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The New York Times: Word For Word | Driving, Now and Then: Because We’re Not There Yet

May 27, 2007

THE 1950s are considered the golden age of the automobile. Sales climbed. Fins, after-burner taillights and other jet-age accoutrements appeared on family cars. Drive-in restaurants, movies and even churches and funeral parlors became part of the landscape.

And Americans were taking to the road as never before. To help them on their way (and into its gas stations), Shell Oil published a 238-page how-to book, “Traveling by Car: A Family Planning Guide to Better Vacations.” While much of the advice is predictably dated, much, from Carol Lane, Shell’s director of women’s travel, remains surprisingly timely.

This weekend, 38 million people, it’s estimated, are expected to drive 50 miles or more, according to AAA. Polls have found that despite the rising cost of gas, motorists had no plans to cut back, at least not yet. With that in mind, here’s some advice as you contemplate your summer driving holiday, courtesy of Shell Oil 53 years ago.

The book offers tips on estimating expenses, taking into account gas, oil, tolls and miscellaneous costs:

Let’s take a typical case. We’ll assume a total round trip of 1,500 miles, an average gas consumption of 15 miles to the gallon and an average gasoline price of 28 cents per gallon. In that case, the total cost of gasoline for the entire 1,500 miles will be about $28. … The total car expense … will be about $50 — assuming a two-week vacation with about a 10-day stay at one place.

Get off the beaten path:

All motorists appreciate the speed and ease with which they can travel long distances on modern super highways and turnpikes. However, with the growth of these throughways there is developing a new trend in automobile travel called “shun-piking.” … It is to slow down the pace of your traveling, giving you time to explore the very heart of our country in a way that is impossible on insulated super highways. Only along the back roads will you find unusual groups of people, relics of our exciting past and natural scenic wonders.

Wondering what to wear? For the ladies:

It’s helpful to think of “costumes’” rather than “clothes.” … Women who travel a great deal have developed a four-costume, basic plan. With “extras,” it’s suitable for a two-week vacation to Anywhere, U.S.A. It fits into one 26-inch suitcase plus an overnight case…. Your travel suit…. Your two-piece after-driving dress…. A spectator sports ensemble…. The rugged-life costume…. In many resort areas, slacks are frowned upon — more in the East than in the West, where they’re quite generally accepted.

For the children:

Dungarees shouldn’t be worn in the car. While they’re certainly comfortable enough, they’re not suitable for wear even in a roadside restaurant.

For the men:

The wide use of the so-called “miracle fabrics” in men’s clothes has provided a practicality never before experienced in this field.

Don’t forget the car:
Orchestras tune up before a concert. It’s also a good rule to have your car tuned up before taking a trip.

There are plenty of on-the-road suggestions:

If all drivers practiced the Golden Rule — giving to other drivers the same courtesy, consideration, and right-of-way they would like to be given — most accidents would seldom happen.

As for the back-seat driver:

If you’re a passenger, you can help the driver and have a more enjoyable trip yourself by following a few simple rules. In general, let the driver do the driving. Leaning forward and breathing down the neck of the driver to tell him something doesn’t help….Don’t shout instructions or anything else which will distract the driver. … If you’re the “navigator,” give directions far enough in advance so that the driver has time to follow them easily. … Above all, don’t “beef” and don’t tell the driver how you would have handled a tight situation. You can do it your way when you get the wheel.

There is plenty of advice for traveling with children, who had to make do without iPods and DVD players, for example:

When the going gets rough — in terms of behavior, not of the road — there’s a sure-fire remedy. It’s called a “mystery box.” It’s easy to make up and you’ll never regret having one along. Simply wrap individually a few of the children’s favorite toys plus some new, inexpensive “surprises,” and pack them in a box — one box for each child. Then, at strategic moments of supreme boredom or on a prearranged schedule, let each child open his box and take out a toy.

Should car problems arise:

Any number of things may be wrong. The first step in finding the trouble is obvious: turn the ignition key. It’s surprising how many people forget…. Don’t tinker and patch and hope it will hold. Cars put together with chewing gum and baling wire are dangerous to you and others on the road.

Finally, remembering the trip:

Even if you’re not a camera enthusiast, you can still create an interesting pictorial account of your trip with postcards. … Many people like to form their own accordion-like folders with cellophane tape. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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