Thursday, March 3, 2011
Our family van...
I was always so embarrassed by my family's car. I'm sure many of you can relate. I've determined that most people either grew up mortified by their station wagon or van. My parents were fans of the latter.
Having six kids leaves you little choice than to go van shopping. I mean, we couldn't all fit into a sleek sedan or sports car unless we were layered atop each other. Older kids on the bottom. Younger, lighter weight kids on our laps. Now that's just ridiculous. So...vans. The only worse thing would be driving a short yellow school bus.
I remember my dad had a 1964 Ford Mustang. Sweet. That was when we only had 2 kids in our clan. Seems like every week a new sibling would show up. Things got cramped. Next thing I knew, Dad was home late from work. When he finally came home he was driving a huge 1976 Ford Econoline Van. Mustang gone. Blue van here.
Dad opened the sliding side door and allowed us to take a gander of our new mode of transportation. Being naive dumb kids, we were actually excited. Two captains chairs in the front, one three seater in the rear. At the time we only had 3 kids in our family so the only thing we fought over was who got to sit next to the window. I was the oldest and always won that battle.
Over time, as more kids arrived, my dad customized our van. By customize I mean, he drove to a hardware store and purchased nails, plywood and carpeting. He then spent the better part of a weekend building a "U" shaped carpeted bench in the rear section. That's where the older kids got to ride. I guess he figured we were less frail then the younger three should we ever get into a wreck. Able to hang on for our lives...maybe just suffer a little carpet burn.
Not to leave out details, Dad also ensured there was room in the rear for a portable toilet. No, really. It was white. Had a tank beneath it. "Make sure you fill it with the blue water before you go. This is mostly for pee. Try to keep from going #2." was our only tutorial. I remember on long trips we'd torture each other by threatening to 'look' while the other used it. Dad taking vicarious swerves also added to the laughs as the toilet patron tried to hold on.
After a few years, dad decided he had enough of the carpeted benches and took them out. "We think it's time you guys had better seats." he said before leaving the house one Saturday morning. I thought he was taking our van to Ford to get another nice blue vinyl seat installed. Instead, he opted to go to a junkyard and purchased an olive green seat that used to reside in a Dodge van. I guess Dad wasn't into details. Regardless, I had my window seat back. That was nice.
We sustained lots of injuries from that van too. In order to get that sliding side door closed you needed to sprint while holding the door handle or it wouldn't close. Unfortunate timing sometimes led to crushed fingers and toes.
The windows were a pain in the ass too. Had this annoying latch that would pinch. My brother and I, when we rode on the carpeted benches, used to like giving our van a 'tail'. We'd sneak a huge ball of toilet paper, open the rear windows, and unfurl it. We'd laugh as Dad drove around with toilet paper streaming from the rear....the van equivalent of toilet paper on your shoe. Got in trouble for that.
That van never died. Dad finally sold it for a new car...A red and brown Ford Econoline van. I was in high school and didn't spend much time in that one. You'll have to talk to my younger sibs for the low down on that one...