February 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment




There existed a tradition back years ago that has not survived to the present, at least not to the extent that it existed back then – the Sunday drive.  With today’s complex society and fast-paced lifestyles, to say nothing of gas prices, no one just drives for the sake of driving, unless you’re a teenager with a brand-new car.  Every time you get in the car there is a definite destination at the end of the trip.  But when I was a kid, many times the trip would start at home and finish at home with nothing in between except burning gas.

On Sunday afternoons my family would pile into the old Chevy and off we would go, unencumbered by seat belts, piled high with blankets if the drive was during the winter – which was rare.  The blankets were necessary because, back then, heaters were an option and our Chevy was a bare-bones model.  The route we took was more or less the same every week.  It got to where I would know when my father would turn, when we would change lanes, never straying from the usual Sunday afternoon course.

We would leave our house in the city and venture out into the ‘country’.  For me, the country was anywhere where the houses did not sit one beside the other, places with lawns and an occasional open field and a total lack of any kind of industry.  On our journey we would go, past housing developments and until finally sighting an open field or pasture. We would journey down roads bordered by store after store, but being Sunday, many of the stores were closed.  The only stores open for business were grocery and drug stores.

You see, these were the days of the ‘blue laws’ in New Jersey.  On Sunday, there were certain items you could buy and certain items you couldn’t.  For example, you could buy food but not any type of clothing.  We had these huge Wal Mart type stores that sold everything, the section that sold food was open but there were ropes across the aisles that sold clothes.  This could be the reason for Sunday drives!  You see malls did not yet exist – and if they had most of the stores would be closed or at least partially roped off.  We all know, especially those of us lucky enough to have teenagers, that the mall is The Destination.  There were also small shore communities that would, on Sundays, put sawhorses across the streets leading into town.  No cars allowed on the streets on Sunday.

Our journey would last long, hours, but they were never far.  My father was the opposite of a lead-footed driver.  He was more of a feather foot.  It was before the interstate highway system came into existence, so speedy travel did not exist as it does today and my father was not a fast driver.  There were times we would take a ride ‘down the shore’ towards Asbury Park.  My mother would pack a lunch and halfway there we would pull over onto the shoulder and eat, then continue on our trip.  When I was older, and started to drive, I would retrace this journey and it would take me less than an hour.

There was, however, one detour that we kids loved. On our Sunday drives, we would occasionally make a stop at the doughnut man’s bus.  This was before there were any doughnut store chains.  This made the outing a great joy for everyone. The man had bought a school bus and converted it into a mobile doughnut shop – complete with cooking facilities.  He parked his brown and white school bus on the shoulder of a four-lane highway – always the same place of course – and sell doughnuts, either plain or powdered sugar.  How we kids loved those doughnuts, most of the time still warm.  One of the kids would get out with mom to go up to the window to make the doughnut purchase. If he saw a kid, he would present the buyer with a bag of doughnut pieces – mistakes that occurred during the doughnut making.  And of course the bag of doughnut pieces was free.  I know people like that still exist.  Business people whose bottom line is to see a child’s eyes light up, but they are few and far between.

The other destination that might be visited was the driving range.  This stop I could never figure out – not to this day.  Here was my father, a toggler in a tannery, who to the best of my knowledge, had never even been on a golf course, stopping to hit some golf balls.  I never even saw my father play miniature golf, but there were the Triznas at the driving range hitting buckets of balls.  I of course would aim for the jeep driving around with its protective cage gathering the golf balls, later on I actually would hit for distance.  I can’t remember how long our driving range phase lasted, a few months, maybe a year, but it soon slipped into the past.  As we got older we kids played miniature golf.  But after our driving range phase was over, my father did not pick up a golf club again.

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February 2010

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