Jun 9, 2010

The Old Fashioned Vacation and Bathing Suit

I am very fortunate to have many old photos from my father's family.  That is the plus side of being descended from a long line of pack rats!  This vacation photograph is one of my all time favorites that I found stashed away in my parent's attic.

People in Photo, Left to Right:

Lady from Michigan, Another Lady from Michigan, Miss Annie Drake, Miss Youngblood, Lady and Boy We Met At Hotel, George Drake, Mr. Voorhees, Helen Bird (child/my grandmother), Margaret Bird (my great grandmother), Mr. Drake

The fact that there are notes written on the back makes it a real treasure.  It was taken at Orient Point, Long Island, New York.  There is no date but I can say with much certainly it was taken around 1890, give or take a year, based on the age of my grandmother in the photo.  I also suspect it was taken by my great grandfather Charles Bird with his own camera.

This picture symbolizes what I call the "old time vacation".  Families went away each summer to escape their normal routines and to just relax.  No itineraries and no need to schedule "activities" to occupy your child every hour of the day for fear of boredom.  I believe it was common to meet other vacationers and strike up friendships.  No worries about boredom because the kids would have others to play with and parents would meet and socialize with other families.

Today this concept has virtually disappeared.  There is a fear of striking up friendships with strangers and while I understand the concerns and dangers of this in today's world I find it rather sad.  I made good friends on our yearly trips to Lake George as a child as did my parents.  They kept in touch with some of them long after we stopped going there every year.

I had friends who went to Disney World last year and when I asked how their vacation went the first reply was "exhausting".  Every minute was scheduled.  Today I think many families return from vacation more exhausted and frazzled than when they left, no matter how much they enjoyed the location.

So this is why I love this picture of my ancestors relaxing on the beach. I suspect my great grandparents picked Long Island because it was fairly close to home (Morristown, NJ) and they had family in New York.   The picture suggests an enjoyable time because someone wrote a title on the back:   "The Party In the Wreck".  Some of the people labeled on the photo were known to my great grandparents and may have been related.  But four of these people were noted as "ladies from Michigan" and "people we met at the hotel".

The other reason this is a favorite of mine is of course the bathing suits.  I find them fascinating.  I wonder how much swimming they actually did if any at all?  One would think they would be weighted down with all those clothes in the water.  I cannot imagine going into the ocean wearing stockings!  How uncomfortable.  While I miss the old fashioned vacation I cannot say I would want the bathing suits of this era.  Of course these suits would eliminate the need for the pre-vacation diet and exercise spurt most of us go through.  Now that would be a good thing.  Happy summer to all!

Update!   Since posting this photo I found an entry in my great grandmother's diary that explains this picture
in more detail.  Appears they really were involved in a "Boat Wreck".  You can read the post with my update here.


  1. What a great picture! The upside to pack-ratting!

  2. Excellent post and wonderful photo!

  3. Love the picture and the article.
    What year was the picture taken?
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi I found your update and it said August 1888 so you dont have to post my question. Nancy

  5. Loved your pictures, the article and the added diary entry.
    Your post was interesting and amazing. Aren't you glad you descend from a family of "packrats" as you said.
    My dad threw a lot of our old vintage pictures away but I have been able to retrieve some copies from my cousin Karen. Her mother Lola was my dad's sister and she was a "packrat".
    That would be a great title for a blog article!
    Take care

  6. Thanks for the wonderful picture. You are right it is nice to have pack rats for ancestors.