I saw it driving by Depot Grill.  Parked alone in a lot across the street.  Away from the door dingers and gawkers.  I stopped and took a couple of pictures.  You see, when I was a little boy, there was a wagon like this in every third driveway in the neighborhood.  This one needs a little bodywork.  Some sanding on the roof and around the wheel wells.  Otherwise, it looks to be in great shape.  Keep in mind that the steel on these older cars was very thick.

They Were Thick on American Roads

As I was driving away I felt old.  You would have to go back more than 60 years to see one of these in a movie.  The thing is, Ford wagons and Chevy Bel Airs at one time were thicker on American highways than mosquitoes in Minnesota.  I also have a friend named Ford Waggoner.  He says he used to get picked on for his name, which belonged as well to his father and grandfather!

Station wagons were a symbol of the American family until the early 1980s.  New fuel mileage standards exempted some trucks and minivans were classed as trucks.  Wagons weren’t and they mostly vanished.

Vacations, Grocery Getters, and Lumber Haulers

My dad had a massive Dodge Polara wagon and it was our vacation car.  It was a land yacht.  Before the 1973 energy crisis, it took us to places in the mountains and to Washington, D.C.  They could carry groceries, lumber, and sometimes several cousins over for a visit.

I saw a meme on social media and it shows a wagon stopped along the shoulder of a road.  The gate is down and mom is making sandwiches out of a cooler.  I know the drill.  It was cheaper than McDonald’s.  My parents like vacationing but also pinched every penny.  They could make Lincoln scream!

Good times.  Long gone.  The present has its moments.  The future frightens me to some degree.  The past was very agreeable and gets more so every day in my personal rearview mirror.

SEE: 30 Toys That Defined the '70s

LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving

To find out more about how has the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (released in April 2020), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2020 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.


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