Memo From Mac



The Hutchinson News
Hutchinson, Kansas

Timothy's Pinball Obsession 
June 13, 1962

Washington More about this campground in the heart of Metropolitan Washington.

As I reported in an earlier piece, it is a flower-bordered place of gregarious people and easy living. But it is not exactly peaceful.

Just across the river to the south lies Washington's National Airport and, if my directions are accurate, the 120-degree approach is directly over our campsite. So, once every three or four minutes, the planes come in, the lumbering Constellations and DC 6s and 7s, and the whistling Viscounts and Electras, with their wheels lowered and flaps down, and their landing lights piercing the darkness at night. They glide down over our treetops and skim over the river to their landings.

And just beyond the rose-covered fence, at the west end of the camp, runs the principal railroad leading out of Washington to the South. All day and night the trains run, the gleaming gray Pullmans and the clanking freight trains. With our schedule, tramping the marble steps of Washington all day and flopping exhausted onto the sleeping bags at first darkness, the noise doesn't really matter. But while you are up, it does interfere with conversation.

There is a lot of conversation. Down the road a bit is a talkative West Virginian who thinks he got a better deal on his used bus than I did on mine, but agrees that it is only way to travel.

The Army officer's red- haired wife next door has been over a couple of times to assure us the rain here is nothing like they had, camping south of Turin in Italy, where they literally floated around on their air mattresses.

Our Canadian couple, just behind, have brewed their final pot of tea and rolled on toward Florida, but just over the way is a couple named Adams with a Thames bus and an English license plate.

I went over to extend some American hospitality to these foreign visitors only to discover that Adams is a retired New York City fireman and they'd just gotten in last Tuesday, with their seven kids, on the Constitution, after two years of camping all over Europe. They showed off their French tent, Dutch camp stove and German sleeping bags all superior to our mail order catalog equipment and offered tips on how to see Europe from a tent which we fully intend, one of these days, to do.

With all the treasures of the nation just across the river, our 10-year-old, Tim, has found his first love, right here in camp. Up at the end of the street, where they collect money for the tent sites, is the camp store. In its lobby is a battery of pinball machines.

All winter long, Tim rode the Yaggy end of the paper route on his horse, coming home sometimes beet-red from the cold. When we packed for the trip, he took eight dollars from his hoard to see him through the three weeks.

Half of this hard-earned fortune has now disappeared in the gleaming round slot of the pinball machine. It does no good to lecture him about the folly of his obsession. After all, Tim insists, he has won 97 free games since he started to play. The only solution is to try to exhaust him, pumping up air mattresses.

This island campground seems convenient, when you sit here looking across the channel at the prominent landmarks. But getting there through rush hour traffic is something else again. And while it is easy enough to find where the President lives, or the State Department where the fate of millions is decided, it is almost impossible to find a grocery store when you need hamburger for supper. We finally discovered that the easiest thing is to swing south across the bridge into Virginia to do our shopping.

But, all in all, it is a peaceful place, where you get acquainted as you never would in a hotel lobby and where, when their chores are done, the children can run free, to make new friends, or play ball, or, Lord forbid, the pinball machines.

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