If this van’s a rockin…

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image There are few childhood things I lament the loss of more than the freedom to move around in the car. I grew up in the 70s when vans were all the rage. And these weren’t the vans like we have today–all captains chairs and entertainment systems–no, these vans had two captain’s chairs up front, perhaps one more row of them in the middle and then usually some kind of open area in the back.

I remember our custom shag-wagon like it was yesterday! It was a Chevy of course, and it was shaped much like the Scooby Doo mobile, except it had a beautiful ocean motif painted on the side. The whole van was done in blues and each side displayed an airbrushed image of a sailboat on a stormy sea. On the inside, there were two rows of captain’s chairs and then in the back was a raised shagging-platform–perfect for extracurricular activities–that was carpeted of course, where we kids used to sit and play games, read books and generally move around during trips. There was also a built-in cooler for drinks, but I remember that it never seemed to work right. As the times marched inexorably on, the vans became more refined–the back area giving away to a third bench row–but the general ability to move around unseen by prying eyes remained. The windows were darkened and had shutters or drapes on them and you could literally walk from the front to the back to grab a drink from the cooler, or just stretch your legs if dad refused to make a pit stop so he could “make up some time.”

What do kids do today on trips? They remain tightly fastened in their little car seats, safely protected from errant drivers and from generally being able to do anything else but stare out the windows and whine about being strapped into their seats. If they drop something…tough doo-doo because they’re so strapped in that they can’t bend over in to the floorboard to pick it up. Want to take a nap? Oh, I’m sorry–you’ll have to just lay your head over to the side and pray that you don’t get a crick in your neck from the odd motion.

Oh I know that car seats save lives and all, but crikey! When you’re doing 70mph (ok, maybe 80) on a lonely bit of highway in the middle of nowhere Georgia or Alabama, is there any harm in letting the little boogers waller around a bit? I say no!

What cracks me up though, is that now vehicles are going to need to get 35 MPG by 2016, which means cars will be what…smaller right? It’s probably a good time to invest in companies that make roof-top carriers for cars! I swear whoever it is running the bunch that develops these safety standards has obviously never taken a long trip with kids!

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9 thoughts on “If this van’s a rockin…

    Allison said:
    May 21, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    My grandparents had a van like that for awhile. Who cares about a long drive when you can play with Barbies on the floor? That was livin’.

    Paula said:
    May 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    LOL! We used to have a van that had no back seat, so my parents put in a seat they had removed from another vehicle. Every time they came to a stop it skidded to the front and we’d run the risk of falling off! Fun times!

    I also used to love riding with my cousin in the back of her station wagon. We’d lay the seats down and camp out in the back while her mom drove us around. Ah, the good ole days!

    Now my 10 y/o is still in a booster because she isn’t tall enough yet for just a seat belt, my 8 y/o will be in a booster until she’s 15 at the rate she’s growing, my 4 y/o is still in a 5 point harness until he is 65 lbs. and my 2 y/o is still rear facing until 33 lbs. Boy, have times changed?! *sigh*

      dobeman said:
      May 22, 2009 at 7:56 am

      RE: Ugh! Do you go on any long trips Paula?

    David "Father of five" said:
    May 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    We never had the “shag wagon” – what we had was the “station wagon”… We did not have the “elevated platform”, but what we had were… ah… well, I am not sure what it was REALLY called, but we called them the “Monkey Seats”.

    The “Monkey Seats” were two fold down seats that were in the far back portion of the station wagon. Unlike the traditional car seats that face forward, these seats faced side to side… And they were small… Obviously intended for young children. They did have lap style seat belts – “for safety”.

    It was a rare treat on road trips that my parents would fold down the middle seat (forward facing) and put the cargo there – thus allowing us to open up the “Monkey seats”!

    Here are a few examples of “Monkey Seats”!!

    Example 1
    Example 2
    Example 3
    Example 4
    Example 5

      dobeman said:
      May 22, 2009 at 8:18 pm

      RE: Ah, the “Family Truckster.” You think you hate it now, but…wait till you drive it!

    Nikki said:
    May 25, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    We also grew up with the station wagon. Unfortunately it wasn’t cool when I was growing up…late 80’s early 90’s. Nothing fancy about ours. No a/c, tape player that didn’t work, no monkey seats. However if we didn’t win shot gun we fought over who got to sit in the way back if mom would allow it. Out of arms reach we could do whatever we wanted. On long trips we came prepared with a notebook and markers (crayons were banned after with the summer heat)and we would write “Help! We’ve been Kidnapped!” Mom and Dad didn’t think it was cool but it was funny to us with all the weird looks. It was also a treat when dad let us climb out the back window instead of using the door.

      dobeman said:
      May 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm

      RE: Man…a station wagon in the late 80s and 90s? I’m trying to image Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” piping through those speakers on a hot date.
      Nope. Can’t picture it! Glad you survived!

    pamajama said:
    May 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    My favorite was the Volkswagen van.

    I really detest the whole video game, Ipod culture and how we don’t even speak to one another in the car while on vacation any more. Now that my daughter is 11 and has the Ipod in her ears constantly I want to throw it in the road and drive over it, back up and do it again.

      dobeman said:
      May 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm

      RE: See, right now I’d take 300 miles of “The Quiet Game” in the car if it meant I got some peace and quiet. But when they are older, that won’t be a problem and I’m sure I’ll miss talking to them.

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