Back in 1969 my family was growing with my sister April arriving in 1966 and now another baby was on the way. It looked like our family was growing out of our little black Volkswagen beetle. So my dad went out and bought a white VW minibus.
We loved it! We went everywhere in that thing. Everybody picked their favorite seat.
Dad always drove. Mom rode shotgun because she never learned to drive. We all traveled without seat belts back then. I don’t even think the car had them. Crazy by today’s standards. I sat on a little square stool behind my parents and between them so I could be near them and see all of the oncoming action through the windshield.
Janice sat in a seat facing backwards behind my dad the driver. Behind her seat between she and dad was a an elliptical storage hole that held maps and what not.
there was a retractable table that was usually up and April sat back there in the back left corner. I think baby Grace was held in my mothers arms most of the trip. There were no baby seats back then. If we had gotten into a crash the only survivors would have been Janice and April because they stood a remote chance. Me, Mom, Dad, and baby Grace would have all been splattered through the windshield and probably killed.
The Sixties for families back then was like the wild west. But we had no fear. Just laughter and fun trips to the shore and even camping in our cool new family van.
I remember my dad driving down the highway at 70 miles and hour and I would stand up in the back on the floor and act like I was surfing. How crazy is this by today’s standards?
Under Janice’s seat was a portable toilet if we ever needed one for long trips or camping or for whatever else my dad was using the van for. Me sitting on the stool, or as he called it the jump seat, to my right was a cabinet that had a little foldable counter with a sink where you could pump fresh water from! Science Fiction! Under that was a fridge where you could store drinks and whatever else you wanted to keep cold.
This was the perfect family vehicle. And we utilized it to its absolute fullest. Thank you Dad. Perfect choice.
Sure there were the times we’d all be singing 29 bottles of beer on the wall and my baby sister Grace would spew her breakfast into an old cookie can my mom brought for just that reason. Motion sickness. April was usually back there with her to man the can.
“I told you not to give her the goddamn orange juice!” My father would exclaim every time somebody barfed.
“It’s the citric acid!”
I knew full well about puking. I was the king of anxiety, depression, fear and motion sickness. I was just happy it wasn’t me, but I knew it was just the motion. Poor baby Grace.
I remember now driving my own little girl Lorelei to her grandmothers one day and there was some flooding and we were in the car for a long time one morning and she puked all over me when we got there and I had to go to my bank job in Philly and I didn’t even care because I was so familiar with being young and being sick in cars as a kid. I wiped up and was just happy my little girl was okay, but sad I had to leave her. But I knew she was safe in the able hands of her grandmother.
But we had so much fun in that van. As a kid I never realized how a vehicle coud become a fixture in and almost a family member in the family. I’m sure my sisters don’t feel this but if they’re reading this now they will.
The 69 VW was our family chariot. Men get the vehicle thing. Men love cars and think hey can impress girls with great cars. Huge mistake. Girls don’t give a shit about what you drive. That shit stays outside in the car park. You need to be the man to her. If she cares about what you drive she’s a shallow fool. That’s a depreciating asset.
Look at who the man is, who his female friends are, and how he lives his life. Cars don’t mean shit. Just toys that men get off on.
Our VW minibus took us everywhere and comfortably. Air cooled rear engine, plenty of amenities and you could even make the seat in the back pull our into a bed. The German’s that designed this lovely transport thought of everything.
I remember my father told me a story about how he had lunch with a colleague in the van one day. They had picked up some sandwiches and just decided to go stop and have a lunch in a park somewhere. ( I’m sure he was banging her) But today they were just having lunch and a bee had gotten into the van and was buzzing around. There were other cars parked near them and all the other people heard was this:
“Oh my god! get that away from me!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it, dear!”
“Ahhh It’s huge! No stop! Get it away from me!”
“Wait! you’re fine!”
“Nooo! get it away!”
This story was actually told to me by my dad and I got the meaning even at a young age but I knew what he was eluding too and thought it was cool and funny, his bumblebee/penis reference.
I can almost see the faces of the other people parked in their cars eating their lunches and hearing this crazy commotion.
This VW bus was a durable friend. He had installed an 8 track player in the glove compartment. Which I thought was absolutely amazing, because there was no radio in the car. I was astounded how he had this big metal player jammed into the glove box. It was like an added magic aspect to the van.
All we had was vinyl back then but 8 tracks got invented and and somehow music was in the minibus. we had Tommy: The Who, In A Gadda Vida by Iron Butterfly, and best of all a yellow 8 track from the soundtrack from the film; Easy Rider.
I remember my Dad driving the van and me in the passenger seat. No seatbelt, bouncing on the seat and hearing the motorcycles rev after the song The Pusher, and it would go into Born to be Wild and I would just lose my shit.
That music inspired me to become a musician and my love of hard rock music. Born to be Wild is to this day is my go to karaoke song!
There was always music in my house growing up. My Uncle Jack was a music Producer an my dad loved music and my mom came from a family of musicians.
I remember hearing Born to Be Wild for the first time and just knowing I loved furious music that was hardeer and angrier than the lovely Beatles and the psychedelic drone of Iron Butterfly. That was the moment I knew that was the music I need to love and make.
There was a certain fury to that song that I couldn’t get enough of and and it happened with my dad while driving down the road in our 69 camper van.
Euphoria. That music was me.
I remember he took me to the shore in the winter just to probably get me away from my mom because I was such a fuck up.
We were going to hang out at the shore house and go fishing and father son stuff. I didn’t want to do it but when you’re a kid you’re basically a hostage to your parents.
We hung out and fished and his friend Steve was down with his daughter Stacy. Steve was a crazy guy who owned a restaurant with his hot wife and wanted to hang with my dad.
I remember being in the minibus with my dad on the beach. We had a permit to fish. It was cold as hell. I was casting a huge rod and reel trying to catch bluefish. They are fighters of the sea who will straighten our your hooks and chew to shit your steel leaders.
We would use a teaser which is a tiny lure up on the line and then a plug which is the real lure. But what it looks like to a big real fish is a little fish chasing a little fish and sometimes the real fish would hit them both and you’d pull up a bluefish on the plug and a striped bass on the teaser. Insane. That shit really happened.
I was out fishing and catching blues and I was damn cold. We went back to the VW van and it was a warm moment from the cold wind of the vacant North Wildwood beach.
My dad sipped a shot of Remy Martin cognac because he was classy like that but I wouldn’t taste that brandy until years later. He asked me to dig out our permit for fishing.
I’m around 12 or 13 in this moment.
I’m sitting there, wet and shivering and dig through the glove the glove compartment. The 8 track player is already showing signs of salty corrosion.
I come across and envelope and open it and instead of finding our permit, I find naked pictures of his secretary that I know who is his co-worker and friend of our family. She is smiling sweetly with a kerchief on her head an is naked in a bathtub. She’s beautiful.
“Put that away.”
He knows I know from stuff he’s told me. In that moment I kind of wonder why he told me. Why was he always so open with me about his infidelities with mom?
Maybe he always wanted to be honest with me about everything because his father was such a wise bullshiter. His dad was an absent parent that didn’t give a fuck about my dad that loved him so much for no good reason. He just wanted to tell me what was what. I carried that responsibility with me. I couldn’t mention my secret to my sister Janice. She adored my dad. She can’t know he’s a womanizing adulterer.
He went crazy in the 60’s and 70’s and even the 80’s. I met them all. It’s cool. I know my mom knew and he never rubbed her nose in it in proper English fashion.
She was done with him anyway. It had been over in the 70’s and they being Depression babies just didn’t want their kids to be a statistic.
We lived in Philly and we grew up as my parents grew apart but grew together in their agreement to keep the corporation of our family solid.
They did that.
I’m grateful for that to both of them for making that sacrifice for me and my sisters.
The VW Minibus went to Janice in 1978 when my dad got a company car at his new job as a regional manager at a bank in Jersey.
So my parents were basically separated but still together.
He would work at his bank job at the shore and come home on the weekends and give us all greatest hits.
Janice had the minibus. That meant rides to school and runs to Roger Wilco’s in Jersey for 6 packs of Heineken for us. Drinking age back then was 18 in NJ.
The game was changing but my dad’s game was staying the same.
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