Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Car Families

When I was growing up, one didn't usually see as many cars per household as is common today. Many middle class families had just one car, even when another car could have been afforded.

I'm not sure of why this was so, but I would imagine the fact that more women were stay at home mothers back then, plus the fact that people simply stayed at home more had something to do with it. I'm guessing that the biggest reason was that people had a different yardstick of what they really needed as opposed to what was a luxury back then.

And this many times turned into a reasonable amount of inconvenience for many families, particularly the at home mother. In most one-car families, the husband took the car to get to work each morning, leaving the wife stranded at home until he returned, even in areas where public transportation was readily available. This meant that the mother could not go grocery shopping, take a kid to the doctor, or pick them up from school if they got sick there during the day.

We had only one car when my mother was still alive, though I know my Dad could have afforded a second car. However, as a thoughtful husband, he took the bus and later the high-speed commuter train to go to work, leaving my mother with the car for the day. She simply drove him to the bus stop por train station each morning, then picked him up again in the afternoon.
I remember one time when I was nine or ten that I went with her one afternoon to pick him up at the bus stop but he never appeared at the right time. It turned out that he fell asleep on the 20 mile bus ride back home and had ridden past his stop. I don't remember exactly how we sorted it out, but I imagine we just went home and waited for him to call.

I can't imagine one-car households where more than one licensed driver lives anymore -- even poor people now usually have more than one car, even if both of them are old bombs. But if gas prices continue their upward spiral, I imagine we could see this phenomenon again one day soon.

I'd be curious to hear about the experiences of any of my readers who grew up in one-car households.


Jay said...

Interesting ponderings ..

I grew up in a no-car family. We lived in London where public transport was easily available and we used that, and yes, my Mum was a stay-at-home Mum.

We walked to school and to the doctor, went to the dentist by bus, and walked to do the daily grocery shopping. Later when we moved out of London we had a 'company' car which came with Dad's job. We used it for longer trips, but shopping was still done locally and as often as needed.

In those days, quite a lot of small local shops would deliver to your door, too!

Dee Jay said...

My family always had more than one car. When I look back, I am not sure why because my mother never worked either.