Thursday, April 3, 2008

Our family Cars

1965 Chrysler New Yorker like the one my parents owned except they owned a brown one and later a burgundy one

1958 Dodge like ours except ours was PINK

I recently encountered a piece written by my cousin, Craig Manson on his blogsite, GeneaBlogie regarding the vehicles his parents owned while he was growing up. It inspired me to do a piece as well on the same subject. Afterall, we as families spend a great deal of time in our vehicles creating memories inside them or on our way to memorable events.

Among the vehicles that my parents owned was a 1958 Dodge and we took many cross country trips in the early 60's to Louisiana in it. They later upgraded to a brown Chrysler New Yorker and later a 1965 Burgundy Chrysler New Yorker with matching leather interior with cruise control and all the other "Bells and Whistles" of that era. We kids referred to the rear of the 1958 Dodge as having "Bat Wings" because it resembled the rear of the "Batmobile" on the then hit show, "Batman." We didn't realize we were riding in luxury.

As mentioned above, for most people, those vehicles hold a lot of nostalgia and creates another "vehicular" aspect or angle of family history.

My father, Jewel Burney loved to drive, whether it was a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive or a long-distance trek across the country, it seemed to relax him and bring on a level of peace.

Some of our more local destinations included many Saturday trips up to Roseville, California to the Denio's Farmers' Market and Auction which has been around since 1946. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a mecca for fruits and vegetables, leather goods, clothing and just about anything you could possibly think of at bargain prices.

We were a family of 9 including my parents when all the children were at home and in addition, my parents regularly entertained brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, friends and anyone else my father seen fit to invite home to partake of his wife's good cooking. Hence, those 20 mile car trips to Roseville not only provided leisurely quality family time but was well worth the trip for the fresh bargain fruits and vegetables and other food goods for their massive dinner menus, school clothing and supplies, car parts, ice cream cones and my favorite, pony rides.

My dad also drove us to the Zoo a lot. Again, the car drive on the way to Zoo was just as memorable as the Zoo itself. I can remember conversations we had, songs we sang and the many funny things we did.

One game we would play is "Pee-Wee Punch". The object of the game was for each child to identify as many Volkswagon Beetles (VW's) as possible on the way to our destination. We used our fingers to keep track. The winner was determined by whomever had pointed out the most "VW's by yelling, "Pee Wee Punch" by the time we reached our destination. The person was simultaneously "punched" usually in the arm. This was especially fun on long distance trips.

Another game that we played was whenever we crossed railroad tracks, each child was required to cross some bodyparts, i.e. their fingers, toes, legs, arms, lips, eyes,etc. If you were caught by another not crossing something when you crossed over the railroad tracks, someone identified it, and you were pinched. However, if you were actually crossing something like your lips, eyes or some other bodypart and they pinched you, you could pinch them back twice. We bruised each other up a lot playing this game and gave our parents a lot of headaches in the process.

Another trip, we would take a lot in the car was to the Bay Area home of my father's sister Gladys who was a WONDERFUL cook. Again, the drive down was one of the best parts of the experience. The drive from Sacramento to Richmond, CA is very scenic. We just loved to take in the beautiful mountain ranges, pastures, houses atop hills, waterways, bridges as well as the roadway as our car lapped the miles. As a family, we would point out to one another a breathtaking view, a sunset or even a cow. They seem simple but they were memorable.

A more long distance trip that we took several times in the 1960's were our road trips to Louisiana where both my parents grew up. Now, I got to be honest with you, here. The only real memories that I have of these is the packing up of the vehicle, climbing in and hitting the freeway because once we got about 20 miles down the road, all the children in the car were fast asleep. Mind you that it is at least a 36hour trip making good time since I drove it many times since as an adult. However, as a kid, the only thing I remember was getting in the car and waking up there. But again, as mentioned earlier, the car got us to that destination that brought us many memories. Those memories included spending time with my grandmother, Johnnie Pearl and her mother, Anne Bell Green whom we called "Big Mama and all the family dinners and conversations that went along with the trip.

I know you are probably wondering how on earth all 9 of us fit into that 5 person 1958 Dodge. Well, in case you didn't know it, there were no seatbelt or carseat laws back then. Hence, the going rule was "you get in where you fit in." That meant, everybody squeezed together to in order to accommodate each other. The usual and customary order and sitting arrangement was: My dad and mom in the front seat with 2 small children in between and my mom holding a baby, 4-5 children sitted in back with another child sitting on their lap if need be, and up to 2 children sitting on rear floor board. As I mentioned earlier, there were nine of us and often cousins and friends tagged along.

So as you can see, cars are one common and important place where family memories are made. I hope this article inspires you to reflect back on the family memories you had in your family vehicle!

1 comment:

Craig Manson said...

"Get in where you fit in." Yep! Although we were only a family of six, when we went to visit my mother's family, that was the rule.