Those that had big families had station wagons. And if you were lucky, you got to ride in the back seat – facing sideways or backwards. Half of us said it made us carsick. A comment was made that the back window was put down in case you had to throw-up. We never had a station wagon, so the novelty of riding in the back was cool to me.
We all remember raising our fist up and down to get truckers to blow their horns. Quickly, we chimed in how we all got scolded, too.
I have loads of car trip memories. When I was really young, my parent's drove their Chrysler back and forth to Wisconsin. It was just me and my older brother in the back seat, and Mom in the front with Dad. Mom packed us lunch – sandwiches, chips and pop – we ate it at the road stop picnic table. We were never allowed to eat or drink in the car.
I used to lie on the floor of the of the back seat, while my older brother took the entire seat. We didn't fight that way. I was just short enough where my legs fit right over the middle hump. And if I put a pillow by the door, it was pretty comfortable. At least it was my space. We didn't have to wear our seat belts, too. By today's standards, we should be dead. Or at least brain damaged from all the lead paint, etc.
My Dad liked to make the 600 mile drive in 1 day. So he'd wake up really early and we'd head out at about 2:30 a.m. This way, he'd plan his timing going through Chicago. Some of my hardest moments not laughing were in that city. Because it was a big city, and hard to drive through at that time, my parents expected both my brother and I to behave at this time. Of course, my brother would poke me or pinch me or make faces at me, so I'd start laughing. I'm still that way today. Another memory of the Chicago area is the smell of South Bend. I remember some large holding tanks that were painted like beer cans, too.
Then came the toll booths. I always thought those were cool and wanted Dad to let me throw the 15 cents in that basket, but he never let me. I remember going past the baseball park, really tall buildings and the neon Coke sign. That sign meant we were on our way out of Chicago and more than half way to Grandma's. The sign was lit up because it was dark and at an off time going through the city. One of the last times with my parents going through Chicago, we saw a guy run into a pole with his car. The infamous Dadism "get away from him, he's drunk" comes to mind.
Dad used to pay my older brother and I a penny for every mile we were quiet. This incentive was pretty good, so my brother usually scored a lot of $. What I did earn, I remember I'd blow on candy and junk at the baseball game or at Stuckys. I loved that place. They had grab bags, Hunkydory (caramel corn with nuts) and pecan rolls.
When I got a little older, I got to ride in the front seat with Dad. This way, Mom could do her favorite thing on a car trip: sleep. Dad used to tell me stories of him being a little boy and growing-up during everyone else's sleep time. It was also my "job" to watch for deer at night for him. He'd tell me how a deer would jump out and it could kill us by going through the windshield. I took my deer watching job seriously. He'd tell me to look for glowing eyes from the deer. People's mailbox reflectors would glow and fool me. I never saw a deer on my deer watch. I guess I did a good job.
If you were Dad's co-pilot, you also to pick out the restaurant for breakfast with him. We'd know what was out there by the billboard signs. We'd wake everyone up and let them know it was time for breakfast. By this time, Dad and I might have been up for hours. I remember we'd go somewhere like Big Boy and I always tried to order a hot dog at 7:00 a.m.
Families today have so many gadgets on their vans like navigation systems, dvd players and video games. I feel sorry for those kids because their memories won't be nearly as great as mine.