|Merry Miler Memories
By Laurel Smith (Roadtrip
In the 1970's the standard
family car was a station wagon. Minivans hadn't really been invented and
were a far off dream. My family was on the cutting edge of the minivan
movement. At a time when other families were still driving around in their
station wagons, we had just traded in our wood side wagon for this brand
new, big blue Chevrolet Merry Miler. (I'm the tall one in the picture!).
Ok, so it wasn't a "mini"
van. It was a regular full sized van with a raised bubble top, a cooking
stove, seats that folded down into sleeping areas, curtains for privacy,
and a sink -- kind of like a mini-RV, but without a bathroom. It was bright
blue with a big white stripe down the side to match the huge bubble top,
and a ladder on the back so you could reach the luggage rack. Kids were
not allowed to climb on the ladder, ever. We had a porta potty that we'd
bring along for big trips, but used it only in emergencies!
In the beginning, our Merry
Miler saw more than it's share of Girl Scout camp outs, Indian Guides pow
wows, and school field trips. Then we began our many family road trips.
In those days we didn't wear seat belts, and we were free to move about
On those long road trips,
we would set up the Formica table in the back where my brother and my two
sisters and I played endless hours of Monopoly, Crazy 8's, and drew in
our trip journals.
The very first entry in my
journal included a drawing of our van. (May
I mentioned the Merry Miler
in my journal several times. I can remember riding in it through hot deserts
in Arizona, along the cliffs in California, through hills of Tennessee,
mountains of Colorado, and along beaches in Florida and Texas ...from Disneyland
to Disney World and beyond.
We listened to Mom and Dad
talk to passing truckers on our CB radio. We laughed at our parents' CB
handles that were today's equivalent of a chat room screen name.
Dad was "The Ancient Mariner" (being a former seaman). Mom was "The Blue
Goose" (also the name we gave to our Merry Miler). Once we took Grandma
with us on a long road trip from Memphis to New Orleans to Orlando and
back. Her CB radio handle was "Wild Turkey".
Grandma was so cool.
Sometimes we all slept in
the van using the bunk bed up top and the larger bed made from folding
down the table, and other times we brought along some tents which were
much roomier for our family of six. Rarely did we ever see another Merry
Miler, and never did we see one the same color as ours. I don't know if
she was a one-of-a-kind, but she felt like it to us.
There was no anonymity in
that big powder blue vehicle. Those black
"Merry Miler" decals were unmistakable, and high top roof did not fit into
the garage, so it was always parked in the driveway on display. Of course
it's recognizable attributes had good points as well -- we never had a
problem finding it in even the busiest parking lot. And on the days when
Mom picked us up from school, everyone knew which car was ours.
It didn't even become embarrassing
until we were teens and had to be seen driving around in it. You see, we
all learned how to drive on the Merry Miler, and even drove it during the
road test for our driver's licenses. Several years with four teen-age drivers
were hard on the old gal, and she suffered quite a few dents as a result.
She was always there for us though.
Then there were the farm
days in the later years when we used the old Merry Miler like a truck.
We loaded her full of lumber, or bags of grain.
She pulled our horse trailer full of horses, and dragged a sled full of
hay bales from the pasture. Once we drove home from a cattle auction with
a few young calves in the back seat area. Before our water well was
working, we used to have to haul water out to the barn in big 50 gallon
drums for the horses every day. I guess we hit the brakes too hard and
one of those drums spilled over inside the van which made quite an interesting
event as water spilled out like a tidal wave when the sliding door was
I'll never forget the night
Mom and I parked the Merry Miler next to the barn and camped in it when
my pony was expecting a foal, so that we wouldn't miss the birth.
The Merry Miler took us across
the country and back more than once. She taught us a few lessons and is
a mainstay in my collection of childhood with memories.
Finally, after many years
and thousands of miles, my siblings and I were told to give her a detailed
cleaning in order to put it up for sale. Way back under those seat cushions
we found a couple of tiny plastic Monopoly hotels that had been traveling
around with us from the very beginning. Eventually we sold our van to another
family whom we hoped would love her as much as we had.
It was like saying goodbye
to a very old friend.
~ ..· ´¨¨))
..·´ Road Trip Mom -:¦:-
Smith is a former schoolteacher and mother of three who has logged thousands
of road trip miles both as a kid and a mom. Visit her website for
more than 101 travel games and activities for kids at MomsMinivan.com