The summer of 1960 was particularly busy at my childhood home in Western Pennsylvania farm country. Mom had a big house, and six girls ranging in age from 5 to 13 to watch over – and assist with chores. Cousin Carolyn and I were the oldest. Sister Laura and Cousin Maggie were 11, and sisters Martha and Susie were 8 and 5, respectively. We spent mornings helping with chores, afternoons swimming in our in-ground pool.

Barbara Kautz, her three sisters, their two cousins, their mother, their affable houseguest and their father all crowded into a Nash Rambler like this one to enact a pop song one busy summer. By Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA – 1957 Nash Rambler Super, CC BY 2.0,

Our house was typical of farmhouses built in the 1860s: a country kitchen, dining and living rooms, three bedrooms and a full bath. Daddy had also added a large family room and bathroom next to the in-ground pool, enabling us to spend hot summer days in bathing suits – which we did.

What made the summer of 1960 particularly special was having a true houseguest, Fred Reed, a friend of some old friends. An engineer for Westinghouse, Fred was being transferred to Pittsburgh. He came to say hello one evening, stayed for dinner – and then was invited to spend the summer with us. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Fred and his family.

During Fred’s stay, all six girls temporarily shared Laura’s and my bedroom, sleeping in built-in bunk beds. Martha and Susie had a top bunk each to themselves, while Laura and Maggie shared one bottom bed and Carolyn and I, another. It didn’t seem to matter, although Carolyn now complains that my allergies drove her nuts.

We always had fun; Fred quickly became another part of our family. About the same height and build, both men had crewcuts. When Fred accompanied us to church most Sundays, Daddy introduced him as “my twin brother, Fred Reed.” If people thought it strange that Marty Hesselman had a twin he’d never spoken of before, they never let on.

One of the hit pop songs that summer was Paul Evans and The Curls’ “Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the Backseat).” We memorized all the words:


Keep your mind on your driving,

Keep your hands on the wheel,

Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead.

We’re having fun, sitting in the backseat,

Kissing and a-hugging with Fred.

Partway through the summer we realized if we counted Mom, we could enact it. So we did! We had a two-door blue and white Nash Rambler, dubbed America’s first compact car. Somehow, we managed to pile Fred, Laura and Mom into the backseat along with Martha and Susie on laps. Carolyn, Maggie and I squeezed onto the front bench seat. Daddy was at the wheel. True, we weren’t all in the backseat, but close enough. No seat belts, of course.

Thus encumbered, we drove to the closest ice cream stand, singing “Seven Little Girls” at the top of our lungs. With cones in hand, we piled back into the car for the short drive home. Too bad it was before the creation of digital cameras!

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