Nostalgia is defined as a “sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
People, who were born way, WAY well after the 60s and watch ‘Mad Men’, may think that those of that generation hold nostalgia for that period; good wistful events mixed in with the seemingly barbaric cultural mores. Everyone, or practically everyone who has gone through earlier periods do reminiscence about the “simpler” times. But better? Hold on now….
Camping back in the 60s and early 70s was definitely a unique experience and one that is not so easily replicated. Back then camping was less of a back-to-nature, feel good break from the hectic assault of materialism. Back then, camping was an experience that the newly minted middle class (or rather, working class) did mostly because that was the only sense of vacation we could do (or rather afford). There were no cruise ships to the Med, ski resorts in the Rockies, or zip lining in the Costa Rican jungles. At least on the east coast, camping circa early 1970s was the only affordable outlet large families could do on a shoestring budget.
Most families of that era packed up their pickup truck with the essentials and headed off into the suburban hinterlands. The wayfaring inventory included such items as: Propane grills, transistor radios, plenty of batteries, canned vegetables, Spam, a deck of cards, toiletries, a cooler filled with ice and beer and hot dogs and beer, and the web lawn chairs. It was a luxurious version of the Joad Family but heading into the nearby wilderness as opposed to across the Great Plains to the Promised Land.
For summer vacations, my family would traverse the campgrounds of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but eventually widen the circle to places as far as Virginia, New York State, Maine and Canada. If dragging Nostalgia into this, the best part was seeing America up close along the back roads and towns along the way. Stopping for gas in small towns at the Texaco or Mobil stations, filling the tank on ‘regular leaded’ gas, and chat with the locals on weather, sports and the state of the nation (the war, or rather ‘Nam, hardly ever came up except if you had this nonverbal mental handshake that the other person saw things your way).
My father kept a meticulous log in a spiral notebook of distance and gallons used to calculate how far we could go before the need to refuel. And the maps, of course, bought at rest stops and diners to help guide us through uncharted waters. There were no smartphones, no cell phones, no Google Maps, no AAA apps, no GPS. Technology was limited to the AM radio. If you had the misfortune of breaking down between Rochester and Niagara Falls, you just had to wait it out and rely on the kindness of strangers, if they came at all.
But even when we did break camp, it hardly was a sing-a-long Prozac-induced smiling exuberant festival singing Kumbaya. Dad would eventually collapse into the lawn chair and down beers, mom would clean up and play door guard while us kids scurried off to find this addicted thing called trouble. One night, my father caught my brothers smoking cigarettes and “The Court” decreed they would smoke the rest of the carton, to “teach them a lesson”. They did get extremely sick that night and the next day, but it only wetted their appetite and both became hard-core smokers their entire life. Things you remember back then – hardly defined as nostalgia.
Then there was the night in Maine eating lobsters from the back of the pick-up truck while a severe thunderstorm crashed around us. That’d be Nostalgia.
Camping circa 1960s/70s was not as “extreme” and intense as we know it today. It was a glorified road trip, stopping at communal campsites mostly to rest and use their bathrooms, a chance to swap stories with other families and compare hardships. But it did bring us down to eye level with the locals along the way, along the trail, and being exposed to those “Salt of the Earth” people would forever flavor my palate for travel. (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/salt_of_the_earth)