Picture-perfect travel memories

Tips: The Maryland Historical Society will show how to capture and preserve those vacation memories.



The annual trip to the beach or the mountains is more than a vacation; it's a ritual made all the richer for its repetitive nature. And then there are the trips that take you and loved ones beyond the routine, to a far-off place.

Whether you escape into a summer cycle of ocean and boardwalk or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, the memories taken from a vacation are as important as the vacation itself. After all, when the trip is over, what is left besides your memories?

Unfortunately, most people maintain those memories without much care or planning -- a pile of photographs tossed in a drawer, a few stories to tell, the odd souvenir. It's not always enough: Memories are fragile, and if you want them to last, they need tending.

There are ways, time-consuming perhaps, but fun and simple, to extend your vacation -- in memory if not in reality. Thursday, the Maryland Historical Society presents a workshop for those who want to hone and heighten recollections of future vacations. During "Preserving Your Family Vacation Memories," participants will hear tips on writing vacation journals, saving mementos and keeping records.

The workshop is part of the society's yearlong series, "Preserving Your Family Treasures for the Next Millennium." Thursday's free event was inspired by the recent book, "Old Ocean City: The Journals and Photographs of Robert Craighead Walker, 1904-1916" (Johns Hopkins University Press, $29.95).

Compiled and annotated by Harford County resident C. John Sullivan, "Old Ocean City" draws from the vacation journal kept by Walker. He and his Washington-based family built a home at the beach, and as he grew up, Walker's impulse to document both the exciting and more pedestrian details of his annual vacations resulted in a fine history of his family and of Ocean City.

Excellent photographs of the Walker family, local landmarks and sporting activities enhance the journal entries. Perhaps he didn't realize it at the time, but as Walker grew up, so did Ocean City. His journal reflects the resort's evolution from isolated retreat to what was destined to become a teeming seasonal metropolis.

Preserving memories

The Walkers' beach cottage, built in 1910, is shown in "Old Ocean City" standing alone. Today the house sits at the bustling corner of Baltimore Avenue and Seventh Street, a resilient jewel of the past. Without Walker's attention, the dramatic contrast between then and now may never have been captured.

Simultaneously, Walker's chronicle shows that some things never change: the joy of plunging into the surf, sailing in the bay or combing the beach for treasure.

Walker, whether consciously or not, kept a record worthy of publication. While not every journal is worthy of a book, others can preserve their vacation memories in eloquent ways that reflect the temporal and the permanent, says Jack Holmes, of the Hopkins University Press.

The historical society's workshop, "mostly suited to families returning to the same place," will be mindful of this eternal vacation paradox. "It's ritualistic," he says. "There's a journey and you go to the same place, people may stay in the very same houses; all these things that are fixed and kind of timeless," and yet current fashion, music, trends and news make each year unique.

During Thursday's workshop, Holmes will offer tips on keeping a vacation journal. Graphic designer Susan Ventura of the Hopkins University Press will make suggestions for designing pages and incorporating mementos with writing and photographs. A slide presentation with images from "Old Ocean City" also will be presented.

" 'Old Ocean City' is a model for those who want to document their vacations," Holmes says. Anyone intent on compiling a vacation scrapbook should look for details that "would really re-create the moment" as Walker did.

For author Sullivan, who discovered Walker's records in the attic of a house in Berlin on the Eastern Shore, the journal's value lies in its ability to capture "where they were, when they were." It's "a social history," he says. "You can look at what those people were doing, what they were dining on, and have a better perspective of what the world was like [compared with what it is like now]."

Sullivan remarks on the differences between Walker's Ocean City and the town as it is today. No one is allowed to dive and hunt from an offshore wreck, as the Walkers did, he says. It's also important to know what experiences we have in common, Sullivan adds. When, as a child, he and his family built a campfire on the Ocean City beach, they were re-creating a Walker family activity that took place half a century earlier.

Within his own family, Sullivan treasures a journal kept by his mother of a cross-country trip she took with three girlfriends that includes a photo of them in front of an unfinished Mount Rushmore. "She was pretty adventuresome," he says. He plans to share the journal with his grandson when he's old enough to appreciate it.

Historical value

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