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The Rev. Charles A. Deacon: Best vacations are both fun, educational

Now that March is right around the corner, has your mind begun to think about spring break? Are you going to do what you did last year, or would you like to do something different? Let me share things that I have done over the years.

When I was growing up in Quincy, Mass., the Department of Education authorized three vacation weeks: the week of Christmas, the week of Feb. 22 and the week of April 19. These are two historical dates that ought to be remembered. Even today, the state still observes those vacations.

Due to my parents’ family business – monuments – no trips could be taken between March 1 and May 30, Memorial Day (which had a set date then). That was the busiest time in the monument business. All of the customers wanted their stones and markers set in the cemetery by that day.

Our family had just one vacation trip each year, which was at the end of July or early August.

The family homestead on Prince Edward Island, Canada, was our destination for two weeks. This was not a sightseeing trip. My father’s schedule meant leaving our house in Quincy at 6 a.m., crossing the Canadian border at 6 p.m., and stopping in Saint John, New Brunswick, where we stayed in cabins.

The next morning, we continued our trip to reach the ferry by 4 p.m. to get to the island. Today there is no longer a ferry. It was replaced by an 8-mile bridge.

During the summer, we were fortunate to have a sandy beach close to our home. Some weekends we would go to Nantasket Beach, mainly because it had the Paragon Amusement Park. It had a wooden roller coaster, and by today’s standards would be considered tame. There were bumper cars, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a penny arcade. We knew nothing about Disney World, because it did not open until Oct. 1, 1971.

After I was married and had children, I bought a hard-top tent camper and, one summer, we drove to Arizona to visit family. On the way, we camped in Grand Island, Neb. During the night there was a tornado. Our camper shook so much I thought it was going to topple over, but it didn’t.

Another trip was to Washington, D.C. My wife and I started planning early for that trip. We contacted our congressman, and received tickets to tour the White House and other buildings. Our home base was a campground in Fairfax, Va.

On Sunday, we went to church at Washington National Cathedral. After the service, we went to take a tour of the cathedral. A man walked over and asked, “Aren’t you Charlie?” I replied, “Yes, but I don’t recognize you.” He was my cousin Paul whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years.

One trip was what I called a genealogical tour. We visited my wife’s cousins in Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Connecticut. We visited my relatives in Massachusetts. My son still keeps in contact with some of his cousins.

Use your imagination to put together a trip. Depending on the age of your children, you might take a trip to Albany, and visit the State Capitol building; or go to Boston, where you can see Quincy Market, walk the Freedom Trail and stop at Sturbridge Village on the way back home.

Vacations can be enjoyable as well as educational for families. The idea is to choose things that keep people interested, as well as helping them learn about new places and historical events.