Fighting in the back seat with my sister

Young adults seem to have a lot of freedom, these days. I recently spoke to a good friend whose son traveled across Europe this summer. Our second child, Ethan (just 26 years old) and his wife took a vacation to Jamaica last week. My niece and her husband just spent a year in China.

A topic on the radio a few weeks ago was about the number of high school and college age young adults (it’s hard for me not to call them kids) getting their passports to travel overseas.

I was 34 years old before Connie and I flew in a plane for the first time. 

Connie and I were married for 12 years before we took our three children on a road trip out of the state of Missouri to Florida and Walt Disney World. 

Prior to that trip we vacationed the same places I did as a young boy; camping at Pulltite, Johnson Shutins, Alley Springs and other primitive campgrounds in the Ozarks.

Our first vacation out of the state of Missouri as a child was also to Walt Disney World.

That trip to Florida was memorable. My little sister, Denise and I sat in the back seat of dad’s Plymouth Fury III. That was a big car, but somehow the back seat wasn’t big enough for the both of us. Know what I mean?

To me there has never been anything that can distract a driver more than two, or more, fighting children in the back seat of a car. Cell phones may be a distraction but it doesn’t make your blood pressure go up at the same time.

To keep the peace mother helped us play games like car bingo and keeping track of all the different state license plates we could see. We also had a magnetic chess set. 

These lost our interest after a few hours.

Another thing I remember about that trip, we were traveling about 80 mph down the interstate when a Volkswagon Beetle passed us. Dad was not happy. The Fury had a big 383 cubic inch engine. Maybe we were going down hill.

In 2002 when it was our turn to travel those same roads to the great state of Florida I was not going to allow the same mistakes to happen to us. 

To make it easier I had two advantages my parents didn’t have. First we had, thanks to Lee Iacocca and the Chrysler Corporation, a mini van, specifically a 1995 Plymouth Grand Voyager purchased from Jack’s Auto Sales in Steelville.

There was no way I was going to travel that same trip with three children in the back seat of a car that wasn’t big enough for two.

The Voyager had two bucket seats in the second row. Perfect to separate Jacob and Ethan. Our daughter Abigail was relegated to the third row way in the back. Don’t feel sorry for her. She enjoyed having the big back seat all to herself, plus she was relatively free from harassment by her brothers.

That was our first mini van. We’ve owned one ever since. It keeps peace in the family.

Now that we had an improved seating arrangement for the 20 hour road trip I just needed some better entertainment. Today you can purchase a mini van or SUV with built-in DVD players, screens and ear plugs for each passenger in the back seat. 

The first portable DVD player was introduced by Panasonic in 1998. But, like all new technologies it was expensive. That money was needed for tickets to Walt Disney World.

I found another way.

A week before the trip I setup our small hand held video camera on a tripod in front of our 24” RCA color TV and recorded the three original Star Wars movies for the boys and a couple other Disney movies for Abby. This was done at night, after the kids went to sleep to minimize ambient noise.

On the trip we set that same video camera on a tripod between the middle seats and set it to play.

To keep the sunlight from hitting the screen the children hung blankets over the side windows and then hunched over as much as they could to watch a movie on a 2x4 inch screen

Looking back, it’s funny how my life has mirrored that of my parents, especially concerning vacations and car brands.

When your children or grandchildren start complaining in the car you can tell them they have it lucky. They could have to watch movies on a video camera’s monitor like the Warden children did.

I doubt if they could even fathom an era like the 70’s when entertainment in the car consisted of magnetic chess and car bingo. I still have that old chess set. It brings back memories of fighting with my sister in the back seat of a purple Plymouth Fury III.

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