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Station Wagons Are Cool Again!
by Beth Boswell Jacks

Hold on to your bouffants, folks, there is a comeback in the making. I’m not talking about carbohydrates, not talking about “Cherries in the Snow” nail polish, not talking about Bobbie Gentry.

I’m talking about the coolest of the cool: low slung, sporty station wagons.

That’s right. Station wagons are back on the scene, and I must say I’ve missed them sorely. I’m not ashamed to admit I drove a forest green, chrome encrusted Chevy wagon in high school in the early ‘60s. Not hip, you say? Well, I’ll tell you this, that ‘58 clunker had a great AM radio and held a lot of buddies.

Ten years or so later I was still in a station wagon, another green one, but this time I was doing the young matron thing, hauling children and dogs.

These were the days before car seats and seat belts. My kids and their little friends were often packed in our station wagon like sardines. One day was especially bad. The vehicle was a riot of screamers and kickers, and I was yelling at them over my shoulder from the driver’s seat.

“Hush! Behave! Y’all get quiet!”

“But, Mama,” hollered one, “we can’t be quiet!”

Turns out she was right on the money.

“Why?” I screamed.

“Because you’re squashing Jim’s head in the window!”

I hit the brakes. Upon release from his incarcerated state, Jim squalled but was otherwise fine.

Excuse me, but it’s a long way from the driver’s seat to the back of a station wagon. How was I to know the boy had his head poked out the window as I pressed the “roll me up” button with one hand and massaged my throbbing brow with the other?

I was shaken, wavering in my devotion to station wagons with automatic windows in the waaay back. Anyway, the first gasoline crunch happened long about then and we decided to trade for something more economical.

Then American car makers began to produce fewer and fewer wagons. Eventually (she explains, guiltily) we ignored gas concerns and moved on to mini-vans, followed by SUVs. We’ve driven the gamut in our household, throwing in a traditional automobile and pick-up every now and then for variety.

So why am I gleeful over the station wagon comeback?

Well, first of all, climbing up into an SUV is getting trickier and trickier. Disembarking is worse--sort of like rappelling Kilimanjaro. And mini-vans? Naaa. I backed into too many telephone poles. Besides, I’m a clutterer, and vans are magnets for clutter.

Why not a regular ol’ car? I’m on the highway a lot and need something sturdier. In the event of a crash, I’d rather be on top.

I chatted the other day with my car dealer friend Edward, and he said automobile makers are shying away from actually calling the new station wagons by that name. They’re not station wagons, they’re Chrysler Pacificas or whatever their snazzy names are.

He says these vehicles are hybrid, a cross between an SUV and a van, just an oversized station wagon.

Station wagon? Weird name. Where does that name come from anyway? I looked it up.

The very first station wagons back in the early 1900s were “depot hacks,” used primarily around train stations to transport passengers and luggage. These were “wagons” used at railway “stations.” Get it?

Station wagon popularity spread over the next few years until their Golden Age--1955 to 1975. Uh huh, my hauling days fit squarely in those two decades.

Hey, this Baby Boomer is all into nostalgia, and station wagons afford plenty of that. Maybe they’re not the most elegant ride, but if John Lennon could drive a wagon, I reckon I can too.

Put me lower to the ground, give me seats I can reach across, and paint me up in vivid mustard with a bold grill, plenty of luggage room, and maybe just a tinge of retro styling. I’ll be happy.

Oh yeah, I mustn’t forget one last feature. Your friendly car thieves don’t want station wagons.

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, most thieves will pass your wagon by for something classier.

We should all be so cool.


Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at bethjacks@hotmail.com.
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