A long ride in the car when I was a kid was truly one of my favorite experiences. In the 1960’s Dad drove a red and white, 1958 Chevy Station Wagon. It had the front bench seat which was occupied by Dad in the driver’s seat and Mom in the passenger’s seat. The six kids “shared” the back seat and the cargo space behind the back seat.
Now I use the term, “shared” with a bit of poetic license, for sharing implies some sort of democracy and this was certainly NOT the case in this particular instance. Age represented rank and we pulled rank with pleasure. Jeannie, being the eldest, the tallest, and the right hand to the parents (often confused with "god"), always chose first and her’s was the window seat…usually the one behind Mom. I chose second, because I was second in line and I would have pouted big time if anyone had suggested I was not second highest in rank. I also chose the window seat…the one behind Dad. After that, the boys moaned and complained and tried to get their way. Sometimes I felt magnanimous and gave up my seat in favor of the floor.
I LOVED to lie on the floor of the car, in front of the back seat. It was warm and, at least in those days, everyone’s legs were short enough that I didn’t get kicked too much. But the real draw to the floor was the gigantic hole in the floor of the car – the one directly behind Dad’s seat. I loved to watch the road fly by through that hole. I lost a shoe through that hole once and worried I might lose my glasses that way…but I don’t think I ever did.
One day, while working on violins with Dad at the shop in D.C., the man who taught us to make them offered Dad this big brass oval name plate from some ship. I guess it was something he had hanging around and Dad had an idea this would work well to cover the hole in the floor of the car.
Well, Dad was right …nothing more could fall through my “eye on the road” window, but, I felt so cheated that the “eye” was forever closed.
In 1968 we moved to England. Of course, the trusty '58 came with us. (along with our pet monkey -- just a couple of things to REALLY make us stand out in a crowd). Whilst in England, Dad had the hole in the car “fixed” at the same time as he had the car repainted. So, no more toxic fumes came into the car, but no more cool brass plate covered that hole either. The car was “going to be a classic soon” (who cares…I liked that hole!)
In 1971, when we returned from England to the states, Dad purchased a new car. The new car, a 1972 Chevy Station Wagon, had three seats and easily accommodated the family whose legs had grown significantly over the years. The ’58 was relegated to being “Mom’s” car, and the car in which each of us learned to drive. Each took his/her turn in the embarrassing vehicle which was now, beginning to just be a hard to start, land yacht (all the other kids had “normal cars”)
In 1979, my youngest brother Ray took the old ’58 for a “spin”. He was a little too young and was taking his “test drive” without the aid of parental direction or permission, and, he somewhat underestimated the difficulty in steering this beast….Let’s just say that the neighbor, whose tree the ’58 rested against, whose yard was somewhat less manicured as a result of Ray’s maiden voyage, was very kind. Dad, whose “classic” ’58 had been destroyed in this single act of teenage enthusiasm was less “understanding.” But I thought at the time, “Ah, it’s no big deal! Ray was not seriously hurt…and the car was ruined a long time ago when they decided to close over that favorite hole in the floor.”