Betty Darby, former editor and now freelance writer living in Savannah, Georgia, is our guest blogger.
Vacations were magic for kids back in the Sixties, and part of that magic, at least for my sister and me, was embodied in Magic Fingers. Seeing that the Thunderbird Inn in Savannah has brought back Magic Fingers for a selection of its rooms triggered a wave of nostalgia for a Baby Boomer childhood.
Vacation was one wonderful week where the rules didn’t apply. We’d head off to pre-theme park Florida on a patchwork of new-fangled and incomplete interstate highways and poky two-lane highways. After eight hours or so in the family station wagon, we’d stream into what was then a cutting-edge motel room. First, my sister and I would make a mad dash to the bathroom and fight over who got to be the first person to use the toilet after the “Sanitized for your protection!” sash had been pulled off the seat. Then, back into the room with its two double beds to seek out the Magic Fingers.
If you enjoyed the Sixties so much that you don’t remember them, here’s a refresher course. Magic Fingers was a bedside device that, once fed in a quarter, would shake the mattress in a semblance of a relaxing massage. As kids, we knew there was a “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” quality about them (Motel rooms! Vibrating beds!) but all we knew is they were the official start of vacation.
Our parents were very good parents, but they were also hard-working folks with rules. We knew better than to whine and we didn’t expect to buy something every time we went into a store with them. We had a modest allowance, and that was that – 51 weeks out of the year. But during vacation, that rule went away. Coconuts carved like monkeys’ heads, sea shells died in colors nature never considered, two-inch-long bone china alligators – we could ask for what we wanted or even what we thought we wanted and, like as not, get it. And the very first “ask” of vacation was always for Magic Fingers.
“Daddy, Daddy, can we play Magic Fingers?” we would chorus, and Daddy – who had worked all six days prior to the eight hour Sunday drive that brought us to Florida and had to have been exhausted – would smile and produce a quarter. My sister and I would sit atop a fully made shaking bed, breathing in the air-conditioned air of vacation and watching our parents unload our packed station wagon. Vacation began with the first shake of that bed.
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For more information contact Mark Thomas, The Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, GA — firstname.lastname@example.org