Mention Rocket 88 today and it sounds like the prefix of an e-mail account, however for those old enough to remember, it may conjure up fond memories of times and roads travelled. Join me now if you will for a road trip into the past and bring along your imagination.
     The year is 1953, part of the Boomer Years. Events from around the world are being broadcast into homes via black and white TV, a year before the first colour sets are available at a cost of $1,175.00. The death of Stalin and his 26-year reign. The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Korean War ends. Mt. Everest is conquered. The Academy Awards are shown for the first time on TV.
     1953 also saw the growth of the buy now pay later mentality, with car makers leading the way by allowing longer periods to pay for your new car.
     A stranger to all of us buys a new car. Is it his first car or a replacement we'll never know but we can share his sense of pride as he drives off in his Oldsmobile Super 88 with its shiny acacia blue exterior with chrome bumpers and trim, and new car smell. The emblem on the trunk features the number 88 with a rocket, the famous "Rocket 88" that inspired the slogan, "Make a Date with a Rocket 88" and the song of the same name on the first rock and roll record. The rocket hood ornament was a $5.00 option. He would be the envy of all his friends and along with his girlfriend or young wife they would share many miles and milestones together.
     We'll also never know if they lived in Muskoka or if they made trips up here from the city each year, passing under the Heritage Arch in Gravenhurst, the gateway to cottage country. If they did escape the city that summer did they wave at the Segwun or the Sagamo as they drove past, unaware they were waving farewell to the steamship era itself, which would fold five years later, the flagging number of passengers blamed on the influx of automobiles, like their own.
     As they continued their journey they would pass through Torrance, where six years later the young Queen Elizabeth would arrive by train, her only stop in Muskoka, and would be escorted along Queen's Walk Road by Archie Pain, the owner of Paignton House, the predecessor to The Rosseau.
     In March of 2008, Archie Pain did what he was always accustomed to doing: driving his Chrysler 300M onto the ice to fish from the window and comfort of his car. Sadly, his car went through the ice and he never survived. At age 93, he died doing what he loved the most on the lake he loved the best.
     As they travelled further they would pass Bala, home to the famous Dunn's Dance Pavilion, now known as The Kee to their grandchildren if they go there.
     Where the couple and car spent their summers remains a mystery. Was it at a cottage passed down from generation to generation, or a resort like Paignton or Clevelands House, where families carried on the tradition of returning with their families, the memories captured for posterity with their Kodak Brownies. Or did they live here year round, choosing to spend the rest of their lives here?
     We may never learn the identity of the owner or the accuracy of this story, but we do know that the remains of this car now rests in a gully below the west wing of The Rosseau, a relic of its former glory days.
     May it Rust In Peace.

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