OUT ON A LIMB: Remember when you could roam around in a car?

A group of us were reminiscing about riding in the family car the other day

Ah, the good old days.

A group of us were reminiscing about riding in the family car the other day. If you’re of a certain age, you can remember the days before seat belts were mandatory.

It is amazing so many of us survived. Remember when Mom would fold down the last seat in the station wagon and put a blanket down and some cushions to allow the little ones to play around in the back on long trips?

Kids weren’t kept cooped up in their seat in those days. Not any more. Now we have to keep them occupied with DVD players.

I can remember riding with someone in a crew-cab pickup truck and they commented on how they liked it when their toddler, who roamed around the front bench seat, would stand behind the driver’s elbow. That’s because it would protect him from falling forward when you put on the brakes. You couldn’t tell them to use a seatbelt because I don’t remember if they even had them in the vehicle in those days.

Or then there was someone’s mom who automatically would extend her right arm to brace the kids on the front seat whenever they stopped at a stop light. It was so habitual she continued to do it after seatbelts became mandatory.

One friend reminisced how she often, as a little girl, could stick her head out the front passenger side window in a two-door while standing on the back seat. Her mother wouldn’t know about it until sometime later. That would then earn a sharp rebuke to get back on her seat.  One time she  got her head caught because her mother wound up the window not realizing she was there. After puzzling a few seconds over why the window seemed stuck, she freed my friend from the neck trap before she blacked out from a lack of oxygen.

We had so much freedom in those days. You could brace your back against the back door  to give you good leverage with legs in order to pedal-kick your brother. This warranted return fire of course and you’d have a flurry of kicks until one of them landed hard enough to elicit tears. Or until Dad threatened to come back there and “sort you two out.” It was never clear if he was going to pull over and do that or just tell Mom to hold the wheel while he climbed over the seat back to get at us. Either way, it stopped us…for a while. I’m not sure what we feared more, Dad running rampant in the back seat with us or Mom driving.

I remember once we rented a camper truck to drive down to California. My older brother had his learner’s licence at the time and Dad thought it would be a good chance to give him some driving lessons.  My Dad was a nervous driving instructor and why he thought this was a good idea is beyond me. So after a few grim moments of my Dad saying progressively louder and more tense “Alan, get back over the centre line…Alan, get back over the centre line!” I offered to go back and ride in the camper.  Which was great, you could lay down in the bed over the cab and look out the narrow front window. There we were, weaving back and forth down the U.S. 101, me up in the cabover compartment loving every second of it. It was better than a Disneyland ride.

Now, my kids, they’re strapped into their seats tighter than an astronaut in a space capsule. It’s less fun but way more safe.

The good old days. Yeah, sure.