by Yvette VanDerBrink
I was a tomboy growing up in South Dakota. We would play out in the grove where Dad had his ‘57 Chevys and other cars. Suzie and I would pretend that we were driving those cars, and when the neighbors came over we would pretend to play race cars or police. One time we were making forts out in the grove and had seen these fabulous glass floors on TV. Suzie and I worked hard and put some glass in our fort. We were so proud, that we went down to the barn after Dad was done milking to bring him to our fort to show him our work. He said, “pretty good girls. Where did you get that glass?” We knew that we were dead. We had taken claw hammers and carefully squared out a couple sections out of the front of a couple ‘57 Chevys. Those cars continued to be sources of fun for us. As we got older, my sister and I used to work on our tans on their roofs - more reflection you know. That would be until somebody came to get parts; then we would dive in and hide. Once in a while Dad would catch us not working and we’d get a bucket of water thrown at us.
Back then, it was all about imagination, unlike today’s world with vivid video games. On the farm, we had to make up our own games. I can remember going to Kmart and seeing rows of Hot Wheels cars. Those little cars would bring hours of fun. We had all kinds of them complete with wonderful orange race track too. We would get out the bucket of Hot Wheels and pick our cars, and build huge race tracks. We went all out and even made flags for the race. We’d race all day to see which car was the champion. In the summer, we’d go outside and sit in the dirt and make tracks and bring the races outdoors for hours. One time, my brother, Shannon, left his bucket of Hot Wheels outside. Dad found them and as a punishment they sat on top of the fridge for a day. We were heartbroken.
We raced everything, even our bikes. We had a path through the grove and Mom made us a complete set of flags. There were championships and even homemade trophies. When I got married and knew I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to show my kids all this fun. Emily was my first and she went with us to the races and raced with Grandpa on her scooter.
I was so excited to have a new racer that I bought a whole bunch of the vintage orange race track and got to play again. My second child was a boy. This allowed me to let the inner tomboy come out and play. The Muscle Machine cars and Little Monster trucks came out and I think I beat everybody racing.
I played with them just as much as the kids. I made tracks in the sand box and we set up the orange track in the house. It was so much fun and the kids loved it. I’d tell the kids what each car was and the history behind it. I had two little people that were captivated by their Mom playing in the dirt with them. So much fun and a lesson in old cars to boot.
The other day I was looking for that orange race track and was actually going to pack it up so that someday I could bring It out when the grand kids came around. Shoot, I might play with it myself again. I was horrified to find out that my husband had burned it! I had a lot of pieces of the orange track, curves and all. I was just heart broken. Then I went on Ebay to show him what he burned. He felt pretty bad after learning that those vintage toys we loved were worth some money. Well, I pouted for awhile, even thought about not making dinner, but then realized, I’ll just get more.
I still look through all the Hot Wheels in the stores and buy a few here and there. Occasionally, I’ll see a kid that is eyeing them in the store and I’ll give him a couple bucks without Mom looking and tell him to get a car and zip away. Just my way, until grandkids, that I can do my little part and hopefully get another kid’s imagination rolling and spark interest in the old car hobby. There is one thing for sure, no matter how old I am, I’ll never stop playing with cars.