Back There From Full Service, by David Hill

With unleaded fuel, air bags, anti-lock brakes and engines controlled by computers, cars today barely resemble their predecessors. Back in the 1970s, when I was a kid, if you had a big family you had three basic choices for a vehicle: a Suburban, a van, or a station wagon, the most popular choice of the era.

"Family Heirloom," 1946/47 Dodge WC and "A Little Long in the Roof," 1958 Edsel Villager
"If you had a big family you had three basic choices for a vehicle: a Suburban, a van, or a station wagon"

My family had a '71 Plymouth Gran Fury Suburban. That thing was a beast, especially when compared to our other car, a Toyota Corolla. The Fury was nearly 20 feet long, with more than 10 feet between the front and rear wheels. The wagon could easily seat nine when you pulled the third-row seat up from the floor of the cargo area. That third row was heaven for a kid. Not only were you practically in a different zip code from your parents as you drove along, but the radio could be set to play only from the small speaker in the rear of the car. My friends and I could listen to 10CC, Fleetwood Mac, and ELO to our hearts' content without bothering my parents up at the front end of the car.

Memories of Sunday Drives, 1959 Ford F-100

For a kid, these intoxicating bits of freedom made every trip to the grocery store and each family vacation an excursion to remember. The Fury's third seat, the one in the "way back," had one more gift to give. Not only was it my own personal concert hall, far from my parents, but it also faced backward! Every turn, every hill, and every bump became a surprise. Every time we left the driveway, it was like riding the Zipper or the Scrambler at the county fair.

"Every time we left the driveway, it was like riding the Zipper or the Scrambler at the county fair."

Now, don't get me wrong: the "way back" wasn't all fun and games. The rear door was massive; I'm sure it weighed at least as much as I did. To get out, I had three options: crawl over into the second seat and exit like a normal human being, wait until one of my parents opened the door for me, or ask them to lower the rear window so I could scramble out (my personal favorite).

Black Light, 1964 Buick Riviera

Because I was so far away in my third-row sanctuary, minor misbehavior went unnoticed by the adults up front. However, if it got too loud or if, God forbid, my sister began crying, there was trouble. "Don't make me pull this car over!" was more than an idle threat––it was a necessity. To restore order, or to dole out punishment, the car had to be pulled off to the side of the road. A parent exited the vehicle, came around to the back, opened the door, and then gave the miscreant in the back (usually me) a swat. All the extra steps involved in creating peace in the back seemed to make the punishment worse.

1620, 1950 Plymouth Deluxe

Rear-facing, third-row seats are a thing of the past now. Kids have video screens, game consoles, and MP3 players to occupy their time in the car. When I see kids on the road, I often wonder, do they know where they are going?

And, more importantly, do they ever think about where they've been?

Watching the Show, 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

This was an excerpt from the book, Full Service: Notes from the Rearview Mirror by David Hill. Hill is a lifelong resident of Maine and has been a television photojournalist for more than 20 years. While Hill enjoys the challenges of journalism, his true passion is in the still image.

He strives to find the beauty in the ordinary, and even in what some may call ugly, through his photojournalistic style of art.

David Hill

His book Full Service was published in 2015 by Islandport Press. The book features images that Hill collected while traveling around Maine. He turned his lens on old, forgotten cars, spending their last years rusting and at rest in forests and fields. The true stories, both written and visual, will evoke nostalgia as Hill recounts childhood memories and the circumstances of finding these cars that, with their classic design, still have plenty of beauty left.

Full Service was a finalist for the 2016 Maine Literary Awards' "Excellence in Publishing" award. The book is available from Islandport Press, or from your favorite local bookstore.

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All photos by David Hill from the book "Full Service," copyright 2015.

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