Caravan Adventures – 70s style

It’s Flashback Friday over at Voicesof2014 and this week’s prompt ‘holidays’ had me rummaging around in my storage room for old photo albums. You may have seen a photo album at your nan and pa’s house – it’s kind of like a huge digital photo frame, but instead of the photos scrolling endlessly over an LCD screen, they’re stuck in a big, bulky spiral bound book under yellowing, striped plastic film. I know, right, so twentieth century!

I digress…. back to holidays. In my childhood, there were two types of holidays, fun-filled summers at Rosebud (totally awesome) or family car and caravan trips around the vast spiderweb of Victoria’s roads in the other school holidays. We went to Little Desert, Swan Hill, and loads of other places that have congealed in my memory into one long car trip, with endless fights over who was causing the most havoc in the back seat of the Kingswood, who got to ride up front in the bench seat, jammed between mum and dad, and how long until we got there.

I found this absolute gem of a holiday snap in one of my old albums.



As I recall, we were driving along happily, when the van started to swing strangely behind the bronze workhorse that was my dad’s beloved Kingswood. Snap, the axle went! Expletives from dad, I’m sure of that. He managed to pull over without rolling the van or killing all of us, quite a feat – and whipped out his mobile and we were back on the road in 45 minutes.

Not likely! This was the 70s my friend, where when you broke down on a country road, you had to wait around on the verge like a beatnick hitchhiker for a car to come by, flag that car down, ask them to call the RACV and then wait for help to come. So there we were, stranded by the side of the road, probably for several hours.

Apparently, we were west of Donald (I dunno – Google it) and can’t now agree on whether we were going to a destination, maybe Echuca, or coming home. Dad says coming home, so I’ll defer to his recollection. Here’s what I remember most vividly about the day – while we were awaiting rescue, lunchtime arrived. Not being one to do anything by halves, my mother required plates for luncheon to be served on (we probably had straz sambos with sauce). Where were the plates, in the damn van.


Now, in this photo, Dad’s done a bang up job of righting the van, which we’d borrowed from dad’s fishing/shooting/get me away from these bloody women and kids compadre Peter Cottrell. (Peter Cottrell could pass me in the street and I wouldn’t know him, but he looms large as my dad’s BFF then and now.) Before this photo was taken, the van was listing like the Titanic, at about 45 degrees.


Somehow I drew the short straw and was dispatched to the van, which was as hot as a camping oven, to scramble up the sloping floor and get the plates for lunch.


Hmm, if we’d thought that through, we may have realised that a severely listing van, plus the location of the plate cupboard (above the sink, on the high side of the listing van), plus the smallness of the child dispatched would result in plates raining over my head and all over the van floor. Honestly I can’t remember if the plates smashed or not, but for dramatic effect, let’s say they did.

Bloody plate shards everywhere! Shit! This was a disaster on equal scale to the snapping of the van’s axle.

The rest is fuzzy, but we finally got back on the road and safely home.

And those white posts with the reflective red thingamajigs you can see in the photo – they make great braces for busted vans, and they are certainly NOT still planted in my parents’ suburban backyard, 30 years after the Great Axle Snap.

Some kids probably went to amazing places like Disneyland – whatever. I’ll take my happy, crammed in the back of the Kingswood, with an ever expanding number of siblings memories over more ‘exotic’ holiday stories any day of the week.

God bless that Kingwood, and Peter Cottrell’s wonky caravan.