My husband Rob arrived home in Blackheath with a new car recently and I was slightly taken aback when he said; ‘We could go for a Sunday drive tomorrow if you like.’ I hadn’t heard the expression since my distant childhood. I grew up in rural Tasmania, which I suspect was the true heartland of this gentle leisure activity.
I love (and agree with) this description of a Sunday drive on Wikipedia;
A Sunday drive is an automobile trip, primarily in the United States and Australia, typically taken for pleasure or leisure on a Sunday, usually in the afternoon. During the Sunday drive there is typically no destination and no rush.
Hmm, so it was not universal….that’s a surprise. Didn’t the Brits and the Kiwis potter around country lanes?
The peak of popularity was the post-war forties and fifties, when many ordinary families were able to afford a car. It was on the wane by the mid sixties, and a virtually a pleasure of the past by the seventies. Just too much traffic and too many other things to do.
In the old days there was often a gentle history lesson involved…..
Back in the day everyone had a wool travelling rug (always tartan). Oh yes, and a Box Brownie camera to take the odd black and white ‘snap’ of scenery along the way.
Many cars had a strip of rubber dangling below the chassis, supposedly to avoid travel sickness. Did that work I wonder?
My father’s first motor vehicle was a secondhand green Dodge ute, purchased circa 1959. I hesitate to call it British racing green, but it was! We kids loved to polish it up. Dad affectionately called it The Bus. He taught himself to drive in a paddock, and did not even have to undergo a test. I fear this was always reflected in his driving ability (sorry Dad). He did have the sense to proceed very slowly, which meant there was always a line of frustrated drivers behind us.
In the photo below (the only one I can find) we had actually been to the beach ….a different thing altogether.
On our Sunday excursions we just used to wander around other nearby farming districts, particularly the villages my father remembered from his own childhood; Sprent, Abbotsham, Gunns Plains. A favourite spot was the site of his old home at North Motton, where my grandmother’s roses still flowered beside the only remains……the stone front steps.
There was no problem fitting us all in The Bus, because we kids sat in the back on a makeshift seat, waving to passing vehicles. There weren’t that many, so everyone waved back. If it rained we didn’t go; Sunday drives were for fine weather. Having waited longer than most families to own a vehicle, my siblings and adored these outings. Of course town kids, especially those to whom cars were not a novelty, were less accepting.
One of the children pictured above in the back of our ute was my sister’s schoolfriend Norma Turner Subsequently, Robbie went to stay with the Turners and on Sunday morning Norma confessed very apologetically;
‘I’m sorry Robyn, but we have to go on a drive with my parents this afternoon. It’s so boring……all they do is look at trees!’
It’s a measure of how alien this complaint was to our family that my sister bothered to come home and tell us, and even more so that I have remembered it ever since.
Service stations were just that. Windscreen cleaned, tyres checked….plus oil and water. Sometimes they sold sets of opaque glass coffee mugs, which were of no appeal to my conservative father. There were none of those awful bunches of carnations; everyone grew their own where we lived.
For some reason we rarely visited friends or relatives on our drives, but other people often called on us. We didn’t have a telephone, so the sound of a car crunching up the gravel lane on a Sunday would have my mother flying into the bedroom to put her lipstick on. Sometimes it was a false alarm….the car would be a family of strangers who had meandered into our farmyard in error.
I don’t remember that we ever stopped to buy food or drinks along the way either. Our only purchases would have been local produce from orchards with a roadside stall.
OFF WE GO….
Anyway, I was delighted with Rob’s suggestion and we set off after lunch next day. No shortage of places to go in the beautiful Blue Mountains. Sydneysiders were heading for the Mountains almost as soon as the first motor vehicles were registered.
We decided to wander down to Shipley Plateau, a few kilometres from Blackheath. I even stopped to take a photo.
It was all very nostalgic, especially when we called in to Logan Brae orchard to buy some local apples.
Is it possible to revive the Sunday drive? Well, maybe it is in regional and country areas. I certainly enjoyed ours.
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