Fun By the Truckload

amazing childhood memories about uncomfortable transportation

Mike Paulus

At one time, my entire family could fit into the cab of my dad’s mid-’80s Ford F-150 pickup truck. My dad, my mom, my sister, and myself – all of us nestled in, side by side on the truck’s vinyl-clad bench seat. We actually had a second car, but on long trips – such as the 2-hour drive up to our little cabin in rural Wisconsin – we’d pack ourselves in, slam the door shut, and crank the AC as we roared up Highway 53 (back when it only had two lanes).

Our cocker spaniel Rags was in there, too.

This could not happen today. Hell – I can barely believe it happened then. We are not a family of pixies, taking up petite portions of couch cushions and only the edges of our dinning room chairs. We fill space. We are solid. However, back when it was time to hitch up the fishing boat and pack the back of the truck with suitcases and coolers, we could do it. My sister and I were just kids. And almost all of us were wearing seat belts.

I’m not saying it was comfortable. Or tons of fun. Or emotionally healthy. But it got us where we were going, and it saved on gas.

Yes, I played with the neighborhood kids outside until “the street lights came on” and I used to “drink from the garden hose” and I used to “eat dirt” or whatever nostalgic memories today’s adults like to reference from “the good ol’ days.” I’m happy I did those things, but it doesn’t make me any smarter or better than today’s kids. Like I said, those rides weren’t a ton of fun, but I do remember them fondly. It’s a childhood memory from when I was young enough to have someone watching out for me. My mom and dad took good care of us, and we got to do fun things like to go to a cabin on the weekends, all summer long. It was a fantastic time, and I’m very lucky to have lived it.

My dad drove, my sister sat next to him, then my mom. I sat by the passenger side door – the window seat. I probably started out next to my sister, but when I got old enough to whine my way into almost whatever I wanted, there was no looking back. Not that I capitalized on the gorgeous views of northwestern Wisconsin my seat commanded. I think I spent most of my time listening to my old plastic Walkman with the blue foam headphones.

In the summertime, we’d be headed up to the cabin on Friday night after dad got off work. By the time we got up north, the sky would have turned purple and the nighttime insects would be cranking their incessant buzz into high gear. We’d slowly motor up the grass driveway, and I’d pop open the door so we could stumble out into humid night air, stretching our legs.

Now, I’m not he kind of guy who complains about kids these days with their smartphones and their handheld video game doodads and their Internet tablet pads. I love that stuff. Yes, I played with the neighborhood kids outside until “the street lights came on” and I used to “drink from the garden hose” and I used to “eat dirt” or whatever nostalgic memories today’s adults like to reference from “the good ol’ days.” I’m happy I did those things, but it doesn’t make me any smarter or better than today’s kids.

Adults sharing those kinds good ol’ technology-free memories (um, usually on Facebook) are just lost in nostalgia. And that’s fine, I’m all for it, but you don’t need to use your own childhood experiences as some kind of meter to judge modern kids and parents. Seriously, my grandparents wouldn’t have let my mom do something frivolous like play until “the street lights came on” because a) they didn’t have streetlights on their farm, and b) they had a lot of chores to do. You could play the fond memory game all day until you realize that every generation thinks it had a more valuable childhood than the next. Stop the madness, people.

Let’s just end it right now – let’s all agree that I had the best childhood. Need proof? I was 10 years old in 1985 when the following movies were in the theaters: The Goonies, Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, The Breakfast Club, Rocky IV, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (costarring Tina Freakin’ Turner), a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, Weird Science, Clue, Commando, Rambo II, Real Genius, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, The Black Cauldron and ... Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

I rest my case.

I’m kidding. My point is this – if you’ve got some great childhood memories, just be glad about it. You’re lucky. Don’t use those memories as a reason to complain about something. I’m glad my family (and our dang ol’ dog) had to cram ourselves into a pickup truck for two hours. It’s good memory. But it’s not better than yours.

Seriously though, you can’t beat 1985 for movies, amiright? I’m right.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.