Remembering Station Wagons & Their Back Seats

Many relics from the past tweak our collective sense of nostalgia. And one of them is cramming into the back seats of station wagons.

Nobody condemned parents when they threw a herd of kids into big sedans or wagons and headed off on family trips. The wedge principle applied: Cram enough kids into a back seat and they won’t move. We now live in an age when parents are given lectures about inferior child seats and chastised because they don’t comply with the safety standards on the latest kid confinement device. But for us as kids, we sat, facing backwards, often with the back window open, without seat belts, playing I Spy, 20 Questions, License Plates, Geography, or any number of auto games, bingos, toys or cards. And we definitely invented the “Are we there yet” quote that we hate to hear even to this day.

Vintage Station Wagon
Vintage Station Wagon

Growing up we had many cars, but one of our favorites was the station wagon. In the 70s or 80s we had was the faux-wood paneled Jeep Wagoneer. It was a big, tall, wide and strong car and maybe there was a joke involved when us kids gave her the name, “Bessie” but I can’t remember anymore. What I can remember is that Bessie was with us for what seemed like forever.  She never gave up on us, even when the rust became so bad you could see the ground through if you lifted up the rubber floor mats; And we never wanted to give up Bessie either. You could pack like 20 people into Bessie. Whether it was road trips, car-pooling, trips to skiing in Vermont, she took us there and we always had a lot of fun. When we were old enough, we practiced driving in Bessie because dad said, “If you can drive Bessie you can drive just about anything”. But we never took our road test in her cause parking her often involved a few tries.

In thinking about how long we had Bessie, I listed all the changes to technology that changed while we had her. Bessie started with AM. We added FM, then 8-track, and ended our relationship years into cassettes. Of course, she also had a CB Radio (and took it out when the fad was over). That’s like 20 years or something!

While cars have improved and changed over the years, I still look back and miss Bessie. She was a part of the family and drove us through our childhoods right into adulthood.


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Have any childhood memories of cramming into the back seats of your family’s station wagons? Share your memories with us!

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