Walking through the house one Michigan summer morning, I heard the “honk” of a car. I didn’t know if it was on the TV or from a car going by. But it brought back some memories. Perhaps you can relate.
Growing up, we lived in the country – a gravel road at that time. Few cars traveled past our house. We were most often outdoors, but even if we were inside the house, the outside noises came through the big old screens of the windows and screen door. When a car came down the road, we most often heard it approaching, and one of us would often say, “There’s a car coming.” We stared as it went by. It was a notable event! If the passerby knew us, sometimes even if he didn’t, he or she would most often “honk” the car horn. It was a “hello.” Of course, my dad and mom did the same thing as they drove the country roads.
My dad always loved cars. I wasn’t around yet when these early photos were taken, but they tell me a story of his passion – not just for my mother – but for the automobile!
Cars were like a part of the family back then – well, at least in our households, evidenced in those photos where Daddy most often posed in front of a vehicle or photographed others with vehicles as the backdrop.
Travel was much slower in those days. Rarely did Daddy ever drive as fast as 50 mph and that was only on a big road, a “highway” like US 27 or US 12. No, instead, he drove slowly and intentionally, enjoying the drive, commenting along the way on wildlife, farmers in their fields – discussing various changes in the scenery with my mother. I learned much during those drives. Landmarks, not addresses, marked our travel: “Culps Hill”; “Clarendon Pond.”
GPS wasn’t used, nor was it needed. My mother held the map as we took longer trips, a practice I observed and still follow throughout my years, with just an occasional reference to our more recent navigation apps! Long trips were taken – usually every summer – usually “up north” to the Upper Peninsula. We loaded the station wagon, more often with extra family rather than luggage!
Of course, Daddy drove a 12-mile stretch to work every day. He worked at Federal Mogul, and he left the house shortly before 7:30 am. The office opened at 8. He arrived home from work at 5:19 pm every day. Supper followed at 5:30.
Mama drove, too, when she worked away from the home. Those were the only times we had two cars.
We didn’t often make extra trips to town. Local travel was certainly limited. We didn’t just “jump in the car” to go someplace or to get something. Even short trips were planned and multiple errands and stops were combined. Those stops to be made were written on paper, as were grocery lists, usually on reused, back sides of envelopes. Our rare drives to town included buying groceries, going to the laundromat (during the times Mom didn’t have an automatic washer), sometimes a trip to J.C. Penney, and an occasional fun trip to Otto & Sons where Daddy shopped the hunting gear and we kids browsed the massive toy department.
On Sundays, after church and a quick Sunday dinner, we all piled in the car for the long drive from our home on Quincy Grange Road in Butler Township to Grandpa and Grandma Nutt’s house on Grass Lake Road, northwest of Kinderhook. Daddy usually “honked” the horn when we arrived. There, we spent the afternoon – oh, the stories I could tell would fill a small book. But for now, I’ll only share the memories of the long drive. After hours of visiting and investigating the old barns, sheds, empty silo, and garden areas with my brother and cousins, we once again hopped in the car and drove the long route back to Butler Township, turning onto the even narrower graveled Bidwell Road to Grandpa and Grandma Locke’s house. Daddy “tooted” the horn a bit louder here, drawing our Locke cousins out from their places of play around the yard and outbuildings. The grownups sat around the kitchen table, while we kids spent every remainder of daylight playing outside until the familiar whistle of the theme song of “Lassie” drew us into the living room.
Yes, my childhood travels to and from our graveled Quincy Grange Road residence always centered around a vehicle, filled with a family of five, a bushel of love, and a car horn that spoke a friendly “hello” to all. Occasionally today, I hear it – if only in my memories.