In 1966 my dad bought a Volkswagon bus. My mom was surprised when he drove it home- she didn't really care what kind of car he bought but she knew she'd have trouble getting into the bus wearing a skirt. It was a convertible, not one of those small sun roofs, it was a full fledged, canvas, push it all the way back, convertible roof. It made sense for them to buy this, they had six small children and…well, it was a convertible 1966 bus- I’m not sure how many more reasons you need.
I remember as a child growing tall enough to stand on the back of the middle seat and being able to peer over the edge of the roof as we drove. No more than my eyes, the top of my head and two tiny hands were visible, I was a living, mobile “Kilroy Was Here”. My oldest brother would hold my youngest brother as we drove so he could see. I don’t recall there being many safety rules for the kids in the bus. We weren’t allowed to throw stuff out of the roof but other than that it was pretty much anarchy. The unwritten rule was that if you could jump up to the edge of the roof and hang there by your armpits with your legs dangling, you were allowed to ride like this.
People would always smile and wave at us as we drove by. It must have been an odd sight to see 6 children’s head peering out of the top of the roof as it drove down the street. We would wave back and smile. Every trip to the grocery store or to go swimming was a parade.
Continued February 15, 2007
We drove this car 2 days to Harwich Port in Cape Cod. It seems insane now but my parent, their 6 kids, my Aunt and her 4 kids piled into the VW bus and drove for two days to the small beach house we rented. I can’t imaging driving that far with 14 children under the age of 10 in one car. The middle bench seat was removed so that all the kids could find a little piece of floor to sit on. Armed with only an AM radio station and our best singing voices we set out to travel the eastern half of the U.S.. My dad was adament about us going to the beach, years later he explained that the first time he had seen the ocean was when we was in the army, he wasn’t going to let that happen to his kids. We made this trip for 3 or 4 years. I wrote about having a family re-union this summer at Harwich Port- we all flew, I don't recall the flight.
My parents bought a new car for the family in the mid 70's, a green station wagon. The bus became the "kid’s car", which, of course, is the kiss of death for any car. Everyone learned to drive a stick on that car(except me and my little brother) and it passed from 16 year old to 16 year old. The interior showed signs of wear, burns from careless cigarettes and new found teenage freedom. Whenever you made a sharp left turn the passenger door would fly open. It must have seemed odd to any newcomer in the car. It wasn’t even mentioned, the door would fly open at 50 miles an hour, reach out and pull it shut, no need to comment on it. We had to give it a little push to get the running start. It finally died in the early 80’s and was sold, unceremoniously to a man whose name I don’t even know.