In the Olden Days


In the Olden Days

One of the surest ways to bore my children is to start a sentence with the phrase “when I was a kid…” or “when I was growing up…” If I want to share anything about the freedoms, complexities, or inconveniences of life in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the early aughts before they were born, I have to sneak it into the conversation carefully.


I don’t blame them. They hear my intro and know I’m about to tell them they have it so much easier than I did, or the opposite, how life was simpler when I was a teenager because I wasn’t glued to my cell phone all day. 


A recent blast from the past my kids suffered through was all about the different ways cars behaved when I started driving in 1988. My children can’t comprehend a car that locks from the outside without a key, so they don’t know the fear of accidently locking themselves out of a vehicle. 


They don’t know what it’s like to drive a car that will release its key if it’s in drive, so they don’t have to think about what would happen if they walk away from a car that’s still in gear (I learned that lesson the hard way, on a hill, with a dozen friends as witnesses).


The latest thing my kids aren’t going to understand about early cars is parallel parking. Though they’ve both got their licenses, and are capable drivers, they refuse to parallel park. They’ve sat through my lecture about this and their many other responsibilities as drivers, but they didn’t necessarily absorb what I said.


My first car was a 12-passenger Ford van with a bench seat in the back that folded down into a queen-sized bed. I could parallel park that van like a boss. But that isn’t a skill my two young drivers value, and it seems like they will never really need it.


In addition to the cars that can already parallel park themselves, Hyundai Mobis, part of the wider Hyundai Motor Group, unveiled the Mobion concept car with the e-Corner drive system at CES earlier this year. Parallel parking capabilities are achieved with In-Wheel motor technology, which includes four smaller electric motors in each wheel, rather than a much larger motor that drives front and/or rear axles. 


With this new technology, engineers were able to incorporate braking, steering, and suspension functions into each wheel, so they can all to be controlled individually.


During the demo in Las Vegas, CES guests got to see a modified Hyundai Ioniq 5 “crab-walk”, turning all four wheels 90-degrees, in unison, and scuttle like a crab into a parallel parking spot.


The independent wheels also allow the vehicle to move diagonally – forwards and backwards – and spin 180-degrees. There is no official word on when we will see this technology on the road.


I distinctly remember my father telling me about his first job picking apricots at an orchard in our hometown. Besides the bees and the ants, he had to kill rattlesnakes and fight off actual angry birds all for hourly pay well under $1 – but it was worth it for the means to buy his first mode of transportation.


In his own words: “The summer I turned 14, I got a job working 12-hour days in an apricot orchard. I ate a lot of apricots (it gives you the runs after a while). I made $90 dollars for the whole summer. I was rich! For $65 I bought a Cushman Eagle motor scooter (now worth thousands). I took it apart, rebuilt it, and painted it. It ran well, and rode it all over the place with my friend Keith Groves. He had a scooter, too, although, it was not as nice as mine.”


“Not long after, a new family moved into the area. Larry Lindberg – he had a sister – my brother was sweet on her. Larry had a car – a 1953 Ford two-door sedan. The car ran poorly. I traded my motor scooter for his car. I went to the junkyard and bought new valves, and I reassembled the engine. I drove the Ford until I turned it upside down on State Street one rainy day when I was 15. I didn’t even have a license yet.”


The first time I heard this story, I couldn’t imagine buying my own car or fixing an engine myself. Where was this magical junkyard with working car parts? My dad might as well have been talking about life on another planet. 


Now, I like hearing it all – and that gives me hope for my kids. They aren’t going to learn to parallel park, but they might just enjoy my stories one day.  

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick, Parking Today Contributor
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