Harriet's World- Remembering the Cars of Years Past
I was thinking the other day about the first car I ever owned. It was back in l956, My parents bought it for me as a graduation present. They gave it to me as a surprise just before my senior year so I could have it to drive back and forth to school, etc. It was a gray Plymouth, four door, built somewhere in the early l940s and a little old lady had owned it and drove it back and forth to the grocery store. (Where have you heard that before?) I loved it and it served me well for a lot of years. Until one day when it just stopped going and it wouldn't go anymore. I had to pay a tow truck to tow it off the street it had stopped on. It just froze up and refused to go anymore. I am sure many of you can remember your first car.
Since then I have owned a few others and each one has had its own personality and I have had a name for some of them. Some of the names were good and some weren't so good. You know what I mean. Back in my day the second cars were generally owned and driven by the moms whose husbands were financially well off. If we did get so lucky as to get a second car it did not have to be inspected or have any emissions certificates or anything like that. We just owned it and drove it. Usually it had something that wasn't quite right with it. We lived with it and drove our kids around in it and went to the grocery store in it and put up with all its little idiosyncrasies. Once in awhile our husbands would drive it to work and maybe take pity on us and fix something. More than likely not. They always drove the good car and we ended up with the clunkers. Sound familiar? I think the things that have changed over the years is all the certificates a person has to have now days. It makes the car that you have a lot more reliable.
I remember a car in particular that my older sister owned. We called it the Tank. That was because when you stepped on the accelerator it would take a long time to engage and go forward. It sounded something like a B54 Bomber warming up for take off. When we got to a busy street we had to be sure that no cars were in our line of vision on either side of the road. Otherwise we could be killed crossing the street. It took so long to get across. We often felt that we could get out and push the car faster than it would take it to get going. Once it got going it was great! My sister use to tell my brother -in-law about it but it fell on deaf ears until one week when he had to drive it to work. That was the last of the Tank.
Then a friend of mine had a car we called the Brown Bomber. It acted somewhat like my sister's car and my friend just hated it. It got us back and forth to our bowling league and we had a lot of laughs in it. When we got to this particular highway we had to cross, I used to say, "Now be careful, we don't want to get a whip lash." We would laugh and laugh. My friend used to park it outside her home and never lock it up or anything like that because she was hoping someone would steal it and her husband would have to buy her a new one. One night some kids started a fire in it and when her husband came home from his shift work he found it just starting to blaze up. He got the fire put out but it left a big, old burned place on the drivers side. My friend was just sure that she would get a new car. She was so excited. I laughed and kiddingly accused her of starting the fire. Turns out her husband accused her also. She swore up and down it wasn't her. The police got involved and it turns out that it was a bunch of kids and my friend never got her new car. You know what her husband did? He stuffed some old stuffing down in the seat of that car and threw a blanket over the seat and she was suppose to keep on driving it. She never drove that car again. It sat outside their house until he had to have it towed off.
I owned a little, two-door, foreign, sportscar called a Hillman for a few years. Getting parts for it was really hard so it was always needing something. For awhile I was in need of a Bendix Spring and the clutch would slip and stick, causing the car not to move forward at any given time if you stopped moving. Remember the movie American Graffiti? Well sir, we were the kids in California that made that movie possible. We were the kids who cruised Van Nuys Boulevard in the l950s. We started it all. I used to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard with my little sister and in my Hillman. My little car could attract attention and I got pretty adept at rocking that car when it would get stuck. If we were talking to boys when it would act up, I could open the driver's door, stick my foot out on the ground, slide over in one swoop and place my back against the door and gently rock that little car back and forth a few times and then slip it in gear and away we would go. You should have seen the look on the guys faces when they saw this. After awhile we got so well known that if I got stuck other kids would jump out and help us rock it and I wouldn't even have to open the door.
The last car I owned before I bought a brand new car was a Chevy Impala. Oh, that car. It had electric windows in it and a tape deck and I drove it back and forth here in Orangeville for a lot of years. One particular incident that stands out is when my son and I had to make a mad dash to the Castleview Hospital because my Dad had taken ill. We had had a very cold winter and the temperatures had dipped well below zero for several days. A lot of people were having trouble with their windows and doors freezing up at night on their cars. I was no exception. At this particular time we had just had time to grab our coats during the day. When we left the hospital it was about 1 a.m. and colder than cold. I don't remember why the windows were down but they were and they were frozen solid. We could do nothing but drive home that way. All we had was our coats and my son had on a ball cap. I had nothing on my head and even though the heater was on full blast it didn't help our heads or anything else for that matter. You can imagine how cold it was to drive across that desert from Price at that time of the night. We had no blanket or anything to put up on the window. I happen to have some dirty rags made from old diapers that I was bringing home to wash as a custodian at Ferron Elementary. I dug into this bag of diapers and found one that I could put on my head like a scarf. It didn't help much but it was better than nothing. I mentioned to Mark to do the same thing if he got too cold. Mark was sitting next to me all hunkered down trying to stay warm and it went through my mind, "Well, here is another fine mess you've gotten yourself into." I noticed Mark had been rummaging around in the bag of rags and the next time I looked, my son had turned his cap around and taken the rags and folded them and had stuck them up in his cap so that they hung down around his ears. All you could see was the tip if his nose sticking out. It looked pretty inventive to me so I asked him to do something similar to me. He responded by sticking some rags up inside my scarf like he had his. Here we were driving down the highway with diapers sticking out of our heads and the thought struck me. Can you imagine what we must have looked like to anyone passing us in another car that late at night? I'll bet we were a sight to see. We laughed and laughed the rest of the way home. We got home and the next day I rolled up my windows and left them that way until it warmed up.
I had one more incident in that old Chevy. My front seat broke and my mechanic had to take the full front seat out. That left the front completely empty with a hole on the drivers side on the floor where the seat had been attached. You could see clear to the pavement. It was a hole about the size of a dinner plate but it was a hole just the same. My mechanic wanted to keep the car and fix it but I had to get to work some way. So he said," I'll keep the front seat and work on it here. I'll fix you a temporary seat so you can drive it to work tomorrow. Then you can come over after work and I'll finish the job." That sounded good to me. You know what the temporary seat was? A gas can! He placed a square gas can over the hole in the floor and I had to sit on that stupid gas can and drive the car. Wasn't that a picture. Well, I did for two days. Count them. TWO days. Ever tried to work and press the gas pedal and the brakes and drive a car sitting on a gas can? It ain't easy let me tell you. Seat got fixed. The next year I bought a brand new car. Is it any wonder?
Well that is my world. Until next time remember those infamous words of Charlotte Whitton, "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult."