The rumble seat was the imaginative creation of 1920s and 1930s Detroit — to squeeze four people into a two-passenger automobile.
Essentially, a rumble seat was a seat mounted in the trunk of a two-door coupe. The back of the seat was attached to the trunk lid, which opened from the top, not the bottom, and folded back, not up, when the trunk was open.
Many people removed their rumble seats to make more room in the trunk, a cruel thing to do, I thought.
Once in a while, you can still see a rumble seat in a classic car at a cruise-in.
As a child, I perceived rumble seats as marvelous things to behold and bemoaned the fact that our car, a black 1937 Plymouth four-door sedan, with two spare tires in fender wells, didn’t have one, although it would have been a good gangster car in a movie.
My parents tried to educate me about the advantages to being inside the car when it rained or snowed, and told me that I wouldn’t last very long in the cold before I’d be begging to get into the car.
But I was undaunted and dreamed of the day when, through some unforeseen stroke of good fortune, we would have a car with a rumble seat, even though they were out of production by then.
Despite this fervent desire, I was only able to experience the unbridled joy of a long ride in a rumble seat on one occasion. A friend of my mother, Miss Dene McKenzie, had one of these beauties on her light blue 1938 coupe, Dodge or Plymouth, I’m not sure. But I was green with envy.
My mother and Miss McKenzie wanted to go somewhere in San Diego and decided to take Miss McKenzie’s car. Filled with great expectations, I carefully boarded this marvel of American engineering, being careful to use the built-in steps on the bumper and fender to climb into the rumble seat, while listening to a surplus of admonitions to not stand up, to keep my arms inside, be careful and so on. I would have promised anything for that ride, and I behaved. I didn’t want them pulling me up front for anything.
It was the ultimate E-ticket ride: Sailing along the highway on a nice day, watching the blue California sky and clouds go by. The wind blowing in my face and through my hair — it was so much better than a rag-top convertible, which my parents, no doubt, would close up all the time anyway. Now, I knew what my dog felt like when he poked his head out the window with his tongue flapping in the breeze, experiencing the hundreds of different scents as the miles rolled by. It would have been great to share the ride with old Tag, but he was at home. Looking at other kids enclosed in the stuffy cars we passed, I just knew that they were jealous of me.
The ride was marvelous and was over far too soon for my liking. It couldn’t have lasted long enough. But what a memory it made: At 71, I still remember it fondly.
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