During evening meals as I and my brothers grew up my father would look back to his boyhood days and share stories and facts about the world surrounding him. Talk would often revolve about different outings and that his mum, my grandmother loved a Sunday drive in the landscape surrounding Moncton, New Brunswick where he grew up. It did her good to be with her family and to see the world beyond her home. A blue 1938 Pontiac transported them – a few years ago my aunt showed me a picture of the car with my Dad and his younger brother eating picnic sandwiches sitting in shade on the car’s running boards. Cars do double as portable homes or perhaps rooms and during transport they group a family together. Everyone has common vision, all staring down the road with the driver. Cars become a place to catch-up on things, a place to talk things through, places to share news – in transport, you’d not be the same person getting out of the car as you were getting in to it.
While cars did seem to be a family thing, a fact that I continue to be amazed at is that my father only learned to drive after completing his Ph.D. at the age of twenty-five or twenty-six; perhaps he anticipated family as his next step. And, maybe there’s some truth in that because during his university years at Mount Allison (Sackville, Nova Scotia) and at St. Mary’s College (London, U.K.), he hadn’t needed a car but had been able to make his way around Europe on train, by bus, on bicycle or hiking. And, it seemed that such travel was much more of a social thing with much more grace being there as fellow-travellers or friends in the act of travel. Perhaps there was that common purpose of travel in that former time – to ‘see’ the world (which also meant to experience it).
Dad had ideas about cars, about how long they should be driven before a new one should be bought. He had ideas and biases about good and better cars. He enjoyed a car that had what he would term ‘pep.’ It’s tempting to look at the cars Dad has owned and driven as associating to different points of development among our family – a 57 Ford Consul (marriage), a 64 Pontiac Beaumont (the family populates), a 69 Pontiac Parisienne (the family’s middle years), a 76 Chevrolet Caprice Classic with 74 Ford Gran Torino (the family’s later middle years), an 81 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (kids almost ready to move out), an Oldsmobile Delta 88 with Dodge Aries K Car (first years of empty-nest), two Nissan Maximas (later empty nest and retirement) and a Nissan Altima (later years of retirement). You could almost use the technology available at each stage to chronicle the evolution of cultural norms within society … possible Masters thesis for someone.
On occasion, cars – what they were about, their history and their potential for each aspiring driver in our family – would be the center of discussion at evening meals. One vehicle Dad commented on with regard to its history was a car alluded in terms of character name in the Disney/Pixar movie, Cars. Paul Newman provided voice-over for that car, now animated, Doc Hudson. Last summer I got to see a Hudson Terraplane, not one from the fifties or forties, but a Hudson Terraplane from the thirties, a pet project for an autobody repairman and tow-truck driver from Nanaimo. These photographs are taken at the end of July, 2011.
Quote to Inspire – “The question is not what you look at but what you see!” – Henry David Thoreau
Listening to John Mayer sing Route 66 from the Cars Soundtrack; the same soundtrack has Rascal Flatts singing Life is a Highway. After that it has been listening to Tom Cochrane and Red Rider in the Edmonton Symphony Sessions recorded at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium – Avenue A, Bird on a Wire, Big League and Boy Inside the Man … all, good, good tunes.