Road tripping today is easy—pack up and hit the road. You don’t even need to know where you’re going: GPS guides you there, picking the fastest route with the least traffic. You can even start off aimlessly, only turning to your smartphone to find food and gas when needed.
It’s a far cry from the family road trip of half a century ago.
I recently came across this 1954 film produced by Chevrolet, teaching the average American family how to have a happy, safe, stress-free road trip. Produced by Jam Handy, the prolific maker of training, instructional and engineering films, it’s a charming look back at the concerns of the typical family heading out on the road.
Some of this advice is decidedly old-fashioned. This family—played by movie and television stars Gale Storm and Lee Bonnell—never buckles a seat belt, and the narrator advises Dad to adopt a “10:20” hand position on the steering wheel that’s perplexing by today’s standards. When they pull in to a gas station, they do a full check on the car, and they get hopelessly lost when they fail to chart out their route precisely.
But it’s a charming look back at what road trips were like in the days before the Interstate Highway System. And while you might not need to use your wristwatch and the sun to fashion a makeshift compass today, there’s some tips and tricks in here that are sure to make your next family road trip easy.