Nancy Roman

Riding In The Car With Daddy

When I was a kid, my father liked to take us all for a ride in the car.

Gas was cheap then.

We’d drive up to the airport and watch the planes take off. That was exciting in the fifties. None of us thought we would ever get in one.

Sometimes we’d go out after a big rainstorm looking for huge puddles to drive through. Or we’d drive out to the countryside and count cows.

On a summer evening, if we spotted a searchlight, we’d go track it down. Somehow this was fun.

Every week after Church, we’d go to Sunday Dinner at my grandparents’. My mother’s parents were immigrants from Poland – my Babci and Dziadzi (“bah-chi” and “jah-ji” for those who need a phonetic hint.)

They lived in a cold-water, toilet-down-the-hall, tenement in the Polish enclave in New Britain, Connecticut. But I loved their apartment–the wringer washer, the treadle sewing machine, the clock that ticked awesomely loud, the exotic smells of Polish food–none of which I touch at that age. And of course, there was the fact that my Babci bought us comic books and Hershey bars.

The drive to Babci’s didn’t take long, we only lived about ten miles away. But to me, the ride was endless.

We all had our places in the car. Daddy drove of course, and Mom was shotgun. My two older sisters each got a window in the back seat. They got along pretty well, but not in the car. Nobody got along well in the car. I don’t know why Daddy liked piling us in there so much.

My baby brother sat between my sisters. There were two reasons why he got this spot. First, my sisters needed a fence. And second, neither of my sisters would sit near me.

That left the spot between Daddy and Mommy. This was back in the days of bench seats and no seat belts. I was a skinny thing, and fit in between them quite nicely. I loved being close to them. I thought this was the princess seat. My mother thought of it as insurance that I wouldn’t act up.

There was a huge drawback in the princess seat. My Dad’s cigar.

I was prone to car-sickness. I inherited that tendency from my mother. I remember my little brother calling excitedly from the back seat, “Look, Mommy, look!” and Mom answering, “Tommy, I can’t look at you. It makes me sick.” That made us girls happy for a very long time. (It still makes me happy, just thinking about it.)

Well, I was car-sick pretty much all the time. My father would break out the cigar at the same time he turned the key. This may have had something to do with being the Man. The car, the cigar. It’s what daddies do.

Ten miles was about my limit.  I would be pretty woozy by the time we hit New Britain. You can see by the picture above that I was a little grayer than everyone else.

If we went further than ten miles, my father usually had to stop the car so that I could throw up.

Motion Sickness is something most kids outgrow. But not always. I threw up on a business trip.

Reverse is hard for me. Just getting out of a long driveway can be a problem. My husband warns me, “Hang on for one more second.”

Looking back on those nausea years, you may ask why we never just asked Daddy to put out the cigar.

It never occurred to us.


  1. Love the picture. I am jealous of you and your ‘princess seat’ – cigar aside it sounds like you got the best deal!


  2. bigsheepcommunications

    Dramamine was my best friend in the car when I was a kid. As for my sister, not so much (“she’s looking at me” “stop looking out MY window” ….) Next time I talk to my dad, I’m going to thank him for not smoking cigars!


    • “Stop looking out MY window!” Oh yeah! It’s a miracle my parents didn’t kill us.


  3. And I thought we were the only family that drove to the airport to watch planes take off and land! Another lovely post that brought back some great childhood memories – thanks, Nancy.


  4. I had the backseat behind my Dad, who chain-smoked at the time. I complained often about the wind in my face from the open window, but never the smoke. It was so normal back then. Love that picture, by the way!


  5. “Are we there yet?” That was one of my favorites. As the youngest, I always got the princess seat too. My favorite memory was the Sunday afternoon drive which was capped off with a stop at an ice cream stand. My heart still flutters when I see an ice cream stand. My dad didn’t smoke cigars but he did roll his own cigarettes. I thought that was awesome. Now I can’t stand to be in the same building with a smoker!


    • Yes, we stopped for ice cream once in a while. Dad loved ice cream but money was sometimes very tight. What a treat! My husband and I still go out for ice cream. One of my favorite pasttimes.


  6. With us, it was the baby in front and four piled in the back. My father smoked cigarettes. The smell always made me feel yucky, especially being stuck in such close quarters. I didn’t exactly get car sick but I felt for SURE I would never SMOKE. I smoked for about 25 years starting in my late teens. Didn’t see that coming. Quit about 20 years ago. Hardly anyone smokes now. Thank goodness. Funny thinking back at all the rules we didn’t care about that we can get ticketed for now.

    Good walk down memory lane.


  7. I have very little recollection of childhood car rides, since I was drugged to the gills with Dramamine the whole time. To this day, if I’m riding with friends, they automatically give me the shotgun seat because they know riding in the back seat makes me queasy. For some reason, if I have a clear view out the windshield, I’m fine. Sometimes carsickness works for you. 🙂

    I think your adventures with your Dad sound wonderful. What great memories!


  8. Whenever we started fighting in the car my Dad started saying the Rosary. Out loud. Very slowly!!! LOL.


    • Oh man, when the praying starts… WATCH OUT!


  9. Susan Ritchie

    Goodness, do I remember the cigars – not just your fathers, but Uncle George’s too! That haze that hung over every thing we did when we were kids. You’re right, it never occured to any of us to ask them to not smoke them. I remember going with you a couple of times to New Britian. My Daddy liked rides also – for some reason he like to take me out to the Thomason Dam when they were building it…… fathers can be funny like that sometimes . How about hot summer nights – riding out to Robarge Dairy for ice-cream! There was no better place than that for ice-cream and sitting under all those tall, big trees to cool off.


    • They had GREAT ice cream! And if we were feeling really rich (maybe once a summer) I could have a chocolate milk shake.


  10. pharphelonus

    So funny. Did he only smoke them while driving?


  11. No, he’d often have one at home in the evening too. But the house wasn’t bouncing around with no fresh air… so I didn’t usually puke.


  12. Dor

    A grand post! It’s full of your memories, and some of mine too. Thanks so much for sharing.


  13. Ooh, I HATE cigars. Any time, any place. My eldest sister was on a train (in the non-smoking car) when a man with a big cigar sat next to her. She politely reminded him that it was a non-smoking car, and when he wouldn’t put it out, she puked on him. That’s what i ALWAYS want to do. 🙂


    • My father always managed to stop the car before I let go. It never seemed to bother him much. He was the most good-natured person I ever met.


      • Oh, I didn’t mean anything against your dad; he sounds wonderful (‘cept the stogie). I think there is something about people who are always around certain smells that they like that they just don’t notice them — think heavy perfume, cigarettes, garlic.

        I’ve ready your dad stories and he sounds sweet.


  14. Chris

    Driveways too? So it’s not just on Metro North that you can’t go backwards? I won’t complain next time we search all over for a front-facing seat since I don’t want you to lose your breakfast!


  15. Those bench seats were great weren’t they? Nice for older kids, too, when your boyfriend parked the car… I remember going to London Airport as a child and going up to the viewing terrace where you could watch the planes flying in and out. We thought that was so cool. Imagine being allowed to walk through an airport today onto the roof to watch planes…you’d be arrested in no time.


    • There was an observation deck at the Connecticut airport too. It was very exciting. And folks who did fly never arrived without a whole crowd to welcome them.


  16. As a kid, I was carsick all the time. I have a vivid memory of throwing up in the supermarket after enduring a 2 minute car ride.


    • It sounds like you were just as much fun as I was. And how about amusement parks? Pure torture.


  17. We did many of the same things your family did–drove to the airport to watch planes take off and land, went for Sunday drives to visit relatives or take in the country-road sights, stopped for ice-cream when dad and mom had enough money for six cones (which didn’t happen often but was such a treat for us when they did), and fought over who was looking out whom’s window! Good times! Thanks for bringing back the memories.


  18. “Tommy, I can’t look at you. It makes me sick.” Hilarious! I would’ve loved for my mother to say that (except mean it the way I wanted her to) about my brother.

    I feel for the motion-sick people, though I’ve never been one of them. I was more the kid who would ride the merry-go-round through a thousand rotations until my brain turned to mush.


  19. I always say, “It makes me sick,” even though it really doesn’t. I have been blessed with no motion sickness, which makes me the go-to adult for roller coasters whenever we end up at amusement parks. I refuse to keep looking in the back seat at something trivial, though, when I’m trying to read a book.


  20. The smell of cigars makes me sick whether I’m moving or not.


  21. Ruth

    OMG, does this bring back memories…except it was my bachelor uncle’s car since my folks couldn’t afford one early on. He had the factory installed “bubble plastic” installed knowing he’d be chauffeuring 5 brats around (who, like you said, became instant enemies once inside a vehicle!). I remember infrequent trips to the new drive in restaurant in town – McDonalds and being thrilled when the AM radio magically cut out when we were under bridges. And the constant nagging by my dad to “look at the scenery” – WHAT scenery! But of course, now, that is one of my favorite things to do…thanks for the great memories!


  22. And my mothers outstretch right arm was my seat belt……


  23. RVingGirl

    loved this post and all the comments. It does bring back memories. Kids now-a-days, have cell phones, ipads, dvd players and all sorts of gadgets to keep them busy. They wouldn’t even notice the cows, planes or anything. ha!
    Once when I was 5 years old, I fell out of the car while dad was driving a bunch of us kids. With all the noise, he didn’t notice for awhile. About another mile or so down the road he noticed and one of my darling siblings said, “Oh Helen fell out a while back” He turned right around and there I was on the side of the road, absolutely fine but a bit put out….ha ha


  24. I just love your sketches! I’ve never been one to be car sick, but a cigar makes me sick ANYWHERE.
    and I can totally understand that no one ever thought to ask your Dad to put out the cigar.


  25. Kathy

    I love this post. I found your blog by way of “Ramblings and Rumblings”. My dad, too, used to pile us (up to six kids by the 60s, but those drives were history by then!) in the car for “drives”. I cannot imagine the reason for this – it must have been what parents were expected to do in the 50s. We were not beautifully well behaved children! (Although I do have a memory of us resoundlingly singing “Davy….Davy Crockett, king of the wild fronteir, while driving through a mountain range!) Ah….memories.


  26. Hee hee! Great images in your words and drawings! On snowy, icy Sundays in winter, on the way home form church, Dad liked to find an empty parking lot and spin the car around for a while. TERRIFIED me.



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