In 1986 in California, it became mandatory for everyone over the age of 16 to wear a seat belt while in a car. There was a major advertising campaign to make the public aware, along with the threat of being pulled over by the police and receiving a fine. My mom and I had no problem with the law; I think we were already used to wearing our seat belts because of my mom’s focus on safety. But my dad was another matter.
For some reason, he HATED wearing a seat belt. When the law took effect, every trip in the car became a battle over the seat belt. Dad would refuse to wear it and Mom would nag him endlessly about it. Sometimes, as a compromise, he would drape the belt over his shoulder, to pretend he was wearing it. (I’m sure this could have been quite dangerous, maybe even as much as not wearing the seat belt at all!) Often, we would ride around town in fear of a cop pulling us over for a seat belt violation.
Dad said the seat belt felt like it was choking him, and he didn’t like to be restricted by it. He was not interested in Mom’s statistics on how seat belts save lives. It was one thing he was really stubborn about. I can’t remember how long he kept his anti-seat belt campaign alive. I know once they retired to New Mexico, he would wear his seat belt, so I guess he got over his extreme aversion.
But since he was so sensitive about it, it made me wonder if being hooked up to all of those machines at the end of his live gave him that same feeling of being restricted in movement. He was too weak to offer up much of a fight at that point. I’m guessing that wherever Dad is now, no seat belts are required.
One of my earlier memories of an outing with dad was going to get gas on our assigned day during the gas shortage crisis of the late 1970’s. We would putter down the road in our boat of a car, which I believe at the time was the emerald green LTD. Then we would wait in a long line of frustrated motorists to fill ‘er up. If I was a good girl, dad would buy me an Orange Crush soda.
As I got older, I remember my dad having this odd habit of only filling up the gas tank by a quarter or half a tank. I never quite understood the logic behind this, I just assumed he was trying to pinch pennies, though we were never so bad off that we couldn’t afford a full tank of gasoline. Maybe he had been permanently scarred by the gas shortage.
We would also go see the waterfall at a place called the Tahitian Village. It was a kitschy Tiki-themed mini-resort, with a hotel, lounge, restaurant and coffee shop all rolled into one. I guess it was kind of a poor man’s version of Trader Vic’s. The over-the-top decor could be found on the exterior as well, and that’s where I remember walking on a bridge while holding my dad’s hand, to see a waterfall. It was especially refreshing on a hot summer day. Tahitian Village had its heyday in the 1960’s-1970’s and has long since been torn down.
Looking for photos of the Tahitian Village led me to a whole collection of photos of my hometown, Downey, Calif. on Flickr, that really brought back a lot of memories. So many places that I associate with my childhood have either been torn down or are on the chopping block, all to make way for another strip mall. It should be of no great surprise, as not many small businesses survive 30 years or more in this world anymore. Still, it’s a bit sad to see that all I have remaining of my childhood landmarks are captured in photos or in my memories.