Fond Memories Camping in Lake Tahoe


Pat 1955 3
Beverly, myself, and Sally enjoy the water at Lake Tahoe. Beverly and Sally were my schoolmates.

In 1955 I moved in with my two new roommates, Carole and Phyllis. The apartment was only a few blocks from San Jose State college where they both attended classes.  My campus  was further away, but that was okay, I liked the exercise from the walk. My mother decided to move to the YWCA downtown; which was close to the library where she worked. This move gave her freedom from housework and cooking, which she never liked. She was happy studying and having a career.

We visited every week and walked downtown while we looked at displays in the store windows. When my Mother needed her haircut or a permanent wave we would stay at my apartment  where I could work on her hair. As the custom of that time most women had permanents with weekly shampoos and styling. The ritual at bedtime was to pin curl their hair; wrap a long piece of toilet paper around the head, and then adorn it with a hairnet. The finishing touch was to slather their face with night cream and slide into bed. Oh, the good old days!  I solved my problem by cutting my hair in a short pixie style—with pinking shears!

I lived in Vermont up to a few weeks before my 18th. birthday. Then my mother and I headed for California. It was her idea to make a career change. I didn’t want to leave Vermont and my friends. It took a few months to adjust to the ways of people in California. Most people were friendly and I eventually made some friends that my roommates had introduced me to. It still took me months to get over my homesickness for Vermont.  I was more reserved than the young people there that I met and it took time to feel comfortable in my new environment.  Right then I decided not to reveal the fact that my mother and father had been ministers, that was a deterrent in making friends!  I figured it’s best to stop while I was ahead.

I soon adjusted to the many different cultures that were in California and quickly adapted to eating ethnic foods. To this day Mexican cuisine is my favorite. My friends from hairdressing school were of diverse nationalities: Polish, Mexican, Spanish, Chinese ,and African American. I enjoyed learning about their colorful cultures. I definitely had lived a sheltered life in Vermont!

My mother helped finance my apartment expenses until I completed my schooling.  I worked part time as a file clerk in a small office during that time. That was such a  boring job!

I was fortunate to be able to work for my tuition while attending school by working one day a week in the lab. My duties were mixing hair dyes and assemble supplies for permanents that the other students needed as well as keep the lab clean. The hours that I spent in the lab did not count toward completing my hours to graduate. It took longer to accumulate the hours I needed, so I was not able to take the State Board the same time as some of my friends.

A couple friends and I decided we needed one last fling before they went off to take the State Board and left me behind.  Beverly and Sally had completed the required hours to graduate and wanted to leave on a camping trip to Lake Tahoe.  Friday was the day I worked in the lab; so I had to ask the supervisor for permission to take that day off. She told me I absolutely could not have the day off.

What was I to do?  Sally owned  a car but did not have her driver’s license.  A few weeks before our camping trip I took the driver’s test to get my California license. Now I had my license but no car.  So you can see the predicament we were in!  So we headed out that sunny Friday afternoon for Lake Tahoe ignoring the refusal from the supervisor.

Sally’s car was old and at that time there were no seat belts or bucket seats  The three of us sat on this long seat in the front.  We had packed our little tent and belongings in the trunk of the car, then we were on our way. Unfortunately after many hours of driving we came to the conclusion that we were lost. I pulled over to the side of the road and Sally unfolded the map, the three of us stared at the map. It was of no help and we were more confused than ever.  By pure luck we finally reached this small town of Truckee just as the car ran out of gas. As we sat there alongside the road we realized it was going on 2 AM. It wasn’t long before a police car pulled up behind us. The officer moseyed over to my window and asked to see my driver’s license and registration. I gave him my license and Sally hunted around in the glove compartment for the registration. Now there was a problem, Sally was buying the car from her Uncle and the registration was still in his name. The officer questioned us,” Did you steal the car and are running away from home?”  I was the only one that had identification that proved that I was 18. Sally and Bev were 18 also, but had no paperwork to prove it.  By that time we were tired and frazzled  and probably looked about 12 years old.

The officer went back to his car to check out our story.  I guess he believed us because when he   approached our car again he seemed to be more friendly. He leaned his arm on my open window and told me he had called the only gas station in town. The station owner was willing to open the station so we could buy gas. The officer told me to put my car in neutral and he would give us a push with his car to the station down the road.  He told me not to stop for anything. That was a good plan until a dog ran in front of my car and I SLAMMED on the brakes. I heard the car door slam as the officer got out of his car. I sunk down in my seat and when I looked up  I saw his angry face. Through clenched teeth he told me he would give us one more push to the station and said, “then get your gas and get out of town.” He told me, “I didn’t want  to see you girls again. And on your way home PLEASE do me a favor. Don’t come through Truckee!”

As I pulled away from the curb I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the officer standing with his hands on his hips and shaking head as we drove away.

It was daybreak when we arrived at the campground on Lake Tahoe. Our anxiety left us and my heart was calming down. After unpacking the car and laying out the tent we stood staring at the poles and other unidentified items. I looked at Sally and Beverly and asked them if they had ever  pitched a tent before.  By the looks on their face I guess the answer was NO.  I had camped many times as a child in Vermont with my parents but never helped to put up the tent.

We made a few fatal attempts at getting the tent in an upright position. We finally were able to pitch the tent and now only needed to hammer the stakes in the ground. We looked around at each other and quickly discovered no one had thought about bring a hammer. The man and his son that were camping in the next site to us came to our rescue with hammer in hand.

This was a water skiing vacation for them. That afternoon we were invited to come along with them for our try at water skiing. This was a new experience for us. As soon as we stood up; we were back down into the cold water. So much for water skiing!  We enjoyed the afternoon from the boat watching the two of them ski.

It was Sunday and time to end our camping trip; we packed up our sandy tent and headed back to San Jose.

I had to go back to school and face my supervisor. Monday morning I slowly walked in and came face to face with  her!  She told me to pack up my things and leave, she was kicking me out of school. It was upsetting as I was close to completing the hours I needed to graduate. I took a few days to think about my undoing and accepted the fact that it was my fault for not following her rules.

My next step was to visit the other hairdressing school in town. I told my story to the woman in charge. Fortunately she was sympatric to my desperate situation and said I could attend classes there to finish up my hours to graduate. In a few days my supervisor from my old school got in touch with me and asked me to come back to the school.  I swallowed my pride and accepted her offer. I was grateful to have another chance.

Until we meet again!


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