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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tin Can Tourists...

Last week, I drove my mom up to Tavares (FL) so she could spend Thanksgiving with my sister.
Traveling with Mom (almost 92)  is an experience. She is full of stories and always has a song ready for any topic...or WORD...that is uttered. ("I have a song for that!" is her mantra.) This day, she told me a story I had never heard...We passed an RV park filled with travel trailers...evidence that the "snowbirds" were arriving for the winter.  The sight brought back memories of her childhood...


In the early 1900s, as cars became more prevalent and roads were built to accommodate them, travelers from all over the US took to the roadways and began exploring the wonders of our nation. They packed food, water, and extra gas...along with tents...and headed for the unknown. Many of those who lived in the frigid north came to Florida to bask in the sunshine. (That's where the "snowbird" name originated.) Many of these travelers camped in DeSoto Park, right on Tampa Bay...just across the street from my mother's home. While researching this story, I found a book through Amazon that shares the history of the Tin Can Tourists and a link (click below for more info) to the "new" club that has been reborn. It's interesting...


http://everymilesamemory.smugmug.com/Cedar-Key-Florida/Tin-Can-Tourists-Visit-Cedar/11079602_5M55v#775733201_eVi6s )

As Mom grew up, the travelers came back, year after year. Mom remembers meeting some wonderful people...playing with the children and watching these people cook over open fires. How did these tourists get their name? Well, there are several theories about that...
 One says the name was derived from the mode of transportation...the "Tin Lizzie" (that's the name which was given to automobiles made during this period). The most popular vehicle was the Model T Ford.



Another theory states the "Tin Can" name was given to these tourists because of the large tin containers of gasoline and water which were carried on the cars...
(photo from http://www.oldclassiccar.co.uk/ford-model-t.htm)


Mom, however, says these travelers got their name from the foods they ate...anything in a tin can. She went on to say that many of these cans were label-less, and meals were often a surprise!







She went on to tell the story of a family who was in great need of some money and asked her mother, my grandmother, to borrow some. Now understand that Mom was the youngest of 10 kids and my grandfather was a low paid cigar roller and reader (He read the Spanish news to the other rollers while they worked.)  My grandmother graciously gave this lady some of the family's meager funds. The family who borrowed the money left town, without a word...and without paying Grandma back. Many years later, a "handsome" young man knocked on Grandma's door...He said "remember me? My mother borrowed money from you a long time ago, and left town without repaying. I am here to pay our debt." He handed over money, thanked her again, and left. (Mom is still touched by that event!)

Another story is that during storms...and hurricanes...many of the Tin Can Tourists would seek shelter in Mom's house. (This is the newer house that replaced her original home...which had been washed away by the 1921 hurricane. ) The house would often be packed to the rafters with Tin Canners...and DelValles!

As a child, I did not like listening to the old folks share their memories. But today, I treasure them...and learn so much as I research the origins of their tales. Life and lifestyles were so different then...and when compared to today's world, they are totally fascinating! I challenge you, during this holiday season, to encourage the older members of your family to tell the stories of their childhood...to record these stories so they can be shared with your children...your grandchildren and beyond. As we all know, life changes so quickly...grab those memories before they are gone!

Jane

11 comments:

Donnie said...

That is a lovely post Jane. I no longer have any relatives to cull their memories so I started my blog so that my grandchildren, who are very technical, could read someday what us snowbirds did in the winter we weren't with them in North Carolina.

Deanna said...

Jane,
Life does change so quickly. I'm trying to embrace life the best I can and enjoy each moment.

God bless and may you have a super month!
d

Kat said...

Loved this post Jane! What fascinating stories your mother must have. I'll have to look for that book, it looks really interesting. And the story of the young man repaying his mother's debt really touched my heart. Hope you are having a wonderful week. Kat

Drawn to The Sea said...

How wonderful to road trip with a 92 year old who's singing & telling stories. That in itself is a memory to cherish. Does Mom have knowledge (or a theory) about why the cans were often without labels?

Perhaps she wouldn't mind if you recorded conversations with her... imagine how thrilled future generations would be to have that.

Peace & pie,
Julia~

simpledaisy said...

What a lovely post! I agree...I never appreciated all that my Great Grandma had to teach me when I was younger. But now I sure listent o everything my grandma says. Life sure does change quickly...you really have to appreciate every day and every moment! Each day truly is a gift:)

jmac said...

How totally cool!! First, the story and secondly, the fact that you are appreciating listening to your mom tell her stories so that you'll remember them to tell your kids!! I so vividly remember my daddy trying to tell me about his war time. I so vividly remember thinking...."when will this ever be over"...and do not remember one thing he told me. Then when he died, I inherited his war box....the green box that all soldiers received when they went to war to keep their personals in. Until the day he died, he kept all of his stuff in that box, including marriage license, birth certificate..(stuff we all keep in a safety deposit box) and kept that box in a wall in our house. He didn't trust the banks! When I go thru his stuff, I kick myself for not listening to his stories so I would know what all the medals and honors were for.
And like someone above, my blog is my diary of our daily lives for my children and theirs.....just in case they haven't paid attention thru the yrs!!
Great post!!

jmac said...

OH AND DID I HAPPEN TO MENTION................

WAR EAGLE!!!!! YAY AUBURN!!!!! SEC CHAMPS!!

what a game!!

tn noticias said...

Very inspiring story. I like it hope to see more stories like this.

Ms. Bake-it said...

What a fabulous post Jane! Very touching! Your mom sounds like an awesome woman! I love her stories.

I have always loved to listen to the stories of the older generations and still do. Amazing what you can learn by listening to them. When my grands and great grands were alive I used to encourage them by asking questions. My kids are not that interested but every now and then they like to hear something. I have a private blog where I am creating a journal just for the family. I have encouraged other family members to add posts to it so that it becomes a well-rounded family journal instead of through my eyes only.

Thank you so much for sharing your mother's stories with us!

~ Tracy

Shellbelle said...

I LOVED everything about this post! I got lost in time when I googled Tin Can Tourists, so much fun! Then I clicked on some links to vintage trailers for sale. I have a dream to own one and travel the country.

I also love listening to the stories of my older relatives, wish I had listened more to my parents. I do remember many of their stories though and have been writing them down.One memory leads to another.

AND, I must tell you that I love your mother, I love singing when the mood hits me. Now if I could only carry a tune, my kids might not object so much, lol.

Flotsam Friends said...

I loved it too. I'm so glad your Mum is in such great spirits. I had my Grandad over a few weeks ago and I loved picking his brains about his days as a bus driver (he's 91 and still drives like a crazy bus driver). We can learn so much if we have the patience and time to listen... Pruxxx