Growing up in a four-child family, with a father who was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force (the name of the Air Force at the time, during the 1960’s and 70’s), our family was stationed all over the country, and the World. Having been born in the Maritimes, and with all of our relatives still living there, we camped at a trailer park every summer, from the end of school until Labour Day weekend. Every single summer, from the time I was born until I turned 15, we spent our entire summers cramped in close quarters. We started off clustered inside a couple of large, military tents, then a tent trailer (and a couple of military tents), and finally into a 32-foot trailer, my father’s ‘pride and joy’. Well, until the propane tank came off of the trailer while we were travelling along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
It was always the same, from the very start. Wherever we were based, we would have our vehicle, family and gear transported via Hercules aircraft to an air base in New Brunswick, where we would depart and get ready for the summer. The first two weeks were always ‘family travels’, where we would all travel the four Maritime Provinces, visiting family and showing off dad’s new toys. After the travels were over, we would head to the Annapolis Valley, near Berwick, Nova Scotia, where we had a summer lot in a very popular campground. Uncles and Aunts, cousins and friends, first loves and first fist fights, the campground was where my siblings and I grew up. The school years were basically just the times between the first trip in the Hercules, to the trip to wherever our new home’ for the next school year would be (the Air Force was good that way, pilots with families were given 8 month posts during the school year).
So, it was our first year seasonal trailer camping experience in Canada, with the 32-foot trailer, and we had driven from Alberta to Nova Scotia with no problems (well, mechanical problems – we were a young family with two boys and two girls, in close age groupings). We had camped seasonal before, but the trailer was a statement in luxury (flusing toilets! A shower that works! A bed for each person! Absolute luxury for a military family always living on base. About five miles onto the Cabot Trail, my father went white as a ghost, pulled the station wagon over, and ordered us all very sternly to get out, and run as fast as we could away from the trailer, without asking questions.
When your father is a celebrated pilot in the Air Force, you jump when he speaks in that tone! Never once were any of us spanked by either parent, but they could scare the bejesus out of us with mere tonal changes. Anyways, the propane tank that was supposed to be attached to the front of the trailer, over the hitch, was being dragged beside the trailer by its’ hoses, and the security chain.
After about five minutes of all-out running, me, my big brother and two sisters stopped running, and turned back to see what was happening. Of course, five minutes of running at your fastest, when you are a fairly fit family, can carry you quite some distance, especially when you are scared whitless. The propane tank, luckily, was completely empty, and the dangers less than minimal. But, unfortunately, we were lost, we had run through the woods, and followed a few trails, not bothering to take notice of our surroundings. Not bad for a military family, huh?
It took my parents, a few other travellers that were good enough to stop and help a couple of harried travellers (my parents at the road’s edge), and a few police officers, firemen and military personnel from the army base some 5 miles down the road about three hours to find their wood-smart’ children, who just kept on walking, after realizing that they were lost. Under normal circumstances, I am sure we would have easily found our way back (hint; the hydro lines and street lights) to the trailer, but we were scared, having never had our father show fear in front of us.
That was the first year that we had our trailer. The campsite was laughing all summer long, and through the next few years, about the family that runs together, gets lost together. Our seasonal site was amongst an ever-growing group of family, close and extended, and friends, new and old. There was barely a meal where it was just the five of us (my father never stayed at the campsite, just mom and the kids), and every night saw campfires, stories and songs. X-Box, Play Station, Wii? They never would have stood a chance during our summers.