By Eilene Lyon
The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.
When we were living in Guatemala in the 1970s, we would sometimes head to the coast for a vacation. The Pacific beaches were coarse black, volcanic sand. We had a favorite resort, called Likin. Nothing extravagant, just nice cabins with bunks, a large covered patio area, a pool, and basic dining facilities. I don’t recall that there was anything like a Club Med around in those days.
Once, we decided to visit the beach in El Salvador with our friends, the Davises. Their daughter, Karen, and I were best buddies. Karen and I each had two brothers, so it made for a pretty fun group.
As Dad drove down the highway near the coast, we spotted a large billboard advertising a nearby beach resort. We headed on out and found this two-story cinder-block motel with concrete floors. The pool was not habitable – just a nasty stinkhole. I’m not sure if there was a restaurant.
But the beach was nice – white sand, much more pleasant. There were palm trees and hammocks. In fact, I think most of us just slept outdoors in the hammocks under the swaying trees and the starry skies, listening to the shushing of the waves.
Many months later, I was on a school trip heading to Managua, Nicaragua, for an international high school drama festival. Now, imagine that you are one of the adults planning to take a bunch of school kids on a trip like this – if you knew you were going to have to stop somewhere for the night, wouldn’t you plan that in advance?
So, when we get to El Salvador, it turns out the teachers had NOT made arrangements for a place to stay. Karen and I mentioned this resort place by the beach. Guess where we ended up? This time, we got rooms – a couple for the girls, a couple for the boys, and mostly we slept on the floor in sleeping bags.
The walls had the obligatory tropical geckos to keep us company. All well and good. But then one of the girls found a scorpion – not so delightful! I recall there was a mutt hobbling around – what we call around here a “rez dog” – that was missing half of one of its hind paws, sort of mangled.
There were some Salvadorans hanging around the place, but we didn’t see any other kids that I recall. Our group had the only gringos, though some of my classmates were Guatemalan.
There weren’t any serious ruckuses and in the morning we were back on the bus heading south. After the festival, I believe we did the drive back in one day.
A few days later, one of my classmates came up to Karen and me. He said he’d told his family about the place we stayed in El Salvador. “My grandmother looked horrified. She said, ‘That place is a whorehouse!!'”
Feature image: Mr. Davis enjoying a siesta in a hammock on the beach in El Salvador in 1975.