Monday, November 27, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Drive Down Memory Lane: Family Cars

Randy at Genea-Musings issued his weekly Saturday challenge to his readers two days ago. I’m late with my response, but I still want to participate, so here I am.

The challenge was to answer the following question: "Drive down Memory Lane - what were your family cars - from childhood to now, year, model, color, features. Can you remember?”

At first, I didn’t think I’d remember much about our family cars, but after looking at family photos and talking with Mom, my brother, and my husband, I decided to “drive down Memory Lane”.

The earliest memory I have of a family vehicle is of my Dad’s pickup truck. I was young, maybe 7 years old, so it must have been about 1966. I don’t remember any details about it, like the make and model. My only memory is of us four (my parents, my younger sister and I) trying to fit comfortably on the bench seat. I think it was Mom who complained that a truck wasn’t suited to a family.

Yvonne Belair with family members 1967
Summer, ca 1967

The above photo shows my Mom, my grandfather Fred, and my sister and I. Our cousin Pauline is also with us; she’s scrunched in between Marianne and our Pépère. Marianne and I are in dresses and wear light coloured socks and shoes, while Pauline is in a sleeveless dress. The day we took this picture was probably a Sunday, summer of 1966 or 1967. I don’t have a clue where we are, though, or why we stopped to take pictures, but I doubt it was very far from home. (Dad loved home best and didn’t like travelling too far, if he didn’t have to.) We see just a bit of the front of our car in the lower right of the picture, but it appears to be a Ford – maybe a 1965 Ford Galaxie. I don’t remember this car, but Dad liked to change cars every few years, usually getting a lightly used one, so we likely didn’t have this Ford for too long.

Maurice Belair and his father Fred Belair in 1969
Dad and Pépère (1969)

The next car I remember was the one in this photo, taken in the summer of 1969. We had recently moved to Main (now Belanger) Street. I compared our car with ads for the 1970 Ford Maverick released in the spring of 1969 and I think it’s the same vehicle. It was one of the few occasions Dad bought a new car. We still had the Maverick two years later, because Dad and my brother Raymond posed with the car in the summer of 1971.

Maurice Belair and his son Raymond in 1969
Dad and Raymond (1971)

Dad soon changed cars and this time it was a Volkswagen Beetle. (Why get an even smaller vehicle when you have three children, I don’t know.) That car was the first of only two foreign vehicles Dad owned. I can still hear the distinctive sound of that VW when Dad pulled into the driveway all those years ago.

In the winter of 1972, we moved to another part of town, to Maple Street North. I don’t think the Beetle came with us, but I know Dad acquired a Dodge pickup in 1973 or 1974. That’s me holding my little brother on the hood of that truck.

Yvonne Belair with her brother Raymond in 1974
Yvonne and Raymond (1974)

In August 1975, we went to Sturgeon Falls, near North Bay, for the wedding of one of Mom’s Desgroseilliers cousins. We travelled in a roomy car, possibly a 1973 Chrysler Newport. We took photos of ourselves just before leaving for church. Mom told me that she remembers that spacious car, saying how much she thought it was nice.

Jacqueline Belair in 1975
Jacqueline (1975)

The last two vehicles we owned before we moved to British Columbia were Mom’s Duster and Dad’s Sierra. Mom learned to drive when she was a young adult, but didn’t have a licence by the time she was in her 40s. After she got her driver’s licence, Dad bought Mom a Plymouth Duster, 1974-1976 vintage. He was often out of town for work, so that car came in handy. Soon after, Marianne also got her licence and began to drive the car, usually to school.

Plymouth Duster in 1978
Mom's Plymouth Duster (1978)

In the winter of 1977, Marianne drove us to our high school for band practice one evening. Our little brother Raymond sat between us. We entered the school grounds and as we approached a parking space, the car suddenly hit a patch of ice. Marianne stepped on the brakes and I quickly put my arms against Raymond to hold him back. I’m not sure how well I could have held on to my brother (the car didn’t have seatbelts), but the car stopped safely and no one was hurt. That’s the Duster sitting in our driveway in 1978; lots of snow, eh?

While Mom (and Marianne) had a car, Dad had his truck – a GMC Sierra, a 1977 or 1978 model. That pickup was a darn efficient vehicle, because it ran on diesel and had dual fuel tanks. Dad had that truck in late 1978 when he worked in Bracebridge, Ontario. Dad had a serious accident on the job site and was hospitalized for a few weeks. When it was time to come home, he wasn’t strong enough to drive, so Mom drove them back to Timmins in the GMC. She found the eight-hour drive on winter roads nerve-wracking, since she was used to her small car. They stopped overnight in Kirkland Lake at Aunt Madeleine’s house, so that helped her to regain her confidence for the remainder of the drive home. Here’s a photo of Dad with that pickup in Hope, British Columbia.

Maurice Belair with his GMC in 1980
Dad tinkering with his GMC (1980)

After we moved to BC, Dad continued his pattern of getting a used (or occasionally new) car every two or three years. He would drop in at the local dealership, look around, pick a vehicle, arrange the financing, and then come home. It was usually a spur of the moment decision and Mom often didn’t know that he had traded their car. Once home, he’d either walk in the house or call to Mom from the front door, saying something along the lines of “Jackie – come see the nice new car I bought you”. One day I was in the kitchen with Mom when Dad came home with another car. I still remember the eye roll she did and that “he did it again” look on her face. One time Dad brought home a blue-coloured car, because he knew she liked that colour. Mom liked blue for clothes, but not necessarily for cars. I don’t think she ever put Dad in the picture, though.

In the last two decades of his life, Dad bought more vehicles. I remember the 1977 Ford Thunderbird, another Chrysler Newport (1979 model), and a white station wagon (maybe a Plymouth Aries) that didn’t last long, because we couldn’t get used to the red interior. Trucks included a 1981 Dodge Ram Power Wagon (it caught fire and burned about five years later at work up in the bush near Boston Bar) and a Ford XLT (it replaced the Ram). The second and last time Dad bought a foreign vehicle was the silver Hyundai Sonata he got in the mid-1980s. They were very popular at the time and Dad didn’t want to be left behind.

The last car Dad owned was a ’92 Buick Regal in a deep blue colour. Mom and Dad loved that 4-door sedan. They often drove it to Bellingham, Washington (about two hours from Hope) where they liked to play bingo. They usually came back from there with a new batch of stuffed toys they won in those claw grabber machines. Our son Nicholas ended up with quite a collection when he was a toddler.

I’m really glad I decided to go on this memory lane trip. It brought back such wonderful memories of my family, particularly of my late father Maurice, which I’ll always cherish. Thanks for the challenge, Randy!

Copyright © 2017, Yvonne Demoskoff.