The first family car I remember was our 1956 four door, two-tone green Chevrolet Bel Air. We had it in the '50s to the '60s and it served us well. My dad was the only driver for years and he wanted a big car that could pull a boat - almost a necessity for Florida families.
We only took one long distance family vacation in this car, driving from Florida to St. Louis, MO to see my dad's family. We were adhering to Dinah Shore's signature song, "See the USA, in your Chev-ro-let, America is asking you to call." The trip was in the summer and we made stops along the way to get Georgia peaches, SEE ROCK CITY, TN (a famous advertising scheme to paint these words on the roofs of barns and buildings all over the South), and other sites. Without air conditioning, our windows were open most of the time to try to stay cool without being blown away. We pulled over at rest stops and had picnics, and I can still see Daddy pulling the supplies out of the big trunk, and cutting up a juicy watermelon for us. With our family of four, my brother and I were in the back seat and had room to spread out and nap. No seat belts at this time, so we were not restricted to a position, which on a long trip turned into occasional disputes of "he's/she's on my side."
When family came to visit us, we had to all pile into the Chevy for outings to the beach or sightseeing. We put at least eight people in the car at times: our four and my grandparents, a great aunt, and a cousin. Since I was the youngest, I was chosen to sit on the floor of the backseat, squeezing between everyone's feet. No wonder I got car sick all the time.
We enjoyed driving to the beach sometimes on a Saturday or after church on Sundays. Back then we could drive right onto the beach, before several large hurricanes destroyed the shoreline. We parked about half way between the boardwalk and the water's edge, and if we stayed long enough we would have to move the car back as the tide came in. There were always people who forgot to move their car and it would get swallowed up in the quickening sand. Tow trucks were constantly going back and forth on the beach looking for business. Our favorite spot was only about 11 miles away, but the drive coming home seemed to take forever. We couldn't wait to call dibs for first in the shower to wash off the salt and sand. Daddy would hose down the car to clean it up, too.
Daddy liked to hunt, fish, and haul things so he eventually sold the Chevy and went through a variety of trucks, jeeps, and vans. About that time my mother had to learn to drive for a new job as an itinerant Spanish teacher for the County. She was thrilled to buy her first car, a white Corvair, making us a two car family. The Corvair turned out to be a dangerous model. With the engine in the rear, it was prone to spin and flip, which it did for us one day. Mom was passing someone on a two lane road and the person suddenly turned left in front of us. When she hit the brakes, the car spun around and flipped completely upside down, leaving us hanging by our 'across the lap' seat belts. Injuries were minor, thankfully. Ralph Nader labeled the Corvair as "unsafe at any speed." The only great thing about this car was that it had air conditioning. We didn't even have that luxury in our house.
I grew up in northern Florida during the 1950s and 1960s. I'm attracted to vintage and antique goods and become nostalgic recalling "the good old days."