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The Sunday Drive

by Eva Pasco

Plymouth ValiantA comment made by my friend Diana during one of our email exchanges prompted me to conjure a ramble about "going for a ride" on Sundays. The carefree cruise referred to as the Sunday drive was prevalent during the Sixties when veering off the beaten path was more of an affordable luxury than it is today with the exorbitant price of gasoline. Riding along in my automobile…Cruisin’ and playing the radio… Chuck Berry’s "No Particular Place to Go" was released in 1964. Highlights of this same year: Lyndon B. Johnson won the presidency in a landslide election against Republican, Barry Goldwater. After three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation originally proposed by his predecessor, John F. Kennedy. Beatlemania and The British Invasion rocked America. Cassius Clay won the Boxing World Heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston.

In 1964, the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour, the average yearly income - $6,000, gas per gallon cost 30 cents, and the average cost of a new car- $3,500. According to Stephen Roedel’s article written for Philadelphia Car Examiner, the ten best styled machines of the decade you might have seen on the road while cruising along a Sixties Sunday drive include: 1960 Chrysler 300F, 1961 Chevrolet Impala "Bubble Top," 1963 Corvette Stingray, 1963 Ford Thunderbird (my heartthrob), 1965 Buick Riviera, 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado, 1968 Cadillac Eldorado,1968 Dodge Charger,1969 American Motors AMX, 1969 Ford Mustang Mach I.

Since my dad liked Plymouths, my recollections of riding along in an automobile, cruisin’ and playing the radio put my sister and me in the backseat of a red Plymouth Valiant or a Plymouth Suburban station wagon. Often the two of us scrambled along the backseat of the vintage autos my father restored where those Sunday drives to nowhere in particular paced themselves to a crawl. Chances are if he didn’t take us to Crescent Park or Rocky Point Park on a Sunday, he’d navigate the narrow, winding, back roads where nary a telephone pole intruded. Many a time he’d pull over into the brush to avoid colliding with an oncoming car in no man’s land. Though our excursions may have meandered through the rural areas of neighboring communities, my sister and I were none the wiser for their proximity to home, so enchanted by our forays into the wilderness.

During the Sixties you could trust your car to the Texaco man with the star who cleaned your windshield, checked the oil, and pumped air in the tires if warranted before you went on your merry way. At 30 cents per gallon for gasoline, the Sunday drive afforded families a cheap thrill before or after stopping for burgers at a car hop, or maybe a sundae at the ice cream parlor. The Sunday drive, a pastime of yesteryear, serves as a poignant reminder that happiness is a journey--not a destination.


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