Long-lost art of the Sun­day drive

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GRA­HAM ER­BACHER

In younger years, I’m guess­ing, quite a few of us be­longed to ABC Ra­dio’s Arg­onauts club. The show helped spark a cu­rios­ity about the world and a love of travel (or at least read­ing or hear­ing about it), which brings us to right here and now, em­bark­ing on this week’s Travel and In­dul­gence. Travel: the magic com­bi­na­tion of dis­tance plus des­ti­na­tion.

I’m also guess­ing that, back in the day, we were a lot less familiar with planes and ships, and that our most likely travel op­tion was the Sun­day drive. There was a na­tional con­form­ity to the drive. It was on Sun­day; never on a Satur­day. That day was for a prom­e­nade of the shops in the morn­ing fol­lowed by work in the yard, sport or the mati­nee (one shilling; two pic­tures). Sun­day was Sun­day school, a roast lunch and then, midafter­noon, the drive.

We piled into the Holden sta­tion wagon, Mum declar­ing brightly that this was far bet­ter than “star­ing at four walls”. Dis­tance and des­ti­na­tion didn’t mat­ter. Some­times it was pop­ping into the rel­a­tives, alive or dead (the ceme­tery), but of­ten it was just a trip around town, stop­ping only for an ice-cream. The most we could hope for in War­wick, Queens­land, was a house on the move on the back of a truck or a new ad­ver­tis­ing sign on the high­way (sight­ings that were rare).

My fa­ther wor­shipped the wagon; it was his “tin god”, Mum as­serted. This ruled out fight­ing with my brother in the back seat. Dad had the deft abil­ity to change gears, steer and en­force peace be­hind him, not so much out of a love of har­mony but to en­sure the up­hol­stery was not scuffed. In the name of a tidy in­te­rior, it was not frowned on to toss a lolly wrap­per from the win­dow, but th­ese were days be­fore en­vi­ron­ment took a “the”. Home again, a sim­ple Sun­day tea (cheese mac­a­roni, spaghetti from the can), Dis­ney­land (pray let it be from any land but To­mor­row­land; noth­ing in­struc­tional), early to bed.

In later years, my par­ents, re­tired to the Gold Coast, would go on their drives, a favourite one be­ing down through the Tweed, where once stood tick gates, to Kingscliff. They’d park on the beach­front but face the shops op­po­site and in­dulge in the gen­tle art of peo­ple watch­ing — a joy of travel, but a whole other sub­ject.

What killed the Sun­day drive? The oil shock of the 70s put paid to friv­o­lous mo­tor­ing; dereg­u­la­tion per­mit­ted shops, cine­mas and pubs to open on what was now called the “con­ti­nen­tal Sun­day”; sport be­came more timetabled; the one-car fam­ily started buy­ing ve­hi­cles for all; and to­day, good luck herd­ing cats in the dig­i­tal age.

Af­ter a life­time of work­ing Sun­days, I thought a morsel of na­ture or nur­ture had van­ished. But in later years I have felt the tug. Mid-Sun­day af­ter­noon, I’m tired of star­ing at four walls, need a trip to nowhere and an ice-cream. Can some­one tell me when, pre­cisely, do we be­come our par­ents?

Su­san Kuro­sawa is on as­sign­ment.

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