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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Chevy Baby: 1963

Chevy Baby: 1963

Circa 1963. I'm not sure what's worse: that my brother is in the front seat or the metal baby seat itself, hooked to the seatback of the car. View full size.

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What a wonderful capture! I love the fall colors, the reds and plaid (and stripes!). Also her glasses and ponytail are perfect.

Those carseats were helpful in some ways

Even though they would be of little help in an accident, there was one benefit and that was that the parent driving didn't have to keep looking to see where the baby was, or trying to get him/her out from under their feet, away from the window, etc.. My brother's had a belt and although it wasn't very strong, like the ones we have in carseats now, it did keep him from climbing out of it. I think the car beds, tucked on the floor behind the front seat were probably a pretty safe place to be in an accident, provided that the baby was young enough to stay lying down and the car didn't roll.

I'm thankful that we had good car seats by the time my oldest son was born, in 1983. I was amazed at how many people didn't use them, until they became mandatory.

Arm Flinging

All of the arm flinging is too funny. I used to ride standing up in the front passenger seat and my mom did the arm fling thing. And 30+ years later she still has that instinct. Apparently, when she was a baby her mother put her in a laundry basket behind the front seat to keep her safe. Apparently it worked fine.

A Decade of Fads.

tterrace nailed it. The '50s were a series of fads and they extended way beyond car color. Each fad really impacted the life of a teenager. In the spring of 1956 the de rigueur outfit for boys in my high school was black penny loafers, white socks, black pegged (way tight) pants, pink short-sleeved shirt and a "D.A." haircut. For you young-'uns, it looked like the south end of a northbound duck. For girls it was the same loafers, the same white socks, (only "fast" girls wore nylons), black or gray wool full skirt with pink poodle, pink blouse (initials optional), hopefully a boyfriend's ring on a chain around the neck, and a ponytail. Wear anything else, and risk being called a "fruit." The term "nerd" was years in the future.

By the next year we had moved on to blue suede shoes and white T-shirts, but the car companies were slower to respond. Our 1957 DeSoto was Bittersweet and Smoke -- yes, pink and black.

1950s pinko cars

Fellow Rambler wagon back-end rider Mimi1942 asks What was with pink cars back then, anyway? Answer: pink and charcoal (runner up: turquoise and white) were the official colors of the 1950s, viz this gorgeous 1955 Studebaker I shot on a recent July 4th parade:

1956 Nash Rambler

When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad bought a used rose-pink and gray 1956 Nash Rambler station wagon that I thought was the living end. When he retired from the Air Force and took a job at Cape Canaveral in my junior year, I rode in the very back (ours was carpeted) the whole way from Albuquerque to Cocoa Beach with my boxer dog Vicky so that I wouldn't have to sit in the back seat with my 6-years-younger sister who loved to prattle. It was wonderful! I was never so sad as when my dad traded it in a couple of years later on a light pink sedan. What was with pink cars back then, anyway?

Rear window seat

When we got our 1956 Rambler wagon, my favorite spot was all the way in back, looking out the rear window, watching the roadway spiraling away into the distance. No seat, no padding, sliding around on the metal deck on turns - imagine a rag doll in an empty tool box. In good weather, I'd insist on the back window being rolled down and then got the additional benefit of sucked-in exhaust fumes. But I apparently survived. I was also able to get otherwise unavailable angles for photos, like looking back up a freeway onramp, such as this shot from 1963:

Seat Belts

The first car that I ever rode in that had seat belts was a new 1956 Ford belonging to the family of a fourth-grade classmate. It'd be nearly a decade until our family car had them as a front-seat option in a 1965 Corvair Monza, which had to be retrofitted for the back seat belts.

From the Back Seat, Cont'd

I'm struck by the number of comments from people who rode standing up in the back seat. My sister and I did the same thing when we were tots. I guess so we could see out the windows. We were strapped in with some sort of harness. Mom had a 1956 Lincoln Premiere. Robin's egg blue. The "Winkin," we called it.

Backseat Rider

I was put in a seat like this when I was a very wee tot. When I outgrew it I joined the rest of the kids in the back seat -- and usually all of us stood up. I can't imagine what people would think today if they saw my mother driving our old '59 Buick, windows rolled up tight against the Indiana cold, cigarette parked in her mouth, and several kids standing on the back seat (and usually one lying down on the rear window package shelf, which was my favorite spot). If Mom slammed on the brakes all of us would go flying -- over the front seat or under it. I think back on that now and wonder how we ever survived it.

We drove slower then

I remember parts of the beltway around Baltimore being built and my father sneaking on to it for an exit or two before the road was officially opened. The roads my mother drove on were relatively low speed roads with plenty of stop signs and red lights, which probably accounts for the kids surviving those car seats. Not to mention the pedestrians and kids on bikes all over the place.

Caught sitting down

I rode standing up so often that on one memorable occasion, my mom did the arm fling out of reflex to catch me in the chest and restrain me. But I happened to be sitting down that day, and she broke my nose with her Mexican Topaz cocktail ring. OUCH.

Right arm fling!

My youngest child is 32 and out of the house, but I still can fling my arm with the best of them. I've saved my purse from an ugly death so many times, I even save my groceries! That is a reflex that will probably never leave me!

[On "Seinfeld," known as "stopping short." - Dave]


Bless you, Capt. Jack. We moms did what we could with what we had -- a good right arm! We got you on the other end sometimes too, didn't we. And, yes, we did have a two-door car with the same seat problem.

Right Arm Reflex Part B

Indeed, that brings back memories. I had a car seat like that with a steering wheel (no horn however) and it was mounted to the back of the passenger seat of our 1947 Plymouth coupe. My second most terrifying childhood memory is my mother slamming on the brakes and the seat starting to fold forward (no catch to hold the seatbacks upright as have been on all 2-door cars since about 1974). As my 4 year old self tilted towards the Detroit steel dashboard, Mother's right arm came screaming across and slammed me right back where I belonged. There was probably a sonic boom; it just sent the breath right out of me, it happened so fast. But she accomplished her mission: I have a full, normal set of jaws and teeth, and my baby teeth lasted a normal amount of time.

Baby Beeper

As soon as I glimpsed the car seat it brought back a long forgotten memory of a car seat somewhat similar we had for my younger brother, born 1963. It had a horn button (Operative! My suffering parents) in the center of the steering wheel and attached the same way to the seat back.

Jogs many memories

I'm pretty certain that's a 1960 Chevy wagon. My parents had a '60 Chevy Impala convertible before I was born (in early 1963) and photos show it having the same dash in the same layout and shade of blue. What looks like waprage in the center was actually a design element; the full-size Chevies' dashes were meant to echo that of their sportier little sibling, the Corvette.

By the time I rolled around they owned a 1962 Pontiac Catalina 2-door hardtop. Photos exist of me sitting in a very similar car seat. Family oral history has it that I was seated there when news of JFK's assassination came over the Delco AM radio. Family oral history also has it that I later did some damage to the car's transmission by reaching over and moving the gearshift selector from D to R while the car was in motion (note how close the gearshift knob is to your brother's reach). How much damage and at what speed, I don't know.

Happy Mom

The feature that leaps off the screen at me is the lovely expression of complete delight on deluxeczech's mom's face. I've found a few photos of my own mom looking at me like that when I was that age (later was often another matter, but happily we worked it out). Amazing and wonderful to see.

Photo qua photo

The setting, the color, the lighting - this is a fabulous photo.

Toot Sweet

Oh hey, that could have been me! Right down to the year and the car seat. Though I'm pretty sure my parents drove a Ford. (And I'm not a boy.)


In addition to slamming my 18-year-old in the chest, both of our children when they were babies were placed in the back seat in the basket part of the buggy with the wheels deposited in the trunk. Somehow an awful lot of children did not die or get maimed. We had no better choices in the 50's. We also did not have cell phones to distract us while we were driving and sibling squabbles were dealt with when we got home. Amazing that we're all alive -- right? BTW, I think seat restraints should have been required with the first horse-drawn carriage but they weren't.

Yet we survived!!

I had a seat just like that, only red plaid. It had a horn to beep too, which I remember doing till Mom yelled. I also had a carbed, which they put me in for 4 hour drives to the grandparents every weekend.

I guess we were pretty durable kids! Great photo.

Ow. Ow. Ow.

The middle of the dashboard looks like it melted. Or is it that from Baby's head repeatedly smacking into it?

Darwin Awards for Baby Seats

My mom was just visiting. I'm 30, turns out that when I was a babe we were placed in the backseat in a "baby bed." This was basically a crib that fit in the car. No restraints. Terrifying.

Right arm reflex

I was still doing that when my son was about 18 years old. He didn't appreciate being smacked in the chest with a fast right arm fling. But, hey, none of us had restraints then.

'59 or '60?

Judging from the instrument hoods, that looks to be a 1959 or 1960 Chevy wagon. And yes, I remember those car seats. My little brother, who was born in 1965, had a blue one, with a padded bar in front. Not quite like today's car seats.


At least little brother had a car seat. I rode (like nearly all children in those days) unrestrained in the front seat, sometimes even standing up. My mother would reflexively fling her right arm across us kids when she had to stop suddenly. As if that would have helped. And dashboards then were made of sturdy metal!

Love it.

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SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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