Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cars in my Life

1942  sold before we married
     Even before our marriage, my husband was buying and selling cars. When a sailor got his orders to ship out his car was usually for sale and my husband was ready to buy and then sell it himself. He'd make $25 or #30 dollars and in 1943 that was a tad more than pocket change. The only car he ever regretted selling was a '26 Chevy coupe.
     When we married we had a Plymouth coupe that was very picky about starting. On a damp, foggy morning it often took a push and that got so tiresome that it got a new owner.
Had a mind of its own about starting
     Several cars later we had a faded maroon colored Graham-Paige. It was an ugly thing and I thought something about the forward projections over the headlights gave  it a characteristic of  Brahma cattle. I went to the hospital in that car; came home, ten days later in a different one.

     Its seems that we kept this one a while and came home in it three months later when my husband had leave. It was missing a window which was hardly noticeable on the coast but as we drove northward we missed it. We coped by using a blanket for a windbreak over the baby's bassinet and at bottle time. the new father drained hot water out of the radiator for a bottle warmer. Wartime made no allowances for little luxuries.
   I think that the only car he was not interested in buying was a Packard. No one, absolutely no one, wanted a big gas guzzler like that! That poor sailor may have had to leave it on the street if he couldn't afford to ship it home
     Almost everything was rationed in those days, including automobile tires. Of course when a car needed tires the local ration office  would issue permits or stamps or whatever made it legal to go purchase some retreads. After applying time and time again for more tires the ration board became very suspicious of this sailor's constant need for tires and were about ready to arrest him for black marketing!
     Once we came home in a care that developed a bad leak from the radiator. It must have become much worse at about the time we had to go home and therefore it didn't get repaired. We had to go for the Navy was not known for flexibility in viewing late arrivals...You were either on time or AWOL.
     With a few extra cans of water in the trunk we left for that 400 mile trip and there was not a service station in the entire distance that we passed without a fill-up.
     When we arrived back in Corpus there was not enough time to spare for detouring to take me to our apartment so we drove directly to the base. My sailor made a dash for the gate yelling "You can do it!" So there I was, a tiny baby, a leaky radiator, no driver's license, and worse, no driving experience.
     Since very little was worse than AWOL in wartime, I drove home....somehow.
snow storm in 1946
     By the time the war was over, we either had replaced all the windows and leaky radiators or had a better car, so things were stable for a while. My determined husband insisted that I get a driver's license (now that I was all grown-up) and he got a job and soon resumed his trading habits.
      After he started his body shop there were always an available car he could trade for so he usually did. He had stayed in the reserve and once the squadron had a training week-end in Bemidji, MN, of all places. They flew up and while there, trader husband spotted an almost new Chrysler (I think) needing easy repair work and he bought it. He thought he could simply drive it home instead of flying back with the squadron.  That proved to be a no-no, so he left the car and flew back like a good boy, then loaded up with the next squadron and flew up again to get his car Fortunately, he escaped notice on his unauthorized trip.
     Another reason that car is remembered is that it had a record player! It came with several small records which we tried to listen  to on a trip to New Mexico but the dips in the highway made peculiar rhythms. Otherwise, it was a great car but soon someone else became interested in it so it moved on.
     Another large car we once owned was a Cadillac...a faded pink one, as I remember. It had only one fault, besides being pink, it needed shocks. When we drove out the driveway, at the dip it made a terrible sound, something like the braying of a donkey. The kids soon refused ride in it to school unless they could disembark several blocks away.
      There were a few others that created the same reaction. I don't know if their father ever caught on that they were not  being solicitous  of his time and convenience when they said "Just turn here, Dad, we'll walk the rest of the way."
     Somehow we became the owner of an old '39 four-door Plymouth. Stick shift, of course. Our daughters learned to drive with it. I can see it in my memory...backing and jerking to a stop, again and again as they struggled to get it out of the driveway.
      It became a tradition that the younger ones dreaded. It ended one morning when the third daughter called asking me to call her father because she had had a wreck on the way to school.

    Me: Are you okay?
    Daughter: Yes, just call Dad.
    Me: Why me?
   Daughter: Cause I don't want to. I hit a filling station.
   Me: What?
    Daughter: Mom.....!

 Call made. Husband dispatched. The "little dumplin's" brakes had failed and to avoid going into the intersection the kid had hoped to find a place to stop in the service station's parking area. At this point I had a simple two-word request: "Park it!"
     That was good-bye to an era. The fourth daughter and the son  learned to drive quite well without the "Little Dumplin's" tutoring
     So there it sat, in front of the shop, for years and years. Then one Sunday afternoon we got a phone call from someone interested in buying it. My husband went over to meet these potential buyers, three guys wanting to drive it to Mexico.
     They kicked tires, started it, hem and hawed and dickered over my husband's asking price. Finally, all three pooled their money and offered all they had for the little jewel but it was about fifty dollars short of the asking price, so my husband said,  'Sorry,' and pulled out to come home. After about half a block it struck him how stupid he was to leave that good money and quickly turned around and made the trade. He returned home amazed that he had almost not made the sale regardless of not getting his asking price.
    When we start remembering the cars the tales seem endless. Undoubtedly, with a little time there'll be more tales to tell. I am already remembering the one ........


  1. Wonderful! Such great insight and wonderful stories, Dannie. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your past.

  2. Dannie, Dannie, Dannie. How do you do it? There are too many fantastic things in this memory of your life's cars, but I just have to pick a few: Your daughter hitting a filling station? I laughed out loud. Really, this time. A pink cadillac with no shocks that barked like a donkey? I laughed out loud again. And a car with a record player? Your husband obviously had it goin' on! Speaking of whom, what fun he must have been. I know you miss him, but gosh, you just have to be so comforted by all these wonderful memories of your trader sailor man!!!

    Thank you, Dannie. I just love reading your stories.

  3. A family member with a better memory than mine (younger, also) has suggested that the Minnesoto car was a DeSoto and he's correct.