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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: July 12, 2018

Vehicle Travel



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



Recently someone sent me a photo of a "child seat" from the late ൺs. It was a flat bottom, flat backed L shaped seat " with the sides of the seat and back support a piece of metal tubing turning backward at the top of the seat so you could hang it over the back of the front seat of the car. (Probably wouldn't have worked on the back seat.) It had a plastic crotch strap and a rudimentary plastic strap to go around the little one's waist, most likely to discourage them from climbing out. It would have done little or nothing to protect a child in a serious crash, but kids probably loved it because they could see out the windows better and if Mom was driving, it freed her hands to focus on the road. I think I remember seeing my little brother in one of these seats in the big blue boat of a car my Mom got when my Grandpa T. quit driving.

Contrast that with today's car seats. They are scientifically designed to protect infants and toddlers depending on their specific needs at different ages and weights. There is no doubt they save the lives of thousands of our treasured children since they became required by law. And the danger is real " one of my husband's childhood friends lost a sibling as a toddler " the child was standing up on the seat of the car - (something that at one time was common) and when the accident occurred, he was thrown forward and killed. The drawback of well-designed modern car seat protection is it makes the seats bulky and hard to move from vehicle to vehicle. When my granddaughter was born, I believe it resulted in five different car seats being bought (nearly all on the used market,) both sets of grandparents, one for each of the parent's cars, and one for a close-by aunt. It's just too much of a hassle to move seats from car to car, so everyone who transports the little doll got their own seat.

That all made me remember how uncomfortable traveling by car or truck used to be. Trucks, of course, were not the "cowboy Cadillacs" they've become with car-like amenities. They rode rough and had rudimentary provisions for passenger comfort. And the cars of my childhood were not much better. On hot days, you rolled down the windows " fine for the person next to the window, but for the person seated behind them, it meant a strong blast of hot air that was often pretty uncomfortable. The heater was equally uneven, with cold feet in the back seat and hot toes in the front.

Some cars had an AM radio; some none at all. Entertainment was talking, fighting with your siblings or looking out the window. If you were little, maybe you couldn't see out the window at all. It was unheard of to bring drinks or food in our family car until my brother negotiated an exception for his mason jar of water on long trips. (Before McDonald's introduced the game-changing concept of getting food to eat in your car while you were in motion, you stopped to eat. Even at the A & W restaurant I car-hopped at, people parked their cars and turned off their engines while they ate off the little tray I attached to the driver's side window.) Now our truck has four designated drink holders and two more that are useable in the front door map pockets.

Getting a flat tire used to a pretty common occurrence. By the time I could drive I knew how to change a tire by myself; and had already done it unassisted before I had been driving a year. Not sure if tires are better or the roads are better now. Cars in general were not as reliable as most of them are today. And if your car broke down, you walked to a house to call for help, since no one had cell phones.

I remember getting into some difficulty coming home from Peshtigo with my sister one Sunday afternoon and being happy that the car stopped by the house of someone we knew from church, guaranteeing us a safe place to knock on the door.

Now all the kids have video screens in the cars or personal devices to entertain themselves. Cars have sound systems that can play music on demand by verbal command. Seats are both heated and in some cars cooled. (Our truck has this feature. While it came in handy in blisteringly hot Oklahoma, it always makes me feel like my pants are getting wet. I don't like the peculiar feeling so I don't use it much.)

And overall, vehicles seem more reliable. There are ever-increasing numbers of safety features, and no doubt most of us know someone who is alive due to these features. I have seen cars and trucks that are so mangled I think only God saved the passengers " but he receives assistance from the side and front impact airbags, crumple zone front and rear ends, and seatbelts.

It pays for me to remember these things since I still really don't enjoy long car rides. But remembering how things were in our family VW beetle with 3 or 4 kids rumbling down the road to see the cousins in Monroe, jammed into the back seat knowing my dad would refuse to stop unless it was an emergency; reminds me I have it pretty comfortable now.

Barb from Marinette: Thanks for the suggestion about the problem of the bird fighting its reflection in the car windows " he has moved on to new targets, apparently, but I'll try your idea if he comes back!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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