Fremont County, Iowa

Car Musings
by Daisy Malcom

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
September 29, 2014

Cars have been an important means of travel for my family, but their use has changed a lot during my lifetime. My first car story was when I was three and heard that my baby sister had been born in the family Chrysler. Our use of a car was infrequent, usually a mile trip from our farm to Thurman on Saturday night for groceries or a sightseeing drive with my parents on a Sunday afternoon. I’d never even been to Omaha until I was a teen in the 60’s when my family and I drove my brother to catch a bus to Army basic training.

Unlike most teens, I’d only had one practice session before taking driver education, and I didn’t get my license until I was 18 in order to drive to Peru State College. I didn’t drive in Omaha until my mid-30’s. Today’s teens generally have their drivers licenses by age 16 and consider the car an extension of their leisure time—transportation with entertainment systems at a touch, blue tooth hook-ups for no-hand phone calls, sun roofs to bask in a dose of Vitamin D.

When my husband and I married in 1971, our honeymoon was a road trip to Colorado with 43-cents-a-gallon gas. Our eldest daughter’s first car trip at less than a month old involved her lying on a pillow between the bucket seats in our pink 1970 ‘Cuda. Can you imagine such a scene today with our emphasis on child safety?

At seven months old our twins joined us for their first vacation trip. They sat in the back in little plastic seats with a lone strap fastened across their tummies with big sister sitting between them. Today with the size of required car seats for children, big sister probably wouldn’t have had room to sit in the back with the other two.

They had no DVD player to watch movies as we drove, no IPods for music, no laptops or IPads to connect with the rest of the world. Instead, we played games and talked with each other. One of their favorite activities was trying to find license plates from all 50 of the United States. For music we had the radio with songs that we all sang along to, and for artistic endeavors they drew on scrap paper with sharpened pencils. We would visit historical places, and on the way to see those we would discuss the historical and cultural context of the place or event. During the ride after seeing the sights, we would reflect on what we had learned from our visit.

Today we regularly choose to fly for convenience and speed. However, we often feel nostalgic about those long trips in the family car, all five of us exploring and sharing our lives.

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