an old-time Texan saddled his horse or hitched a team to his wagon,
he usually had a destination in mind.
Maybe he needed to ride to the county seat to vote, check his mail
or see a public hanging. The reason to go somewhere varied, but
most of the time in early-day Texas, it had to do with necessity.
At some point, as living in Texas segued from a preoccupation with
survival to relative prosperity and a wider range of lifestyle choices,
riding for the pure pleasure of it became more popular. The tradition
probably dates to the latter horse and buggy era, but the development
of the horseless carriage made it easier to ride for fun -- especially
after cars started coming from the assembly line with starters instead
Purposeful traveling also increased with the advent of the automobile,
but as the state continued to urbanize, riding merely for the joy
of it became more common. Particularly on the one day of the week
people since Biblical times have been exhorted to take it easy.
Somewhere along the way, the term “Sunday drive” came into vogue.
Cars were relatively inexpensive, gas was cheap, and for hundreds
of thousands of Texas families, the open road lay ahead.
Wikipedia offers a fairly lame entry on the Sunday drive, defining
the practice as an automobile trip “typically taken for pleasure
or leisure on a Sunday, usually in the afternoon.” During this excursion,
the online encyclopedia continues, “there is typically no destination
and no rush.”
A family went to church, came home for Sunday dinner (meaning the
noon meal, not supper), spent a little time after the meal on the
porch talking or dozing and then piled into their Tin Lizzie for
a ride around town or into the country.
What Wiki does not mention is that the “no rush” aspect of the Sunday
drive in time led to the derisive term, “Sunday driver.” Those two
words are now used to describe anyone who does not drive as fast
as we do, no matter the day of the week.
subset of Sunday drives, at least in my family,
was the holiday drive. Before I was old enough to realize I was
missing the University of Texas-A&M game, I remember going for post-Thanksgiving
dinner drives with my granddad.
The purpose of this drive was to enjoy what passes for fall foliage
in Central Texas, but given how wired up my grandmother usually
got while getting the big meal ready, I suspect my granddad may
have been more than happy to have a reason to get out of the house
for a while with his grandson. Another variety of the Sunday drive,
a journey that can be undertaken any day of the week a person’s
schedule allows, is the favorite drive.
when my dad was still alive, any time I traveled to Amarillo,
he liked for us to take the 39-mile drive from there to the old
ghost town of Tascosa,
now home for Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch. Via FM 1061, it’s one of
the more scenic drives in the
Panhandle. In Austin,
Granddad’s favorite Sunday drive extended along Spicewood Springs
Road from Anderson Lane to U.S. 183 back when it was a country lane
with numerous scenic low-water crossings.
Granddad also used the Sunday drive, or, if not that day of the
week, just a drive, as a parenting tool. On excursions that usually
began with, “Sonny Boy, let’s go for a ride,” he either, as he put
it, “read me the Riot Act” (as in informing me it was time to modify
my behavior in some area) or tried to cheer me up after breaking
up with a girlfriend or experiencing some other teenage calamity.
In either case, he also enlivened the drive by telling me interesting
these years later, the Sunday drive is still around. Especially
in the spring, when fields of bluebonnets delight the senses, a
lot of Texas families head out to enjoy the wildflowers along our
highways. But while it’s still done, a question to ponder is whether
the Sunday drive has become less common. Certainly, Texans today
have more activity choices for the first day of the week.
For one thing, there’s professional football. A true fan can settle
down for a game starting at noon and keep watching football until
the clock runs out on the NFL Sunday night game. Ironically enough,
auto makers have found Sunday afternoon a great time to advertise
their pickup trucks.
While sports enthusiasts are getting their weekly fix, thanks to
the demise of Sunday blue laws, which once upon a time prohibited
most forms of shopping on Sunday, anyone so inclined can shop their
But through the early 1960s, Sunday was a more laid-back day.
Before demographers had come up with the “Baby Boomer” label, those
of us born after World
War II and before 1964 were usually home from our family’s Sunday
drive in time for the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS, followed by Dinah
Shore Chevy Show.
Running from 1956 to 1963 and of course sponsored by General Motors,
the NBC variety show’s theme song reinforced the concept of driving
for pleasure with its blonde host singing the car maker’s signature
jingle, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet...”
© Mike Cox
- November 6, 2014 column
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