The Slide Years: Vista Cruiser

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.


No matter where our family roamed, my grandparents made a point of visiting at least once. On this occasion, Grandma Reatha (Gusso) Halse left her home in Corvallis, Oregon, to see us on-base in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. We would make the opposite journey before long.

Grandma Halse is about my current age in this photo – and looking good! She’s standing in front of Dad’s new Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, one in a procession of station wagons serving our needs over the years. This one is my personal favorite. There was a skylight over the backseat and along both sides of the back compartment. The exterior sported woody-panels on the sides and back.

In December 1973, we began our move to Dad’s next assignment in Guatemala. This would be the all-time epic road trip. First, we drove across the continent to spend Christmas and New Year’s with our Halse relatives in Oregon. The bleak drive across snowy, wind-swept Wyoming, the road paved with snowshoe hare carcasses, was astonishing and grotesque.

From Corvallis, we drove all the way to Guatemala, passing through California, Arizona, and Mexico along the way. In Arizona, I tossed snowballs over the south rim of the Grand Canyon, hooking one arm around the railing and leaning waaay over the edge.

Memorable stops in Mexico included Mazatlán, Oaxaca, and Ciudad de México. The Vista Cruiser, particularly my cubby in the way-back (to keep away from two pesky brothers), became my world in miniature.

That car remained our principal transportation during the three-and-a-half years we lived in Guatemala. Steve learned to drive and once he had a license, I experienced a burst of early-adolescent freedom. Probably more than my parents knew or bargained for.

Steve and I would double date: he with Elizabeth, me with Bryan, the bass player in Steve’s band. You know girls and musicians, right? Hunka hunka! I would have been content with the lead guitarist, too. Mmmm hmmm. I was a seriously boy-crazed fifteen-year-old.

A couple of firsts that I experienced in that car: serious petting, and getting puking drunk. That latter was not my finest moment.

When we returned to “the states,” we left the car behind, taking a Pan Am 747 to Portland via LAX. We did take our dog, though, but that’s another tale.

VistaCruiser1
About four years ago, Sterling and I spotted this pristine Vista Cruiser at a local car show. It was nearly identical to the one we had, but I’m sure Dad never sprang for such fancy wheels.

P. S. You may have noticed my updated gravatar. I figured it was about time to stop using something over a decade old. I took this yesterday, so this is the real me!

28 thoughts on “The Slide Years: Vista Cruiser

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      1. We got a new Ford Taurus station wagon in 1999, and kept it until 2014! It took us around the city, the province, the country (Canada) and even into “the states”, with my daughters being toddler and new born to teenagers. When it was time to trade it, I suggested to install woody panels and keep it as a vintage car instead, but the idea did not fly well (we now have a 2014 Ford Escape; there is no accounting for people’s taste, hehe)

        Love your updated Gravatar pic!

        Liked by 2 people

      1. A geology professor from England once pointed out to my class that the British give distances in miles, while Americans do it in time, e.g. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is 24 hours from Columbus, Ohio (I think that’s exaggerated). She said, in her delightful accent, “If oy drove from London for 24 houws, Oy’d be in Nowth Ah-frica!!”

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Eilene, you are lovely!

    I love this essay as it takes me back to a time when us kids entertained ourselves in ways that had to do with the world around us and not a computer screen.

    Grandma Halse sported some cool specs, and yes, I do believe they are very cool. As is Kodachrome. As is that Vista Cruiser with skylights and woody panels and a cubby where you could escape to your own little world, in miniature. And epic road trips.

    I love your series. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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