Pilgrimage Has a Lot Going For It

By Mike Johnson
Photo: As our old lot looked in 2017. My post #488 shows how it looked in late 1950's

In 2017, armed with my buddy and an address pulled from a 60-year-old letter, we went looking for my childhood trailer park.
I hadn’t been back since I left in 1962 at age five.
Happily, the trailer park was still in operation.
Unhappily, all of the lots had been renumbered and realigned.

This made sense of course. The 8 X 30-foot trailer home we lived in from 1958-1962 was normal size back then. Today, the typical singlewide is 14 X 70 or 16 X 80. The oldest parks had to increase lot size or go out of business.

We located the park office and spoke to some folks who’d run the place for decades. But the realignment occurred before their arrival. So the lot number on my address was worthless.

But I did have a grainy old photo and a grainy old memory. Both documented a specific intersection. With some trial and error driving around, we found the exact location of our yard.

Nothing looked the same until I walked onto the yard and closed my eyes. Then I knew. And recalled more old memories.

And realized my family may have dined at the McDonald’s just outside the park. I looked up its history and sure enough, it opened on June 30, 1959. It was the third McDonald’s in Minnesota.

When dad bought a traditional 3 bedroom, 1 bath suburban home (for $17,000!) in 1962, we moved just before I started kindergarten. That suburb held the second McDonald’s built in Minnesota (pictured, June 3, 1958). It was under construction while I was under construction. It was the 93rd in the world, and the one where I started my McDonald’s career in 1974.

Physically tracing your roots is like a treasure hunt. Places, like songs, activate memories you might never otherwise recall.

Trailer parks and McDonald's both played such a huge role in my life. I'm humbled to realize that God stacked the deck in my favor by pushing me in those directions as soon as I could walk.

If you haven’t yet made the pilgrimage to your beginnings, I highly recommend it.


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