Minnesota, USA – The Magic Bus, Family and World History – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The Ekstrom family has always been a bit of an anachronistic bunch. For example, my father adheres to an unspoken code of conduct that prohibits him from driving any car manufactured in the 21st century, my grandpa, sister, and I spent many hours playing Super Nintendo throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s (and even the ‘10s, now and then), and my family is the proud (and probably only) owner of The Brady Bunch:Greatest Hits CD.
Our everyday attire back in the day. We’ve tried to update it just a little bit since then.
Perhaps the pinnacle of our retro reverence is the “Magic Bus”, our 1976 Dodge Cruise Air motor home. We received the bus in the fall of 1999, as the previous millennium was drawing to a close. This could be interpreted as a symbolic gesture of holding on to the past as our world surged ahead into the dawn of a new era. Stepping into the bus instantly transports you back in time to the psychedelic and idiosyncratic world of the 1970s, as it features all of the stereotypical hallmarks of Seventies aesthetic culture. Its marvelous features include shag carpeting, wood paneling, and generous sprinklings of a distinctive puke green hue that seems to have been highly revered during that decade.
I distinctly remember stepping into the bus for the first time and viewing it with an odd mixture of wonder and terror (my sister Paige shared my sentiment). My parents spent their formative years in the 1970s, and thus when they stepped into the Bus, it conjured a flood of nostalgic childhood memories; thus, they fell in love with it right away. Eventually, my sister’s and my initial fear of the bus melted away and we became endeared to it. It quickly became our chief means of transportation to exciting summer adventures, including trips to our grandparents’ cabin, beach bonanzas, hangouts at the Hinckley RV park (complete with swimming for the kids and gambling for the grandparents) and even a rollicking’ 8th birthday party in Duluth. We associated the bus not only with the Seventies, but also with the warm weather and liberation from scholastic studies that came with summer vacation. Thus, as our calendars inched closer to summer, the whole family would anxiously await for the bus to take us on our next summer road trip.
Unfortunately, the bus’ momentum, like disco fever and the popularity of polyester pants, could not last forever. After having a peak run in the early 2000s, tire troubles and high gas prices heralded the end of the Bus’s travelling days by 2005. Today it stands outside by our garage and serves as a makeshift hotel on the (RARE) occasions that we have an overflow of guests staying the night at our house. Even in its retirement, the bus continues to stand proud and tall, basking in the glory days that created so many summer and travel memories for the Ekstrom family.
Despite the unlikelihood that we will ever travel via the Magic Bus again, we nevertheless treasure the memories of driving down roads while jamming to Fleetwood Mac, the Beach Boys, and other retro superstars on our impressive collection of 8-Tracks. When we first got the Bus , I viewed it as a time capsule that granted a glimpse into the wild and wonderful world of the Seventies and my parents’ wonder years. Now that I am older, and as I continue on in my journey towards full-fledged adulthood, I have come to appreciate how large of a role the Bus played in my Nineties and Noughties childhood. It’s not everyday that you see a vintage RV parked by someone’s house– but then again, the Ekstroms have never really been a normal bunch, and we all admire the contribution that this mobile museum gave to our collective family memory.
Marin Ekstrom serves as Senior Editor for The North Star Reports.
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
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