50 Years of Coffee in Cars

My first car was a 1966 VW Beetle.  For reasons beyond explaining, when we got married we traded that in on a 1968 VW Beetle that cost us all of $1200.00 (U.S.).  Gosh, we loved that car.  The first two years of our married life we lived in Chicago and it seemed as if we were traveling to either Milwaukee or to Toledo every single weekend.

That perception was, in fact, not accurate, still, we did a lot of driving in that little “bug.”  Roads in those days were not nearly as nice as they are now.  I think that is an understatement of gigantic proportions but that is at least how my memory looks at them.

I have always loved my coffee and recently we’ve been realizing just how much of a “habit” it is that when we leave the house in the car that we carry with us a cup of java to-go.  Nowadays I’m supposed to limit my coffee intake — it’s all about the fact that coffee is a diruetic and my heart wants to stay hydrated.  But old habits are hard to break and so we’ve been stopping at a lot of McDonalds lately for “Senior Coffees” — the only item I will buy from McDonalds;  other than coffee we have sworn off the Golden Arches.  stanley thermos

We got to thinking about the way we have adjusted to drinking coffee in cars….

In those first VW’s we always had a “Pouring Pillow.”  It wasn’t much to look at — and after the first few uses it was coffee stained and exuded the aroma of stale coffee — but we always had a small throw pillow that Peggy could put on her lap to save her legs from scalding when she poured coffee out of our old Stanley stainless steel 1 quart thermos into some form of early travel mug.  In those days there weren’t nice insulated mugs as there are now;  we made due with any cup we cold find that had some kind of lid on, and barring a cup with a lid we often used the cup off the top of the thermos.

Those old thermoses had no handles like some of the new ones do.  We had to purchase a separate handle with two straps that somewhat resembled wire-ties to hold the handle to the thermos, but it made carrying the bulky thermos easier and for someone with small hands like Peg it also made the process of pouring coffee in a bumpy car safer.

I say “safer” with reservations.  It seemed in those days we were always in a hurry — something I’m delighted to say we aren’t nowadays!  Peggy was always pouring while I drove and we tried to perfect the routine of  anticipating the bumpy sections so that she could pour with getting annointed with hot coffee.  We didn’t always succeed — hence the aroma of coffee in the pillow and the coffee stains. But at least my wife wasn’t scalded!

In those days there were no cupholders in cars.  When we were looking around for our Subaru last summer I recall reading about one current production car that had 18 cup holders — at the time I thought back to the “good old days” of zero cup holders and wondered how we ever got from there to here — but we did.

We even had a version of the folding cup holders-l1000 for use in our two RV’s.  They were nice, in a clumsy sort of way.  They attached to the side wall of the coach and aside from the fact that they were inconvenient to reach and easy to partially collapse when you were trying to put a cup or a can back in the holder without looking at what you were doing (because you were driving at the time) they were just OK.

But, today, as we drive around in the luxury of an Subaru Outback we enjoy somewhere around 8 cup holders in the car, all placed so as to be at least arguably in usable semi convenient locations!  I love them.

In fact we use two of them.  And in the back seat there is one that we sometimes put an emptied thermos in to keep it from rolling around on the floor.

We’ve owned two beetles, a rabbit, a VW van, a Mercedes diesel, a couple buick Centurys, a couple Ford LTD’s, a Taurus, a Mercury Lynx, at least one Pontiac, a Toyota Matrix, three Ford Windstars, and Honda CR-V before our current Subary.  Most of them had cup holders.  But somehow what I remember are the VW’s with no cup holders and warning my wife as we approached an unexpected pothole as she tried to pour coffee without burning herself.

It’s funny the things you remember… The things that are fond memories even if — at the time — they weren’t such great experiences at all.



7 thoughts on “50 Years of Coffee in Cars

  1. Hadn’t visited McDonalds much in past thirty years. On our recent trip we stopped and ordered Senior Coffees and Apple Pies. The pies are much better than I remembered. No longer dunked in the French fryer oil, they’re baked. Not bad. Not too sure about nutritional values. Some days I don’t care.


    1. LOL – BTW, over the years we have pretty much quit doing any kind of deep fat frying in the house. If I really want fried chicken we’ll get it (locally) at a place called Gold Rush which does old fashioned en masse chicken frying by the ton. A basically unadulterated chicken coated in flour only and fried to order. I have modified my recipes to minimize fat — with the exception that I do saute with vegetable oil & butter (for flavor) — I make sure I keep some fat in all our meals, but have gotten away from the deep frying. Potato pancakes are the one item that I “jones” for but even that item I have learned to adjust the recipe and add a little fat (bacon fat) to the batter for the ’taste’ of fried without the worst of the side effects.



      1. I’ve pretty much avoided fried foods for years, except for the occasional order of French fries. Look for fried chicken recipes that you bake rather than dunk in a deep fryer. We’ve tried some and they came out pretty good.


  2. Peter, we too have driven Beetles, VW buses (found about air cooled engines when our air intake vents clogged following a sawdust laden truck in a Wisconsin snow storm), Ford Aerostars, but lately have stayed with Hondas and now have a Subaru Forrester. My husband loves the leg room, but I prefer driving the Honda Odyssey.
    Your coffee stories sound so familiar! We too had the designated coffee towel, and but did have some form of cup holder from the Aerostars onward. We also take advantage of the senior coffee at McDonald’s but the price in our top heavy with seniors town in higher than many other places. ???
    Coffee on!


    1. We have noticed how “senior coffees” vary by price considerably depending on locale. If they have too many seniors in the population you know they aren’t going to sell at a loss — or should I say at less profit (?).

      By the time of the Windstars I’m sure we had travel mugs of some sort, probably before for sure. But there were … oh, golly, probably 10-15 years when there really weren’t such things as “travel mugs” – or at least so it seems to he-who-has-no-sense-of-elapsed-time.

      I loved our VW’s. In spite of being air cooled — and you’ll remember they WERE the most commonly seen roadside-fire victims for a few decades!

      The current Outback is the FIRST car I’ve ever had where I have sufficient room for my legs. The CR-V I had to sit in sort of canted to one side, and my left knee actually developed calluses where the bumpy plastic door panel rested against my summer-shorts clad leg. Took over a year for those calluses to mostly disappear. The Toyota Matrix was almost as roomy as the Outback, but that car the driver’s seat was offset from the steering wheel and once again I had to sit sort of canted to one side. I hated cars where the wheel and the seat were mis-aligned!

      The funny thing is we have so many GOOD memories of those early times when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together and we were just married and figuring out what it means to be married, and adult and living in a rapidly changing world. Good times for sure.



    1. Christopher — Yes, they do exist, don’t they!

      Thanks for chiming in. I hope you enjoy the blog. We can be serious, and we can be silly and that’s kind of like life!


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