As hard as it is to believe these days, when (and where) I was growing up, very few people actually owned cars and those who did were generous with their availability. Dad’s family had owned a car for quite a while when he was young but I don’t know why they sold it. My own family didn’t own a car until I was 20 and throughout the years my father rode his old un-geared pushbike to work in rain, hail or shine. Our family excursions were either bike rides or bus or train trips around the area. Dad worked for the railway so our family holidays didn’t really require a car as we got an annual train pass. On a day-to-day basis, we got around on “shank’s pony” ie we walked and as we lived in a hilly part of Brisbane, that was very good exercise!
Throughout my childhood, my experience with cars was through two sets of neighbours. One family, across the road, got one I think when I was about 10 and they used to regularly drive their daughters and I to Girl Guides, tennis or the library. This is a picture of me standing in front of it…talk about “legs eleven” as in the Bingo call. I’m guessing this must have been about the time that they got the car though I don’t honestly know.
The neighbours down the back used to take us occasionally on longer drives in the countryside. We would have singalongs in the car as we went. One thing that always mystified me (and still does!) is something they’d say every time we crossed a railway line: “rip up the railway line & sack all the men!” Now, why, when they were all railway workers would they sing something like that –sarcasm or wishful thinking, a bit like “when I win the Lotto.” I don’t know why I never asked Dad but it has certainly stuck in my mind across the years.
When we’d go on Guide camps we’d travel in the tray back of a large truck with all the gear, tents etc and again have a sing-along. In retrospect it’s astonishing to think we were allowed to travel like that but I suppose there were a lot fewer cars on the roads.
We got our own first car after we’d been married a year. It was a little Datsun 1200 station wagon which enabled us to take day-trips in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea –not that there were many roads. On one drive up to Daulo Pass we encountered a group of warriors with spears and arrows off for a payback encounter (ie fight with another clan over some real or perceived injury). You might imagine we did not look right or left as we drove past, but were very delighted and relieved when they jogged past us chanting and didn’t look at us!