountain towns like Grand Lake, Colorado and Melrose, Montana.

The memories are plentiful and vivid. The memories are of wonderful moments spent with family and friends. I have grown through my experiences and have become a more well-rounded individual. Traveling is a magnificent gift that should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone. The opportunities to learn and experience moments that will never be forgotten cannot be understated. My travels have been limited compared to some, but its influence on my life has been enormous.

It is my sincere wish that everyone has the opportunity to see and explore this beautiful world we live in. Happy travels.


Comments 32 comments

Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 5 years ago from trailer in the country

You have an awesome memory...so many details intact...I enjoyed your memory. Blessings


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Enlydia. I remembered this vacation particularly well because it was so enjoyable. Thanks for reading.

Mike


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

All the little details you recall about this trip make it a very enjoyable read, Mike.

I felt like I was at the chili diner where you had to feast on Frosted Flakes; the Small World ride with the dolls at Disneyland; your visits to your older sister and aunt and uncle, etc.

Thanks for your happy memories. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

This was a beautiful read (voted so). It is a blessing that your Mom's diary was able to fill in some of the details, yet, your account speaks distinctly from the child's perspective. The photo of you and Allen and GI Joe is priceless. It reminds me of jammy-clad kids tuckered out even before the middle of a drive-in movie.

Thanks for a stellar look back to '65.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Thanks for writing this for us. I really enjoy reading your winter vocation in Las Vegas and Colorado, it must be a wonderful vocations. I believe this was a great memories and unforgettable, right. Good to see you again, Mike. God bless you and take care!

Prasetio


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Drbj, thanks for reading. I admit to being nervous about putting memories like this out for public consumption, wondering if they will seem boring and self-indulgent to the reader. I'm glad to know I offered my remembrances in a way that brought the reader into my thoughts and feelings at the time.

If you ever find your way to Albuquerque, I hear the chili is good--I'm gonna pass, however.

Thanks again.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sally, thanks for the kind words. My mother's diary was huge in establishing the chronology for this trip, and even with my memories of this time very much intact, I couldn't have written this in a cohesive manner without her book. Disneyland, the chili in Albuquerque and visiting relatives in Colorado (particularly that ghastly New Year's Eve) are vivid in my memories, but I needed her account to tie it all together.

Thanks again for reading. Take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Prasetio, thanks for stopping by. The memories of this trip are very pleasant, and it was fun to jot them all down.

I have been so busy I haven't been here as much as I would like lately, but I am trying to stay in touch. Take care.

Mike


Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 5 years ago from Vermont, USA

A nice story well told.

The photos were the perfect touch to set the tone and add to the nostalgia. The photo of your mother in that fur-collared coat made me think of my mother dressed in the outfits that were stylish at the time.

Your father letting you remain in the car while he changed the tire is a wonderful comment on his character and the more chivalrous tenor of the times.

Thanks for sharing.

CP


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Thanks for sharing a great story and yes the pictures made it real.

Polly


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Christopher, thanks for reading. My father is/was a great man, and his kindness and generosity are boundless. I agree, people were in many ways more thoughtful of others back then.

Fashion in those days were great. The photos look dated now, but I thought they captured the spirit of the times well.

Thanks again.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Polly, thanks for reading. I will confess that some of your hubs talking about events from your childhood inspired me to write this, so I am especially glad to see you have stopped by. Thanks again, and take care.

Mike


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Well thank you, I always wonder why more people don't. Seems my personal stories are not as popular here, but glad you enjoyed them. I love writing about memories and taking myself back to how I saw it then. I did an embarrassing one yesterday but as I say, I am covering all I can remember. I especially liked your mom's remark about the chicken too, good mom's can still come up with a meany now and then and it makes the story human. Now I would feel guilty saying my mom said that but if she did, she did, and I would have to tell. lol


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Polly, I wonder sometimes why the "slice-of-life" hubs don't do better, as well. These are the hubs that allow us to transcend the "buy this" and "how to" articles and get to know each other as real people. So no one will misunderstand, I write the "buy this" and "how to" articles as well, and my comment is not an indictment of that type of writing--I just like to read about the people behind the articles, also.

Hope your weekend is a good one.

Mike


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi Mike those family holidays are important memories. As has been pointed out, that wonderful gesture from your father is such an important building block in your and your siblings development. Cheers


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

I guess people here are after the money and warm stories don't get ads? I do find some of what seem the more popular ones boring to me, but I am not here to make money although I am getting a new following that claim I am a real author..lol. I have my first site up,link is on profile and then I have to get my nonfiction children site up that I love and think many adults will enjoy it too, more humor, animals and people at a place called Sassy Creek in North Carolina maybe in 40's. I have written much of it and it feels that time frame to me, with plenty of room to grow. I guess I should see about getting into the money part soon. It seems I write continually, but I love it.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Attemptedhumour, thanks for reading. More father is/was a man of great kindness and consideration. I never gave much thought at the time to what he did that night for our comfort, but I never forgot. He is much to be admired, and I hope I have benefited from being his son.

Thanks and take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Polly, it sounds like you are writing for all the right reasons. I do alright with my how-to and basketball articles, but I believe no one will enjoy what I'm writing if I don't enjoy writing it. So, if I want to write about non-commercial topics, well--I do. It sounds like you are really developing an online presence, and I will take a look at your web site. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Mike


JannyC profile image

JannyC 5 years ago

Hiya Mike! Was a sweet enjoyable read. Make me feel all warm inside it did really. Thanks for sharing.


SUSIE DUZY profile image

SUSIE DUZY 5 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

I also went to vegas in the 60's. It is just not the same anymore. Great article, loved it.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Mike, I drove through Lawrence twice this fall, and thought of you. It is great to read one of your hubs again. Your sarcastic inclusions, ie., the mashed potato fling and frosted corn flakes implication, etc created pictures in my mind reminiscent of A Christmas Story. I do enjoy your writing style! Thanks.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Janny! Nice to hear from you again. I'm glad you enjoyed the vacation story from my childhood. I will have to stop by and look for new work from you. Take care!

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Susie, you're absolutely correct--Las Vegas is a far different place now than it was back then. I still love the town, it holds a lot of great memories for me--but it is different now. Thanks for reading.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Storyteller, what brought you to Lawrence? I'm very pleased that you might think of me and my work while passing through town--hopefully my tales offered some pleasant thoughts while traveling. Hope to have you pass this way again someday! Take care.

Mike


kimberlyslyrics 5 years ago

Mike what a wonderful hub having read four times and shall again and also thankyou for letting us share a part of your life with us

Bless my friend your amazing

Xoxo


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Mike, I was headed to Minnesota to visit my aging mother and yes, my thoughts were pleasant ones. Thanks!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Kim, thanks for reading. I am appreciative for the opportunity to share some memories from the past--some very good memories. Thanks for sharing with me.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Storyteller, thanks again. I hope you pass this way again sometime. Take care.

Mike


pmccray profile image

pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

Boy Mike this hub brought back memories of all my family road trips. Good ole Route 66, what times we had. My father was career Army so when we were transferred within the US from base to base my mom made sure we went via auto. She would mark all the best sights along the way. We had great trips through Yellowstone, the Alamo etc. Excellent hub and thanks for the memories.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Pmccray, thanks for reading and I apologize for the long lapse in responding. The memories of traveling by car as a child are wonderful, and I treasure them a great deal. It sounds like your own memories are equally precious.

Thanks again.

Mike


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

Your hub reminded me of a couple magazines, Good Old Days and Reminance. These were full of stories people wrote in about their life in yrs gone by. I don't know if their still available.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

ruffryder, thanks for the info. The magazines you mention sound intriguing, and I will see if I can find out something about them. Thanks again.

Mike

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