When I was young, holidays were never taken overseas, not by my family, or by anyone we knew. The cost of air-flights back then was prohibitive. We went camping.
My parents owned a Bedford camper van. It looked like a Mr Whippy ice cream van. In fact, when we parked in beachside parking lots, people used to form a line at the window. After Dad had to replace the engine head twice, the Bedford was sold. There was a caravan and palatial family tents at various times and then the VW Combie (or Kombi) van was purchased. I was particularly fond of this van. I even drew a portrait of it, which I still have.
IDU 676 was a groovy mustard yellow and the inside sported brown and orange curtains and fake wood veneer on the cupboards. The top of the van could be extended upwards when it was parked, so an adult could comfortably stand inside. Except for Dad, who is tall. He still had to hunch a bit.
IDU had that distinctive, slightly damp, rubbery smell that all cars in the seventies seemed to have. The engine sounded like a souped up lawn-mower and when we drove on the highways, every truck that passed in the opposite direction made the van sway like a tree in the wind.
But it was so cosy and so handy. You could just pull up at the side of the road and put the kettle on. Everything you needed for lunch was packed into the cupboards and the tiny fridge. If you were at the beach and it was cold and windy, you could eat at the little fold-out table. The surfers would trudge past in the rain, boards under their arms, sniffing at the smell of hot soup or baked beans warming on the gas stove inside.
Mum was a mature age student at La Trobe University when we had it, and she tells me she used to park it in the university car park and invite people in for lunch. Or maybe that was the Bedford, I’m not sure now. I do remember Dad driving the Combie down a four wheel drive only track in a state forest or national park somewhere. I think he damaged the pop-top. We kids thought it was a great adventure.
The VW Combie still appeals me, that ability to just take your home with you and go wherever you want, not to mention the seventies decór. Maybe one day I’ll own one myself, although I understand they’re a bit of a collector’s item now.