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Today is January 23, 2018

Grin 'n' Bare It

Memories of traveling by auto

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

Mr. Roy is not an impulse buyer like I am. In fact, if it’s a large purchase, he may study and analyze the pros and cons for weeks, or even months. He has wanted a new pickup truck for the past couple years, but just could not “pull the trigger” on the actual purchase.

But this past October, he took his finalized data to the dealer he had selected and made a deal to order exactly the truck he wanted. Even though it had taken months for him to take the plunge, the days now passed ever so slowly for my man. Finally, the dealer called and said, “Your truck has arrived.” It was like Christmas day used to be for our girls.

This truck is like a luxury automobile. It has more bells and whistles on it than my car does.

I said, “I thought you wanted a truck to haul things in?”

“I don’t intend to haul things in it,” he said. Which made me wonder why he wanted a truck, but he was too excited for me to ask at that moment.

A few days later he said, “Let’s take a trip in my new truck.”

When anyone says “road trip,” I’m ready to go. Especially when he told me he wanted to go see our grandson, Hunter, and his wife, Kelsey. So, the first weekend in December we drove to Nashville.

As we started our trip, we began to talk about how travel by automobile has changed since we started traveling together. We talked about our first long road trip, our honeymoon. And how cars then did not have air conditioning or a fraction of the conveniences that cars have today.

The radios were AM, so we had to continually change stations to find one that might be clear enough to actually enjoy.

Since there was no air conditioning, we had to leave some of the windows rolled down to let in fresh air. And when I say rolled down, I mean manually, not by pushing a button.

There were no turn signal lights to use when we intended to make a turn to the right or left. Just roll down the window and stick your arm out—straight for a left turn and bent upward at the elbow for a right turn. If it was raining, we just hoped we didn’t have to make many turns that required a hand signal.

The only good thing about those old cars were the bench seats. The girl could sit real close to the driver as he drove down the highway and tried to concentrate on driving.

Another thing that made traveling difficult back then was the highways. This was before the interstate highway system was built, so four-lane highways were rare. Normally, highways went directly through the center of town. I remember we occasionally had to drive through Birmingham, and that would take over an hour.

Another big problem was finding and using restroom facilities. Service stations were the primary source, but in most cases we would have to go inside and ask for the restroom key. Oh, how Mr. Roy and I would have appreciated the rest areas along today’s interstate highways, especially with two young girls.

Another complicating factor was the poorly marked or unmarked highways and roads. If we were not familiar with an area, the only solution was to stop and ask directions. Sixty years ago we could not even imagine such a thing as GPS.

After laughing, and even shedding a few tears, thinking about old times, we settled into the luxury of Mr. Roy’s new truck. I found some good music on the satellite radio and set the temperature I wanted; Mr Roy set the navigation system, the radar control system, the blind spot monitor and speed control.

Then he said, “There’s a rest area just ahead. Let’s stop for a few minutes.”

I said, “Good, why don’t you put the window down and give an old-time right-turn signal with your arm.”

As Roy started lowering the window and the air began blasting into the truck, he shouted, “How did we put up with this noise?”

I shouted back, “Bad idea.”

Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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