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Taken from Twenty-Five Selected Stories of O. O. McIntyre, 1930,
Cosmopolitan Magazine and transcribed by Neil Elvick

My First Vacation

by Oscar Odd McIntyre

      I was city editor of the Gallipolis, Ohio, Daily Journal when I took my first vacation from work. City Editor was a rather gaudy title. My job was to scamper up and down the main street to garner the homely personal items of a small town.
      I also solicited advertising, set a little type, did shift duty turning the hand press and helped to wrap the mail. My salary was five dollars a week and two passes to all attractions at the Aerial Opera House.
      With the aid of grandma and a China pig bank I had saved $21.60 out of my first year’s earnings. Peter McMullen, who owned the Journal, told me I needed a rest. I suspect he was thinking of his subscribers.
      Grandma and I discussed vacation plans at great length. She was for my going out to Aunt Leonora Graham’s farm, east of town. I was for traveling and seeing the world. So we decided on Cincinnati, about 200 miles away.
      I made a grand editorial gesture over my departure. My “Purely Personal: column led off with this pompous conceit: The City Editor of the Journal leaves Saturday for Cincinnati, where he will spend a week seeing the sights.
      Before I left, “Sluggy” Gorselene, of the mob printing department, struck off some business cards for which I furnished the copy. They read:

O. O. McIntyre, Esp.
City Editor
“Have you an Item?”

      I departed on the Ohio River side-wheeler Iron Queen. Grandma accompanied me to the wharf and as the steamer headed for midstream called out: “Look out for the cable cars and try to stop biting your nails!”
      I shall never forget the first night of this high adventure. The Iron Queen seemed to me the most palatial steamer in the world. The Leviathan today appears a tug in comparison. She fairly blazed with light, life and color. As we neared the twinkling lights of small towns, the orchestra, consisting of a cornet, violin and harp, played popular airs.
      Nowadays the most brilliant cafés in London, Paris or New York could not compare with my impression of that dining-room.
      The clatter, strange faces and throb of the engines made me giddy. I was at the top of the world. Afterward on deck as we floated lazily along we could hear the negro roustabouts crooning their levee melodies. A fellow passenger—a city man from Pittsburgh—sat next to me.
     “From Pittsburgh?” he asked.
     “No,” I lied nonchalantly, lighting a rat-tailed stogie, “from New York.” And it was from the metropolis I registered at the Palace Hotel in Cincinnati. A topsy-turvy world! Today I live in New York and register from my birthplace, Plattsburg, Missouri.
      I have seen the lights of Paris in the falling dusk from the top of Montmartre Hill, New York’s sky-line from an incoming liner at sunrise, and other entrancing vistas, but nothing yet has compared to my first glance at the Cincinnati levee—the row of suspension bridges, acres of dray horses tugging up the cobble-stoned hill, the tower at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and the coils of smoke from a hundred factory stacks.
      What a vacation I had! I saw the Cincinnati Reds play the New York Giants. I saw the Roger Brothers in “In Havana.” I had a shave and a hair cut in the glittering barber shop in the Arcade. I mingled with the crowds in Fountain Square. I saw a girl from Gallipolis who was singing in a beer concert hall.
      I saw the waxed horrors in a Vine Street muse. I saw a comedian wearing green whiskers at the People’s Theater hit his team-mate over the head with a mallet and toppled out of the seat laughing at the gallon of water that spurted in a tiny stream from his head.
      I rode up to the top floor of the Traction Building in an elevator. I talked to Jimmy Widemeyer, the pugilist newsboy of Government Place. I watched Boss George B. Cox at his famous round table in Weilert’s Garden Over-the-Rhine. I traveled up in the almost perpendicular incline at Eden Park. I bought a revolving shirt front that could be turned to six different colors with a flip of the wrist.
      I fed peanuts to the monkeys at the Zoological Garden. I applied for a job as a reporter on the Cincinnati Enquirer. I ate at the oyster bar in Opera Place. I pawned my silver hunting case watch on Central Avenue for a scalper’s ticket home. But it was worth it!
      More than twenty years have gone since that first vacation. The Journal is gone. Peter McMullen is gone. And the golden illusion of youth has vanished.
      Today I take two vacations a year of about two months each—four months in all. Not one of these compares with that first vacation by a long, long shot. In fact in two or three days I usually find myself quite bored with it all.
      I rarely read the social columns of a New York newspaper without reading something like this:

      Mr. and Mrs. Hadley Smythe-Smythe sailed on their private yacht for Naples. They will visit Rome, go on to Deauville for the season and arrive in London for the tennis games. They expect to be away for six months.

      This may excite the envy of many but it only excites my pity. It is a rigmarole business—a paltry genuflection to swant. I think of the unceasing wwhirligig of the squirrel in the revolving cage. The futile effort to flee from ennui. I think of the farmer in Maine who was going down to Bangor on a spree and “Gosh, how I dread it!”
Vacations among the very rich today are not so much for pleasure as to impress people who don’t give a hoot anyway.
      Mr. Mervyn Martyn goes to Scotland to open his shooting place. Mr. Mervyn Martyn—formerly Mel Martin of Deep Gap, Pennsylvania—cares just as much about shooting grouse as Paderewski would enjoy exchanging punches with Jack Dempsey. Mr. Martyn would rather follow a winding brook with an old-fashioned pole and line back home. He is paying one of the penalties of great wealth. He must follow the trail of the show-offs. His shooting lodge is something elegant to which to refer at his club.
      Perhaps a trip on the Iron Queen to Cincinnati would bore me to extinction today, but I do not believe it would. As we grow older we discover that the memories standing out like clear-cut cameos are the simple, unaffected pleasures.
      Most of us remember the pyramids and the bazaars of Constantinople in a blurry way. The peaceful picnic grove back home is etched in steel. This is not a plea for the simple life. It is a silent tear for more of the imperishable dreams youth gave us.
      I am thinking of the three-day bicycle ride to Walker Springs—the early morning dew, the caroling birds, the farmers waving from the fields and the midday luncheon under a spreading oak.
      Night in the open with a star-spangled sky, the melancholy hoot of the owls mingling with the cheerful chirp of crickets. The dying embers of a camp-fire.
      And then contrast it with the seashore vacation of today with its stiffly starched routine, its board-walk promenade, its formal dinners and mighty effort to dazzle strangers who will never see you again.
      I fear vacations are not vacations any more for the most of us.
They have gone the way of the street-corner medicine show and the county fair. Just pleasant memories of something we have lost.     
      One time as a reporter on a New York newspaper I asked one of the richest men in America to express his views on the ideal vacation for a symposium my paper was preparing.
      He said he would like to travel with a knapsack afoot through a certain section of North Carolina.
      He wanted to sleep where night found him. He wanted to cook his own meals, fish a little, hunt a little and get entirely away from people and the telephone.

      Several weeks later I noticed he had thrown open a great mansion in Newport for the season and would entertain a score or more house guests. There would be grand lawn fêtes and gorgeous costume balls.
      I am not inclined to believe he was insincere with me in our interview. He was merely caught in the merciless social net. He had to carry on.
      We take life on the run, forgetting perhaps that real happiness is just a few steps around the corner.
      Giant liners, freighted with brightly labeled trunks and folk from Fashion Row, shove off for Europe to the merry medley of sirens. Stenographers and clerks in down-town sky-scrapers press their faces to the windows and sigh.
      Their “two weeks in August” seem hapless makeshifts for a real vacation.
And yet these bored voyagers dash madly back to milk and rest cures to round into condition again.
      I have often watched the Saturday half-holiday crowds in Central Park. They eddy over from the East Side tenements to this great breathing space so close to the city’s heartbeat. Father in his shirt-sleeves contentedly stretched out under a great oak. Mother peacefully knitting. And their little brood scampering delightfully over the greensward.
      Then I think of the expression of tedious resignation you see on the faces of the fashionable crowds at the American and European watering places. Then again I wonder what constitutes a really happy vacation.
      Anyway, I wish you a right merry one!