THAT FIRST CAR
I guess that most of us remember our first car. Mine was an old 1957 green Hillman Minx. Back in the days when automatic transmission was a luxury option, I had a manual with a column change. Those were the days before car radios or seat belts were installed. Remember having a portable transistor radio hanging from the rear view mirror? No FM radio in those days only AM. The days before cars had indicator lights, although some did have a very small yellow arm that stuck out about three or four inches from the column alongside beside the windows at the side of the car; mostly though you had to use hand signals. I notice that some drivers today still use hand signals however I don’t think two fingers stuck in the air indicates where you are going.
That first car - you would wash and polish until it gleamed in the sunlight; the independence that you felt when you no longer had to ask dad to drive you somewhere; all your mates piling in and going for spin around the neighbourhood; being able to take someone special to the drive-in movies; driving along on a summer’s day with the windows wound down to let the breeze in because you had no airconditioning.
You would consider going for a country drive, just because you could. The country drives were much closer back then. A drive to Campbelltown was considered a country drive as you drove along Campbelltown Rd, before the motorways were built. Now it is all houses and suburbs driving to Campbelltown from anywhere else in metropolitan Sydney. With the way that Sydney is growing it will soon be the same with Windsor. Box Hill between Rouse Hill and Windsor is now being subdivided for homes. The first weekend I had my first car, I spent an hour or two washing it and then decided to go for a drive (from Cabramatta) and just kept going, ending up in Canberra having to stop occasionally to refill the radiator.
Remember when driving up a steep hill you and your passengers would rock backwards and forwards on your bench seats to encourage the car to make it to the top of the hill, whilst saying to the machine “C’mon, you can do it”. Once at the top of the hill, because you did not have power assisted brakes or power steering, you could turn the motor off and let it roll down the other side keeping your foot hovering over the footbrake pedal. Such were the days. You may have given your car a nickname such as “Old Betsy” or a very popular “Rolls can Hardly” for rolls well downhill but hardly goes uphill.
Most cars also had bench seats with no console between the passenger and the driver and no seat belts you could sit close together. Good for young couples that’s for sure. Talking of seats, my wife once had a boyfriend in her younger days whose first car lacked a seat on the passenger side and she was forced to sit on a pile of cushions. She soon gave that boy the flick.
You could decorate or fancy up your car with such novelties as a dog whose head would bounce up and down which you could put on the top of the dash or in the rear window. You may have had a shark’s tooth hanging from the rear view mirror. Oil companies such as Esso (remember that brand?) would make available a tiger’s tail for you to hang from the petrol cap of the car. And talking of petrol brands who remembers “Stan the Man” from the Golden Fleece service station chain? That was when Service Stations provided service. Check your oil and water Sir? You would be asked. “How about your tyres?” The attendant would fill your tank and wipe your windscreen.
Instead of a GPS you relied on a street directory to find your way from one point to another or perhaps strip maps from the NRMA or from service stations when going on country or interstate trips.
Motoring in the 1950s and 60s was a real adventure, pulling over at the side of the road for a picnic lunch or perhaps calling into a Greek café on the main street of a country town for dinner. The days before the fast food chains of McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks etc monopolised the trade.
Fond memories? Yes indeed.