The year 1967 may be memorable for
encapsulating Montreal’s Expo 67; the Green Bay Packers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in what would launch
the first Super Bowl; an onslaught of racial violence in major cities; Bonnie and
Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Dirty Dozen achieving box office success. From my
perspective, this particular year is most notable for the beginning of the summer excursions my mother, sister
and me would partake in-- simply referred to as “The Beacon.”
In 1967 my mother had her
driver’s license for a year. She became adventurous enough to take her set of wheels—a brand new 1966 blue,
sports coupe, Chevy II Nova on the major highways with my sister and me as her seat belted passengers. Starting
out with a full tank of gas when it cost 33 cents per gallon, we embarked on our trek from the northern part of
Rhode Island to Scarborough Beach along the south shore. My sister rode shot gun in the front seat while I
positioned myself in the back on the driver’s side. That same car was gifted to me in ‘69 for my commute to
college, and I in turn bequeathed it to my sister in ’73.
Route 66 may be considered the
“Mother Road” of American highways, but Route 1 is a major north-south state highway meandering through
Providence and hovering along the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay, longer than Interstate 95. In those days,
the Interstate hadn’t stretched that far south yet and the dangerous Wickford Rotary still existed. One of the
prominent landmarks along the South County Trail we made a point to stop at for our midafternoon dinner after a
day at the beach was The Beacon.
Though not a classic manufactured diner, this Rhode Island institution has a replica lighthouse on its roof and
baby jukes in the booths.
While I can’t remember the low
prices, I have never forgotten the heaping plates of delicious home cooked meals deposited at our table.
One of my favorites was their southern fried
chicken—three pieces with mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, and a side of veggies. I can’t believe I had room to polish off either a dish
of rice pudding or piece of apple pie a la mode before we hit the road again.
The Beacon of yesteryear will forever be etched in my memory. More
than the meals we enjoyed, it is the significance of those summer excursions which created an illuminating
beacon that will endure for all eternity. Those journeys and destinations afforded the three of us
the opportunity to strengthen our mother-daughter bond of love, friendship, and camaraderie--one for all and all
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