Memories of The Chicago Boat & RV Show With My Dad

Memories of The Chicago Boat & RV Show With My Dad

This weekend is the annual RV & Boat show (commonly called “The Boat Show”), at McCormick place in the south loop. I hear its moved to the main hall (south building), and is better than ever though due to my schedule I can’t attend.

But I have great memories of the Boat Show, my wife and I attended for a few years and it was nice but needed improvements (the show not my wife), but my fondest memories are going to the show with my late father.

That was 20-30 years ago when the Boat Show was in what is now Lakeside Center (east building of McCormick Place), and the RV’s and camping equipment were downstairs and the boats were upstairs.

The visit to the Boat Show that was most memorable was the last time I went with the old man, I’m thinking it was January 1991, I was a freshman at Brother Rice and we were finishing up mid terms and once you had taken your tests for the day, you could go home. Add in its my birthday week and the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday weekend (though the boat show ends on Sunday), and you have a good weekend.

So I think my dad came up to Rice to get me after finishing his morning shift at CTA and we went down to McCormick Place.

Now we had plenty of previous boat, RV and camping experience. I was active in Boy Scouts (on my way to earning my Eagle Scout), but also my dad had about a 15 foot fishing boat when I was real little (or as he called it “a hole in the water you put money in”), and he had sold that some years prior.

We also had an aluminum 70’s camper that slid on to the back of a pickup truck. Trust me, the idea is great and when the weather is warm it’s a great way to explore the outdoors (and have a rolling fishing cabin), just don’t let it rain or get a fly in there at night then it turns into “a tin can from hell”. And dad had sold that too about 10 years before.

But man we were serious fishermen, we fished a lot, even when I was in high school, we’d go locally to the Des Plaines River and even Wolf Lake on the Indiana border (as my dad would say just to get a fishing pole wet), and fish on the weekend.

Anyway we go to the Boat Show and we are men on a mission, we needed a van. Remember this is the early 90’s when still quite a few families had full sized conversion vans. My father wanted nothing to do with mini (mom), vans. He wanted a full sized American made, V8 powered, four captain chairs with a bench seat in the back conversion van.

I remember walking around the boat show with my father and when salesmen asked him if he was shopping he’d respond “just dreamin'”, and we looked at the various conversion van companies and the latest that they had and we both thought it was really expensive. But it was still quality time with the old man and learning how he dealt with people (he was a master of that), and how smart he was with money.

Oh and what happened with the van? My father ended buying a used van (1982 Chevrolet full sized van), from a CTA co-worker’s neighbor and paid cash. We got six good years out of van that was low mileage and well taken care of and cost of fraction of the new ones.

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But that was dad, I can’t help but see the boat show commercials and think how he’d look forward to that show and always talk about going fishing “when the weather breaks”, man I miss that dude.

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