I was something in the 60s but now I'm just sixty something.

Roadtrips in Unairconditioned Chevys

on June 21, 2012

Family vacations today are over the top. Parents now travel with their children to the Caribbean, ski in Aspen, tour Europe, cruise the world and fly toddlers in first class. Back in the 50s and early 60s we rarely had what people today would classify as a vacation. My family spent the better part of a week driving from New York to West Texas in an unairconditioned Chevy to visit my grandparents. My parents called it “going home”. This was real adventurous compared to the experiences of most of my peers in the northeast. At least I got to see herds of cattle and oil rigs pumping. My husband’s family drove fifty miles and pitched a tent.

Westward Ho!

I actually looked forward to these trips although it is hard to fathom why. The ride itself was tortuous for a child who could never sit still. My older brother got car sick so my mother pumped him full of Dramamine and he slept most of the way. I don’t know why she just didn’t dose me too. It would have been an act of compassion.

We took different routes over the years. None of them were actually good or fast but they did provide the chance to see a great deal of the country. As a child I plugged my nose at the stockyards of Chicago and oil refineries of Louisiana and Texas, crossed the mighty (yucky and muddy) Mississippi peppered with barges, and endured endless amber waves of grain. I got an early introduction to regional dialects and customs. (To my childish surprise colored drinking fountains did not contain colored water.) In the years that followed I would read about the places we passed through and was able to vividly recall how they looked and smelled.

We would start driving before daybreak and with any luck I would doze a little before we stopped later for breakfast. I always ordered pancakes and drowned them in syrup. I took advantage of this treat because we rarely had them at home. After stuffing myself to the point of sickness we would pile back in the car. My brother got more Dramamine and I bounced around and tried not to go crazy after my sugar overload.

There wasn’t much entertainment in the car. No video games or DVD player. Every once in awhile my brother would wake up and we would fight. Occasionally we could pick up a radio station. Rock and Roll was young but my parents preferred their generation’s big bands and crooners. Funny how much I hated it at the time but today I’ll hunt for Sinatra on Sirius in a rental car. Daddy liked country but it was really whiney in those days and thankfully Mother wouldn’t have it. She was a bit sensitive about her rural upbringing. She was fine revealing she was born in Dallas but never said much about those little Texas Electric substations in (almost but not quite) towns she grew up in.

We played the old license plate game. It was a lot more challenging in those days since people didn’t travel as much. For a real thrill there were the Burma Shave signs. We’d actually wake my brother up for those. Do you remember them?  Clever advertising since we can still remember the product. “Many a forest/Used to stand/Where a /Lighted match/Got out of hand./Burma Shave.”

You did say clean rooms didn’t you?

Most days on the road we would stop traveling around three or four in the afternoon. Hopefully, we could find a Holiday Inn close to the interstate. (Yes, there were some interstates in those days but nothing like today.) A Holiday Inn in those days was like the Waldorf-Astoria of the road. They advertised clean rooms (not necessarily a given), a swimming pool and TV. A pool and TV after hours in a hot car with nothing to do was heaven. My brother would wake up since his Dramamine would be wearing off. My parents, who always  traveled with a flask, poured a by then much-needed martini and I would race to the pool and dive in. Somewhere we’d find some dinner then we’d sleep and repeat. Finally after four days or so we’d at long last pull up to my grandparents house. We’d see both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles. We’d play “Kick the Can” and “Red Rover” with my cousins. For some real excitement we’d swipe a watermelon from the neighbor’s patch and hide until he came running out waving a shotgun. After a few days of this we’d pile back in the Chevy, say our tearful goodbyes, and go back to pancakes and Dramamine until we got back home.

Did you have this much fun on your childhood vacations?

Destination resort.

13 responses to “Roadtrips in Unairconditioned Chevys

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Great story! It’s funny to imagine Dot & Grandpa “pitching a tent”…

  2. Tom Miller says:

    i knew there was something that effected my brain—all that drmamine. They could have just given me some spiked brownies

  3. Tom Miller says:

    oh remember loop 12 in Dallas? Boy, was I rolling w/ laughter on that trip

  4. Dave Steven says:

    Just discovered your blog! Fun!
    For the Steven Family it was a green ’56 Ford Country Squire (also w/o AC) that went to Pensacola, FL every summer. We played License Plate Bingo, savored Wet-Naps stolen at lunch, and begged Mom and Dad to stop at Stuckey’s for a Pecan Log. (be careful what you wish for; they were awful!) Remembered the “Colored” bathroom (just one, no men’s and ladie’s) at Pure gas stations as we got closer. My dad was cheap so a motel with a pool was a BIG luxury. 25¢ “Magic Fingers” were fun though! That was a week’s allowance though.

    • sixtiestosixties says:

      I remember Stuckey’s! There are a few left around the country. I saw some a few years ago driving from SC to Denver. And of course the Magic Fingers. Fun to remember all this stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Scott Miner says:

    I remember the first time we drove to Virginia and saw ‘ colored bathrooms’. The thing was, it was separate entrances to the same restrooms. I asked my parents why, and it was hard for them to explain to my young mind…….

  6. sixtiestosixties says:

    Hard to explain to any mind.

  7. Cindi Hamilton DiMichele says:

    Worst vac memory – My twin cousins, same age but lightyears younger than me, lived on Lake
    Erie in Conneaut, Ohio. Our swimsuits were on the line drying when not in the lake. I had my very first (green and yellow polka-dot) two-piece swimsuit, and felt like Gidget, Sandra Dee and a Playboy Bunny all rolled into one. My cousins didn’t quite see me in the same light. They loved to torture me, and the memory I have is of them dangling my suit on a stick, and then actually dropping it into a rain-filled charcoal grill. ‘Nuff said. That kind of wipes out all other vacation memories, even the car rides with 4 brothers, and my cigar-smoking grandfather.

  8. Your blog brings back memories of endless, hot car rides through the American Southwest listening to country music on the radio and my parents arguing about how much farther my dad wanted to drive before we stopped for the night. If this kind of memory appeals to you, you might want to check out a book I wrote that’s available on Amazon called Ride the Snake. It is a comedic look at a dysfunctional family in the 50s and 60s. It might ring a bell.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: