by Will Schreiber

Seatbelts and falling out of a Ford station wagon

My great-uncle (and middle-name-sake) lived on a farm in Virginia. He was a dairy farmer. He also collected cars. 240 trucks and 60 cars to be approximate. Here’s a dust-covered Mercury and a Cobra:

Where have all the car designers gone?

The Ford Cobra

My family iMessage (activity soaring during quarantine) blew up this morning with pictures of all these cars that “Uncle P.L.” had collected.

Then my mom, reminiscing about riding around in these old-timey death traps, sent this advertising clipping:

Auto Strap ad

It’s amazing how seatbelts have gotten better over the years, and how ~2 generations ago cars had no seatbelts at all.

Growing up, my Dad always joked about being thrown out of a station wagon. So I texted him to get his full story. This is his response:

In 1963, mom was on her way home to Valley Head from Crestline Village where she had gotten her hair done. We were driving in a 1960 white station wagon. I remember laughing and telling jokes with my mom. We were having fun!  

When we got about halfway home on Old Leeds Road, mom looked down at my feet and noticed that I had no shoelaces in my tennis shoes. I was holding the laces in my hand. She told me to put the shoelaces back in my shoes and so I crawled down onto the floor board (there were no seatbelts in 1963).

About that same time, she went around the last sharp turn on Old Leeds Road. I lost my balance so I reached up and grabbed the door handle for support. Unfortunately for everyone, the handle did what it was supposed to do and opened the door.

In addition to lacking seatbelts, this car also had a design feature that no longer exists of allowing a handle that “pulls out“ rather than “lifts up” to open the door. Since I was grasping onto the handle, I was immediately tossed out of the car onto the pavement. I rolled about 30 yards.

Mom, frightened, put the car in “Park” and damaged the motor. So now we have no car to drive me anywhere for medical care.

Mom picked me up and carried me to the neighbors house but sadly no one was at home. She laid me on a white bench which immediately became soaked in my blood and that is one of the things we always laughed about later. Can you imagine coming home and walking out on your front porch and seeing your white bench now covered with blood and never really knowing what happened!

Anyway, she hurriedly went back out on the street and a nice yard worker came. I remember this man vividly today. He was so kind. He drove us to Crestline where there was a pediatrician named Dr. White.

He sewed up my face (50 stitches) and sent me back on my way.

Making memories.