I don’t really have a thing for cars, but it may seem like that because I have talked about several already. There was my neighbor’s Packard wagon-which was a beauty. There was my parent’s Studebaker-which in those days was pretty cool looking. There was my Dad’s keyless Chevy. And today there is the Falcon. It was my Dad’s car. It came after the Chevy. It was not cool. It was white because white cars were cheaper. It was a two door because it was cheaper. Have you found a characteristic of this car yet? It was a straight shift on the steering wheel. That was also cheaper and really not cool at all. Cool cars had a stick shift on the floor! It was beige inside. Blah-blah-blah. I also learned to drive in that car under the ever watchful eye of my Dad. He taught me to drive on the unfinished areas of Interstate 75. Was that probably illegal? Maybe. But it was a great stretch of road with NO traffic. All you had to do was drive around the barriers!!!
Anyway, my dad drove the Falcon everywhere. One day he went to a large K-Mart kind of store to pick up some things. He parked his car carefully and went inside. He did not lock his car. In those days, people frequently left their cars open. The windows were down. Just a regular shopping trip was taking place. When he came out, he walked to his car and then realized he had maybe parked in another row. He didn’t see his car. Dad was pretty tall so he just looked over the parking lot and there was the Falcon-over in another row. He goes to the car and the windows were up. He thought back and thought he had left the windows down. It was pretty warm that day. Then he opened the door and got in. Oops! The seat was too close. So he adjusted the seat. He pulled out his keys and then dropped them on the car floor. So he bent down to, pick them up. As he was picking them up, someone knocked on the window. He looked up. It was a policeman with a gun. The policeman said, “Sir, would you please get out of the car?” So he did. Beside the policeman was a woman. He didn’t know her at all. The policeman then asked Dad why he was in the lady’s car. Dad told him it was his car and he had the keys. The lady said it was hers. My Dad said it was his. So the policeman asked him to get back in the car and start it. So he did. Both the lady and the policeman were confused. So he had Dad to turn off the car and start it again with the lady’s keys. Yep! It started again. So they started looking around and two rows over was another white Falcon. They were exactly alike. Well, one was Dad’s and one was the lady’s. Both sets of keys started both cars. The policeman as well as my Dad and the lady were stunned. How could this happen? Keys were suppose to be different-right? Well, apparently not.
So what are the chances of two cars two rows apart having exactly the same keys? Perhaps that is the question. As far as my Dad, he was just glad that he was not arrested for car theft!
I never went car shopping with my parents. Children were not considered necessary at that kind of event. Frankly, no one cared what you thought about a new car. Or what color it should be. Or anything about it. You were a kid.
The first car that I can remember my parents having was a Studebaker. It was a coupe. It was light gray. I don’t remember riding in it or helping to wash it. But I remember my best friend’s car. She was from Michigan and they drove a Packard wagon. I thought it was the coolest car ever made. First of all, it was a station wagon. You could lay down in the back of it!! That was a first for me. But what made it so special is the car had wood paneling on the outside. Yep-the outside of the car. Wow! I had never seen a car with wood paneling. Her father would not let the kids help him wash it. He said it required special attention because of the wood. Somehow I think he just wanted to do it himself!
I remember when my father traded the Studebaker in for a car that was more family friendly. He bought a Ford Fairlane Station Wagon. Oh joy! It was so cool looking. And it was BIG! It had four doors and the rear door made five. You could roll the rear window down which was pretty cool. And you could lay down in the back behind the rear seat. It was a kind of personal child bed. And the car was a light olive green. It was wonderful.
Back in the 50’s, there were NO safety features like we have today. The dash in front was metal. It was not coated nor covered with anything. If you were sitting in the front seat and the driver slammed on the brakes, you hit the dash-BAM! And you probably smushed your nose against the dash or broke a tooth. We had NO seat belts. NONE. No one had seat belts. Ever. WE had no baby seats. You held your baby in your arms. That was it. We didn’t have air conditioning either. Heaters were also optional on many cars. No one cared if they drove in luxury. You drove to get somewhere. Period. We stuck our heads out the back window of station wagons. And trucks? They were the best. You could sit in the bed of the truck-unsupervised-while your parents drove all over the place-even on the highway. If you have never ridden in the back of a truck, you have missed a delightful time.
About this same time, my Dad bought a used 1949 Chevy sedan as a second car for us. He paid $100 for it. It was pretty cool, too. It was black. And it had rust spots on the fenders. You did not even need a key to start the car. When Dad bought the car, the man gave him a key but Dad never used it. The only trouble with the “keyless” Chevy was that someone could drive your car away without your permission. That happened once or twice but the police always found the car-without any gas left in it. Kids joyriding – they would say.
Oh and I forgot to mention—the RADIO. HaHa. What radio? You had to pay extra for one and the chances were good that you could get no reception anyway inside the car. There were no CD players or stereo sound or Pandora or movies. When radios finally came out in all cars, they turned on and off and you used a knob to move from one station to another. Antennas stuck up on the front fender of your car. If they broke off, you could use a coat hanger as a substitute. Cars were not automatic. They had a clutch and you had to shift gears. The gear shift was on the steering wheel. In fact, when you took your driver test you had to drive a car with a clutch. No options.
Wow! You are saying. That must have been awful. Nope! It was just fine. We were living and loving the 50’s. We thought we had the very best. NOTHING could be better!