Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy Part 15: Day Trips To Nowhere


                                 Our Desoto looked something like this
Once in a while my father, who normally kept the grocery store open seven days a week, would close early on a Sunday afternoon and take the family on a day trip. All four kids would pile into the big Chrysler Desoto. That car was like built like a tank and its bumpers were wide, which was good because of the way my mother drove. Before every trip my father would announce, “If you have to pee, do it now.”
Our reply was always, “Nah, we’re good.”
My mom would bring a thermos of ice water and pack some snacks for us, especially if it was going to be a long ride. When it was time to leave, we four kids would scramble out the side door of our house and race to the car. I never figured out why we raced to the car because we couldn’t open the door; my father had the key, but as soon as the car doors were unlocked, the fighting began.

“It’s my turn to sit next to the window,” two of us would yell out. It was usually Jane and I who always tried to commandeer the windows. 
“You had the window the last time.” Came the quick reply and shoving from the younger siblings.

“Get the hell in the car you knuckle heads,” my father yelled at all four of us. Why the fight for the two rear windows? People who are baby boomers already know the answer, but for the younger generations, I'll explain.
There were no air conditioned cars back then, as far as I know, and if you were lucky to claim a window, you could position yourself to get the most air when the car was in motion. Plus, it was fun to roll down the windows. 
I’m seeing some confused looks out there so let me explain a bit more. We did not have electric windows in the 1948 Desoto. Windows were manually lowered and raised. See the handles in the above picture. Although this is not the inside of a Desoto, you get the idea of what the interior of an older car looked like and what was missing. We'll talk more about this further in the blog.
These day trips were never planned in advance, but taken at the spur of the moment. My parents were just trying to get their overly active children some fresh air and exercise. At least that's what they told us, but we began to suspect another motive. My father would usually head out to a place with big open spaces like Fairmount Park or Valley Forge. But, no matter where we were headed, it wasn't long before one of us would announce, “I have to pee.”
“Didn’t I tell you to pee before we left?” My father yelled.
“I didn’t have to pee then.” This need to pee always hit one of us when we'd been on the road for a short time and only when it was too far to turn around and head home.
“You kids are a pain in my ass,” my father would yell and then he and mom would start fighting. But, since Dad didn’t want any of us to have an accident in his fancy car, he would pull into the first gas station.
My mother would then herd all four of us to the back of the gas station where the restrooms were located. Mom  then placed a ton of toilet paper on the seat to protect us from ‘man germs’.
After we were settled back into the car and at our assigned window positions, my father headed on the road again. Everything was good until we kids started acting up and climbing all over the back seat.       
No! We didn’t have seat belts back in the old days. No seat belts, no infant car seats, nothing was child proof and adults smoked cigarettes in the car. Guess what; we survived.                                                                                                                                
My poor parents spent the entire trip yelling at us to behave and then yelling at each other about who the children took after. We were a wild bunch and could not sit quiet for longer than a few minutes. In fact, the entire trip would always consist of us complaining about who touched who, or who was getting all the air from the opened window, or who was shoving who. When we finally reached the park, my father , who looked like he was having a nervous breakdown opened the door and yelled, "Get the hell out of the car."                                                                                
“Go…run around,” my mother grumbled as she threw a ball for us to chase. We four kids chased after that ball for hours. When it was time to go home, dad would whistle and we'd run back and pile into the car, only to fall asleep on the long ride home.
Sometimes, my parents would just take us for a long ride to nowhere. I think they were trying to find a place to dump us. You know someplace far where we wouldn’t be able to find our way back home.
Good memories for us baby boomers, but unfortunately for families today, the heavy volume of traffic on today's highways and the high gas prices are making road trips like I grew up with, a luxury that is getting harder to do. 


  1. And back then you didn't have Nintendo to keep you occupied either. Oh, you had TV and all, but what really was on there that may be of interest? I Love Lucy? The Honeymooners? Yeah, they were great shows I catch every now and again on one of these specialty channels. But on a weekend? Like I said, I don't think there was anything of interest. That's why the folks had us running in the field--to wear us down so when we got home we'd behave. Genius, if you ask me!

    1. Jack, I bet I know about some shows that you're too young or weren't even born yet. That might be my next post. My father had the first television set in the neighborhood and all the neighbors came over on Saturday night to watch Show of Shows