Observations On Convenience

Observations On Convenience

I was driving along in my comfortable medium sized car, Lucy, and yes I am one of those people who name their cars, when I began to think of cars I have known.

I grew up in the era of manual gears, no power steering and bench seats front and back.

To indicate that you were turning right you put your arm out the window, holding it straight. To indicate that you were stopping you put your hand out the window with your elbow bent at a right angle to your shoulder.

There was no heating and certainly no air conditioning. Many a long trip in the summer heat meant open windows and wet towels wrapped around shoulders and necks. Windows were wound down with a handle; there were no childproof locks and seatbelts were unheard of.

If your battery was flat, hopefully you were on a slight slope or had other people to push. You took off the brake, put the car into 2nd gear using the clutch and when the car picked up speed, eased off the clutch, pressed the accelerator and hoped the car would start. I started my first car many mornings using this method. Fortunately we lived on a small hill.

My parents had a real talent when it came to cars; they invariably bought a lemon. If the steering wasn’t faulty, the electrics were or the exhaust pipe fell off. We lived in the Southern Highlands of NSW about 2 hours south of Sydney and it became common practice if we were travelling more than 20 miles (about 24 kms) to pack essential supplies.

These consisted of a frying pan, eggs, tomatoes, bacon, bread and butter, matches to light a fire by the roadside (no total fire bans in those days), a billy for tea, mugs, plates and cutlery. We always carried blankets (no doonas back then) and pillows as many a night we slept in the car. A large container of water was always in the car for when the radiator boiled and for the afore mentioned tea.

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There were of course no mobile phones. In fact our landline was a party line and went through a telephonist at the post office. A party line meant that everyone’s phone was on the same line and the number of rings indicated the person being called. Of course for many of the others on the party line it was irresistible to lift the receiver to listen in to other people’s calls. I can remember phoning my mother on one occasion and two other people telling me she wasn’t answering because she was visiting Mrs Brown who’d broken her leg.

When you wanted petrol you drove into the petrol station and a person came out, asked how much petrol you wanted, filled the tank and cleaned the windows. You handed over the cash (no credit cards then) and the person returned with your change. You could only buy petrol or oil, certainly no food or drink.

There were no McDonalds, Kentucky Fried or roadside cafes. Every country town had a Parthenon Cafe where you could buy milkshakes, tea, coffee and light meals. Hamburgers were a later edition or you could go to the hotel. No women other than guests were allowed into a hotel except for the dining room where basic meals were served, usually a roast dinner. A Chinese cafe of that era served Steak and Eggs, Chow Mein, Curried Prawns with rice and banana fritters.

When I married we bought a car which got us from point A to point B with no problems. I couldn’t help thinking some of the adventure had gone out of driving.

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