Venerable Old Cars

Good Monday Morning everyone. How’s your week shaping up? This will be a busy time for me as I prepare for a visit from a long-time girlfriend who is coming for a week. 

Before talking more about my friend and the upcoming visit, I want to share this meme that another friend sent me over the weekend. It so perfectly expresses what is in my heart today. Plus I just love Snoopy and Charlie Brown.


Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled program

Flo, who quickly became Flo-Bell for reasons unknown, has been my friend since we were just out of high school. She, actually the year before me, and we didn’t go to the same schools. She was raised in Cadillac, Michigan, and I grew up just outside of Detroit. “Downstate” as those northerners referred to the area. We met at a small drive-in restaurant, Ronny’s, where she was a waitress and I was a carhop.

On roller skates.

Like you can see if you watch reruns of the old TV show “Happy Days”.

Ronny’s was known for its footlong hot dogs, filled with cheese and wrapped in bacon, then deep fried. The creator of that delicious and unhealthy concoction was Ruby-Bee, a short order cook from Tennessee who could cuss like a truck driver and liked to give everyone pet names. Maybe that’s how Flo became Flo-Bell. I don’t remember. That was too long ago.

When she gets here, I’ll ask Flo if she remembers, but she might not. When we talk on the phone, she keeps reminding me that she’s a year older than me and therefore has lost the use of more gray matter than I have.

My girlfriend has always had a wicked sense of humor. She also had a memorable old car that I wrote about in my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant And a Paycheck.

Old cars hold a certain charm for many people, and it’s always fun to remember the cars of our youth. One of the classic clunkers of all time had to be the one my best friend owned way back in the era of “Happy Days” for real. It was a 1952 Plymouth that had seen better days by 1951, and it offered the option of air conditioning long before the automobile companies even thought of putting it on their list of extras, let alone making it standard equipment.

Most of the floorboard in front was gone, and the seat was anchored to two-by-fours placed strategically across the chassis. That was terrific for ventilation in the summer, but held less appeal in Michigan winters when the cold air and snow blew up through the gaping hole that should have been covered by the floorboard. But what did we care? We were young and hearty, and we owned snow boots.

Back then, we drove clunkers out of necessity. At least the folks I knew did. None of my friends, or neighbors, came from “means” so we acquired wheels the best way we could. Most of our cars were barely held together with chewing gum and rubber bands, and they threatened to die at each stop sign, yet we would rather get rid of the family dog than part with a cherished old car.

My friend’s Plymouth was just such a car. Even though it’s only redeeming quality was the fact that it would get us where we wanted to go, and most of the time get us back again, she loved it. One of the most interesting features of this car, besides the fender that I would have to pick up from the pavement every time we stopped at a traffic light, were the gaping holes in the front floorboard. Not having a floor gave us a false sense of security in that we figured if the brakes ever gave out, we could still stop the car by dragging our feet.

And did I mention that we had great air-conditioning in the summer?

But winters were grueling if we forgot our fur-lined boots.

Entering and exiting this vehicle took a certain amount of stage managing and skill. One did not simply open the door, get in and sit down: First of all, because the doors wouldn’t open ninety percent of the time. Secondly, because the first person in had to balance the seat on the two by four for the next person. Otherwise, the seat would rock, throwing the passenger through the hole, and her cries for help would never be heard above the sound of an engine hitting on four out of eight.

If you enjoyed this excerpt and would like to read more stories of venerable old cars, read chapter twenty-one of A Dead Tomato Plant And a Paycheck. 

Now, I’ve got to go finish preparing for Flo’s visit. I’ve got the guest room ready for her, but she might appreciate it if I clean the rest of my house before she comes. And I have to get some writing-related business taken care of so I can pretty much take next week off. She’s coming on Friday, and I’m so excited.

Whatever you have planned for this week, stay safe and stay well.

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