As the days start to get a bit warmer and the days seem a bit longer, I start to have summer on my mind.

When Bakersfield Life Magazine Editor Mark Nessia contacted me about the history story for June, I already knew that I wanted to write about: the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area.

Often the stories that I write bring back memories sometimes long forgotten, and thanks to some of the kind responses I’ve received, there are some great memories. For me, my fondest summer memories are tied to Buena Vista – more specifically, the summers I went there with my dad.

This past December, my dad, Danny, lost his four-year battle with cancer. My family has now started the process of acknowledging the “firsts” without him. This will be the first summer without him.

As a child of divorce, that meant extended visits with my dad when summer came along. Every summer without fail, we would head to Buena Vista for some well anticipated fun in the sun. If you asked me the years, I can only estimate it to be the late ’70s and early ’80s. If you asked how long we stayed there, that, too, would stump me.

Summers as a kid felt like they lasted forever.

They truly seemed endless. But what I can remember are the feelings of happiness and excitement. I can remember the smells of the barbecue and Coppertone. I remember the feel of the speed of my dad’s boat and the terror of thinking I was a goner every time I attempted to water-ski (for the record, I never did figure it out). I also remember being in the tent at night, still feeling the motion of the lake.

But the most precious memories are the moments there with my dad.

If there was one thing he probably loved just a little less than me, it was his speedboat that he lovingly named Elvira. It was blue, glittery, loud and I, too, loved everything about it! My dad had a late ’70s/early ’80s blue Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that matched Elvira perfectly.

Boy, did we think we looked cool as we pulled up to our camping spot to the tunes of Earth, Wind & Fire! We were the gruesome twosome (my dad loved making up nicknames for everything – including myself and every one of my kids). The days we spent on the water were carefree, so much fun, and I never wanted them to end.

But life is about continual change and when I was 13 my dad remarried. About the time my little brother came along, Elvira was sent packing. But those summer days will always be remembered. In fact, I am reminded every time I look in the mirror by a freckle I have smack dab in the middle of my nose due to a sunburn I got there!

I miss you, Dad, but I know one day I will see you again and maybe I will finally learn to water-ski. 

Julie Plata is a history professor and Bakersfield Life Magazine contributing writer who covers the monthly history feature. The views expressed are her own.

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