Long-lost art of the Sunday drive
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.