I remember growing up, dad was always a bit of a square peg. (and I loved him for it!) One such time, we were spending a typical day shopping – mom going through Sears (back when it was still coupled with Roebuck), dad stuck watching me and my brother. Poor dad. So dad heads for the electronics department.
We’d recently gotten a new blue Ford van to replace the old white one that finally needed to go. My dad opted for the latest in technology and had it fitted with a brand spanking new stereo 8-track player!!! (everyone can ooooo and ahhhh now! Yeah, I know – I’m old!) He didn’t opt for much else.
Dad didn’t have any 8-track tapes. So we get to the electronics department and lo, there is a bounty as good as gold to an eclectic man on a school teacher’s salary, that just spent most of his money on a new van and has to also pay to feed two kids! An 8-track bargain bin!!!!!!
So as my brother and myself look about the various gizmos and gadgets doing our best to behave (and no doubt failing miserably), dad scours the pile of fools gold. He came out with three tapes that day:
Roger Whittaker – All My Best
- The Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen
(a bluegrass album they did produced by Chet Atkins)
- Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (pre-1968 ‘hits’)
Now mind you, I already eluded that this was back when 8-track tape players were considered ‘new’ technology. And since the tapes were in a ‘bargain bin’, most of them were old titles already. The Neil Diamond ‘hits’ album for example had all the old classic hits (including his own, original version of I’m a Believer and even a few covers like his version of the Gary U.S. Bonds New Orleans and the song Hanky Panky with the girls at the beginning begging him to ‘do it, do it!’)
Over the next half-a-dozen years, those three tapes got burned into my brain every summer when we would make the four hour trip ‘up north’ to the Canada Creek Ranch (where my parents are currently retired – CCR is a property owners association for hunting/fishing/camping)
I never once hated any of those songs and have a copy of Pass the Chicken and Listen as well as a few of those old Neil Diamond and Roger Whittaker tunes in my mp3 collection.
Oh I don’t believe in ‘if’ anymore…..
A few interesting asides about the ole blue van:
- The van itself was kinda low-frills. It had a plastic covered floor that we of course threw mats on top of, and nothing but a white paneled fiberboard ceiling with alternating rows of punched holes. My brother and I figured out on one of those four hour trips that if you hung your head back over the (vinyl) seats and stared at the dots, over time your two eyes would confuse the dots and little by little it would look like the ceiling was coming closer and closer to your face. Funny, because this is the same method modern ‘stereogram’ images use, yet I can’t seem to get any of them to resolve for me.
- It was one of those vans with the little fold out windows in the back that opened no more than about 2″. This made for an interesting dilemma the time that dad’s friend Bob discovered completely by accident that the coffee candies he brought along for a fall hunting trip created the most devastatingly putrid farts you have ever smelled in your life! To this day, nothing has ever topped those coffee candy farts and I think I still have an impression in the side of my cheek from the metal frame of those fold-out windows as I tried desperately to fit my entire face through that 2″ opening for fresh, unspoiled air to breath!
- I picked up a number of behaviors – either through genetics or proximity – from my father. One of my father’s typical things was a ‘knee-bob tick’ when he was idle. He’d sit reading a book or a magazine and he’d start bounding the heel of his foot causing his knee to bob up and down. I do similar things. Many a time while riding shotgun in the blue van, I’d dangle my foot down inside the step rail of the passenger’s side door but since my foot was dangling I’d twisted it left and right instead of bobbing it up and down. Often I’d ever-so-lightly touch the inside edge of the step rail’s metal side creating the slightest little *tunk tunk tunk tunk* sound. As with my father, I was seldom aware when I was doing it. This gave poor old dad many a gray hair as he would suddenly become aware of a slight ‘tunking’ sound and strain to hear if the engine was missing or something else in the engine or drive train had gone awry.
- Although we were still quite young, as the van got older we were often allowed to drive it down the two tracks at CCR. So although we seldom went faster than 10 miles per hour while out deer spotting prior to hunting season, both my brother and myself essentially learned to drive in the ole blue beast. This was, of course, before the days of adjustable steering wheels and those old vans had almost a bus’s angle on the wheel – which was a good thing because as a no-frills package it also had no power steering! Also, being an automatic transmission, one of the nice things was that at idle, it would generally go that 10 miles per hour without touching the gas at all — which was great for a 11-13 y.o. something as you only had to worry about steering and when to apply the break. (and when driving on a two track, you often didn’t have to worry about the steering part either)
I could probably write 100 of these, so I’ll leave it at that. Of course the 8-track as well as that trusty old Ford van eventually became relics. But a few years ago I chased down the CD release of the Everly Brothers album for my dad’s new Dodge pick-up that he had equipped with a CD player! (although it’s now available through Amazon and others, at the time I had to order it all the way from Great Britain!)
(the pic is just one I found on the web of a similar van. I’m going to see if I can get mom do dig out one from her albums to post later – if this disclaimer is gone, it’s will be a real pick of the ole blue beast)