Monday, August 9, 2010

The Camper

In 1966, Dad bought an aqua-blue Chevrolet Pickup truck, with a standard transmission, a white roof and white stripes down the sides. The white stripes must have been standard on all vehicles in the 1960s, because every car or truck we owned during that era seemed to have them.

When we went for trips in the new pickup, Pat and me sitting in the front seat between Mom and Dad, one of us kids would use the wide metal clip of the seat belt to “shave” the stick shift. We’d slowly move the metal clip across the black ball of the shift, listening to the click, click, click sound and feeling the vibration as we traveled down the road at 40 to 50 miles an hour. At such speeds, no one ever wore a seat belt, or thought of it as anything but a nuisance (if you were Mom) or as an electric shaver (if you were a five-year-old).

Along with the new truck, came a Hiawatha pickup camper. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen. It had its own tiny refrigerator, stove, sink, furnace and even a toilet. The dinette folded down to make a bed for Mom and Dad, and to this day I have no idea how they slept in such a minute space. Pat and I had the best sleeping arrangements; we got the bed over the cab of the truck.

We not only slept there, we played there and when traveling down the road, we laid there on our bellies watching out the front window, a magical land of the unexplored rushing towards us. We waved at every passing motorist and pedestrian who would look our way. Sometimes we wrote up signs to flash at these people, something benign and amazingly original like “hi” or “smile”.

The one rule that Dad laid down for us, the law of the land which we were never to break, was that when the truck was moving the door at the back of the camper was locked and we were under no circumstance to get within three feet of it. The edge of the dinette marked as far as we could go. After that the closet on the left, the enclosed toilet on the right, and the door straight ahead meant certain death, for we were sure to fall out onto the pavement to be crushed by a passing semi if we went near the door when the truck was moving.

Other than that we had free rein within the camper. On rare occasions we’d play cards at the table as we rode down the road, but more often than not, we’d instead crawl to the bed above the cab. To view all the wonders of our world

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