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Steve Hansen: A trip to Quantico: Not your typical vacation

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Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2017 9:28 am

I don’t do a lot of stories on personal travelogues.

But when I do the “what I did on my summer vacation” thing, I like to write about places Carnival and Royal Caribbean don’t list as their 10 most popular destinations. For example, how about Quantico, Va.?

“Quantico?” you say. “This guy must be kidding!”

You may remember it from your days as a U.S. Marine. Others may know it as the location of the FBI Academy. Some might be aware that it is also the home for the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Still others may have heard of the TV show “Quantico,” which I have never seen but understand it is a drama about the FBI and terrorist activities.

My interest in Quantico comes from childhood memories. I lived there in the early 1950s. My father was a Naval dental officer serving the Corps. It’s probably the closest thing to heaven we have ever experienced.

Now before you scoff and guffaw at that last statement, let me explain: First of all, our family had large military quarters within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River. The scenery was hard to beat. As a matter of fact, on most weekends, President Truman would park his yacht not too far from our shoreline. I suppose he thought the location was pretty special too.

Secondly, except for being surrounded by Marines, the town was right out of Mayberry R.F.D. There was no crime. Parents had no problem letting their children play in residential areas or walk downtown to the movie theater. “Commando Cody” serials were weekly Saturday matinee events.

Schools on the base were safe places, as just about every student came from a military family. Parents didn’t tolerate disciplinary problems.

Recreational facilities seemed second to none. The golf course kept my dad busy, and the size of the swimming pool made most large public pools look like Doughboys. Fishing, blue-crabbing and sailing on the Potomac were common activities.

But that was then, and this is now. So how have things changed 60-plus years later?

The town still looks pretty much the same. Moving down the sidewalk creates déjà vu, except the diagonally parked ‘51 Fords and De-Sotos have been replaced by Toyota SUVs and Honda minivans. I remember the exact spot where I tore up a note from my teacher stating what a little jerk I had been in kindergarten that day. Mom never got it.

There are now at least four barber shops (probably more on Potomac Avenue than found in any other small American town), a National University satellite office and a handful of small restaurants that are actually quite good.

The sad part for me is that our old home was leveled sometime during the 1990s, along with other quarters facing the Potomac. They were not replaced, but beautiful new accommodations have been built in other locations. They are now found in wooded areas without the waterway view. The magnificent swimming pool is no more, but a 50-meter replacement has been constructed close to the river.

For today’s tourists, the “must see” facility is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The first phase was completed in 2006. Plans are now in the works for a major expansion. Its architecture is incredible, and exhibits are designed to give sight, sound and even the smell of actual combat events during major historical military missions. The recreation of Tun Tavern, a place considered the birthplace of the Corps, is also located there.

OK. I’ll admit it: Quantico is no Alaskan or Caribbean cruise. But it is definitely a memorable experience. It provides visitors with a sense of appreciation for our awe-inspiring Marines, who have served our country bravely in the past, as well as now and into the future.

And, of course, the best part about a Quantico vacation is you won’t get seasick.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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