Sunday, July 01, 2007

Adventures in the Pie Wagon

by Brenda Roger

I found myself laughing abnormally hard in the middle of a conversation one day; eyes- running-can’t-catch-your-breath hard.

We were talking about a van that my family had in the late 1970s. It was affectionately referred to as “The Pie Wagon.” Yes, as you can see, the outside of the Pie Wagon was a treat, but the inside was where the cool factor really shot up. Being avid do-it-yourselfers, my parents customized the inside themselves. There was a “deck” in the back, which was basically a raised area that ran half the length of the vehicle. That was covered in carpet that was a blend of black and red yarns –snazzy! The walls were paneled and the floors were all covered in the lovely carpet. We had a small refrigerator and ………. an eight-track tape deck. I can still hear the Rita Coolidge songs when I close my eyes. There was one other fabulous element to the décor, but I’m saving that for later.

There were many fine family memories made in the Pie Wagon. I think I was about five or six when it showed up on the scene. You could pile an army into it. We carted around our Springer Spaniel, and two or three of my male cousins (the brothers I never had). We once picked up a lady whose horse had run off on her. I still remember her crouching between the seats with her eyes peeled while my mother raced to catch up with the horse. Once, we were having an impromptu McDonald’s picnic on a summer day, burgers and fries spread out in the back of the Pie Wagon with the double side doors open –then a gift from the universe –my sister sat in ketchup. If you ever met my sister, you would see why this was a gift from the universe.

My favorite Pie Wagon story involves the pièce de résistance of van accessories circa 1979. Way before anyone cared that when you stop fast in a vehicle, small things like children become projectiles, we actually had two bean bag chairs in the back of the Pie Wagon! One day I was innocently cruising along in the back of the PW, sacked out in my bean bag chair, and wham! My Mom had to hit the brakes to avoid a collision and I careened across the carpeted floor in my slippery vinyl blob and did a face plant on the back of the passenger seat. The next day I had a shiner, and my first grade teacher was very interested to hear how it happened. I told her the whole story and I can still remember the look on her face. It was a look that said, “that must be true because no one could make that up.”

Now none of these things that I’ve shared are the reason(s) that I couldn’t stop laughing. I was laughing so hard because part way through the conversation about the PW, I truly wished we still had it!

Do you have any good family car stories?


Anonymous said...

My Dad worked for General Motors and would often take us for Sunday afternoon drives in the assorted company cars he brought home. I remember us piling out of this huge Cadillac, in our T-shirts and shorts, going for ice cream. I wondered what those seeing us thought!

Anonymous said...

Ice cream in a big daddy caddy. What could be better?

Joyce Tremel said...

When I was little, I used to like riding in Yellow Cabs because they had those really cool seats for kids that folded out from the floor.

My Grandpap had a lavender and white Pontiac (not sure what year-50 something) that was very eye-catching.

My first car back in 1975 was a yellow 1965 Mustang. No power steering, no power brakes, but it was cool anyway.

My favorite car was my 1972 Buick Skylark. Ocean blue with a white vinyl top. I drove it to California and back. Sigh.

Anonymous said...


I now have lovely visions of you in a blue car on a blissful road trip.

Annette said...

When I was little, we had a pink DeSoto. Way cool. THAT is one car I wish we still had. It was HUGE. We also had a Nash Rambler. Before that I believe Mom and Dad had a Hudson.

Obviously, my dad had a talent for selecting car companies that would soon be out of business.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a Nash metropolitan!

Anonymous said...

Ah, automotive memories. What fun, Brenda!

My grandfather bought a brand-new bright-blue Chevelle in 1969. He died in 1971, and my mother ended up with it. Unfortunately, Poppy, as we called him, had left the windows down when he went fishing and it rained. The upholstered seats got all musty and smelly. Too bad they didn't make Febreze back in the '70s, because that car was beautiful but stinky.

My hands-down favorite, though, had to be my dad's one-ton, flatbed Ford -- the truck in which I learned to drive, which wasn't a fun experience. It was like driving a tank. You had to start in second gear unless you were pulling something really heavy (like a fully loaded haywagon), because in first gear, it would just spin the tires. The gearshift pattern was huge -- you had to reach all the way into Ohio to find reverse. But once I mastered it, there was nothing like it for sheer size and raw power. Driving it felt empowering, like, "Nobody better mess with me, 'cause I'm gonna kick ass and take names." And surprisingly, it was kind of sexy, too. Remember the line from the Eagles song, Take It Easy? "There's a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me..." :-)

Anonymous said...


You're killing me! You make me laugh out loud!