A family history in cars

Cars have played a really important role in my family’s history. My father loved cars and was a pretty good car mechanic. He loved cars so much that he often purchased cars that he/we couldn’t afford 🙂 I thought it’d be fun and interesting to put together a pictorial history of the cars I can remember. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find or link to photos of each.

Ford Galaxy Station Wagon
Ford Galaxy Station Wagon

First up was a 1960s Ford Galaxy station wagon. Ours was black or navy blue. I only have vague memories of it, e.g. riding in the way back while picking up my father at the farm in Gothenburg, NE on a stormy night when there was a lot of lightning. But the car is clearly visible in many old family photos. I think this was the car we were riding in during the dramatic family incident I blogged about some time ago in Detroit, MI.

Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Station Wagon

Next up in quick succession were two Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme station wagons. One was tan-colored, the next one after that was silver with a maroon interior. This is the vehicle I remember traveling in the most. We had these cars in the early years of living in Villa Grove. When the newer silver one aged, we called it Lurch due to bad shock absorbers. We drove that thing all over creation, visiting most of the U.S. and Canada. My usual spot was either upfront, wedged between my parents in the front seat, or in the far back with the luggage. We did not wear seat belts back then and I often wonder how we ever survived. I remember that the much-more-progressive-Canada required seat belts, though, and we always grumbled when we had to cross the border into Canada. It was quite a chore to dig out those seat belts that were pushed down into the seats. This is the car in which I remember playing endless road games such as I Spy. We also had travel versions of chess and checkers, and one game whose name I can’t remember that had little sliding panels to identify types of cars (or was it license plates?). Kids nowadays whine and moan if they don’t have their own TV screen but we travelled thousands of miles without any permanent scarring back in the day. I think it was probably our parents who were permanently scarred, come to think of it.

Toyota Corolla

My older brothers, Kevin and Tim, who fought over everything, somehow managed to agree to pool their money together in the late 70s to buy a Toyota Corolla like the one pictured here. One morning, it was parked in our garage with Lurch (the silver Oldsmobile station wagon) parked behind it. Even though we only lived a few blocks from school, we were lazy kids and our mother drove us to school most days. As usual we were running late. Jeff was sitting impatiently in the station wagon, waiting for everyone to get out to the car, and decided he’d try to start it. Through some sort of bad judgment, he ended up not only starting it but putting it in drive, accelerating it forward, and ramming the Corolla into the back wall of the garage. The Corolla was totaled. Of course, Jeff was horrified and perhaps in a state of shock, but when my mother came out to view the damage, all she could do was laugh hysterically. This didn’t sit well with Jeff at the time 🙂

Datsun 510 Station Wagon

Speaking of Jeff, it was soon his turn at car ownership. He paid $600 for a bright yellow, 1970s Datsun (now Nissan) 510 station wagon. It wasn’t as souped up as the one shown in the photo but it served us well for many years, and was the commuting vehicle of choice for my mother going to work at the University of Illinois along with my older brothers. There were one or two memorable accidents in this vehicle, including one where the car rolled.

Around this same period (mid-70s), my father drove one of his favorite cars, a maroon Ford Thunderbird. This is the car in which I remember listening to an 8-track tape of The Carpenters. He often drove it too fast. He also bought matching navy blue Ford F-150s.

Ford Thunderbird

Perhaps most memorable of all our vehicles was a 30-ft. pale green Champion motorhome. Lovely memories of traveling and camping out in it. Some of my happiest childhood memories, in fact. But my mother was not a fan; she said it was just a house on wheels and was no vacation for her! To this day I can still hear 8-track tapes playing on those long trips to Calgary and other places: John Denver’s Greatest Hits, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, etc.

Champion Motorhome

Then there were a lot of other less memorable vehicles and interestingly, that corresponded with a kind of negative time in family history. One car that stood out, though, was an Audi 5000 just like the one shown. There were other Audis, and then there was a Mercedes-Benz 300 Turbo Diesel.

Audi 5000
Mercedes-Benz 300 Turbo Diesel
I think this last car was one of my father’s favorites. He loved diesels for their durability. But I hated driving it; it drove like a truck.
Toyota Celica GT

Hey, I forgot a number of others but here’s one more that is quite memorable, a Toyota Celica GT owned by sister, Becky Hickmott. This was a cool, fast car! One night when she was driving home from an overnight shift at her nursing job, she momentarily fell asleep. The car went off the road a few miles north of Villa Grove and flipped several times. I’m sure if Becky hadn’t worn a seat belt, she’d be dead. The very next day was when she first met her future husband, Martin Hickmott, visiting from New Zealand on a world tour. The rest is history 🙂

Last but not least (and not in order chronologically), was a bright yellow, two door Honda Civic with manual transmission. This was a cool car. My most vivid memory of driving it was a time when I picked up my Grandpa McCallum from adult daycare in the mid-80s. I took him to get french fries at McDonalds, which he really enjoyed. He had a mouthful when he suddenly sneezed violently all over the inside windshield and dashboard. Yeah, gross.

Honda Civic

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