Sunday, September 30, 2012

Midnight blue

My sister said midnight blue and I didn't know what that meant. There was blue. Dark blue and light, like the sky. What shade was midnight blue?

Like our car.




The Ford Galaxie 500. Running my finger over the pattern pressed into the back of the seat, that No Man's Land between me and my sister. Clicking my fingernail over the ridges in the clear plastic knob you used to roll down the window. I always sat behind Dad, Denise behind Mom. Baby David sat in between them on the front bench seat. He would turn around and look at us and we responded as if he'd committed a crime against humanity.

Mom! Make him stop!

Do you remember the sound when the windows were rolled up, but the wings were open?

I threw up once on the floor of that car. Was it car sickness? Something else? I can't remember, but I do remember that my father wasn't happy. A stickler about his vehicles, the last thing he wanted was a car that reeked of sick. I cried and then he felt bad.

When I overreact to my children, I see my father in me.

The Summer of '69.
That Ford took us to movies at the Starlite Drive-In on Highway 50. The speaker hooked over the window rolled to half-mast. The sound of ice cubes rattling in fluorescent plastic tumblers because we brought our own drinks. Pepsi and Big Red and Dad's Root Beer. David climbed up into the back window and fell asleep.

To keep the dust down, the gravel was oiled. The smells of petroleum and popcorn, french fries and sickly sweet snow cones hung in the air as we watched the movies and the people coming and going from the cinder block concession stand, an oasis of light and treats in the middle of the parking lot. The teenagers were of particular interest to me.

We sat in the car at the Big Boy under the awning and ate our cheeseburgers with tartar sauce and drank cherry cokes. I preferred the squishy crinkle fries. The carhops weren't on rollerskates, but I was fascinated by the silver coin dispensers they wore at their waists.

I don't know why my parents sold this car, but I know that my father is sorry that he did. The last he heard, the person he'd sold it to resold it to someone in Michigan, which is, I suppose, somehow fitting.

Your turn. What is the first car you remember?

45 comments:

  1. Serendipity! A 1974 Chrysler New Yorker, midnight blue, of course. Dad only had it for about a week when four-year old me cookie tossed in the back seat. Must have been too many McDonald's fries.

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    1. Well, Randal, we may have found our great, existential connection. Barfing in the backseat of a pristine, midnight blue car. Who knew?

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  2. My Dad had a blue Gremlin. Two doors, black vinyl seats, and a round plastic logo disc on the inside passenger door with a weird, smiling creature on it.

    It didn't dawn on me until later what in interesting marketing decision it was to name a car after a being who likes to play practical jokes with machinery . . .

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    1. Blue again! Sarah, it didn't occur to me for many years either the irony of that name. I had a boyfriend whose family drove a purple Gremlin. I loved it because he lived out in the country and it wasn't often that I saw him. To see that purple Gremlin in town made my heart go zing!

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  3. 1953 green Mercury Monterey 2-door sedan. My dad drove it to work during the week, and my mother didn't drive, so mostly I remember riding it to my aunts' and uncles' places on the weekend, which was pretty much the extent of my family's social life. It was used when we got it-- my father was and remains resolutely opposed to "wasting money on a new car." It had an automatic transmission-- "Merc-O-Matic," actually--which was still a reasonably big thing in those days.

    No seat belts, of course, and a nice flat shelf under the back window, where I used to lie and watch the stars as we drove home on late Sunday evenings. When I Googled for images to jog the memory this morning, the first hit was "Most Dangerous Car Interiors: #5- 1953 Mercury Monterey."

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    1. Bob, this fits perfectly into your stories about the travel to those weekends at your family's places. I love your writing about those times.

      Isn't it something how so many of us survived those dangerous cars? I know I didn't start wearing a seat belt until I was a senior in high school and that was only because my best girlfriend nearly died in a car accident in which she was not wearing her belt.

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  4. Lovely piece of nostalgia writing, Lisa.

    My first good memories are of a VW Beetle. My parents managed to regularly get themselves and five kids into it (one usually sitting in the space behind the back seat). Seatbelts were, of course, then a thing of the future ...

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    1. Thank you, Francis. I chuckled at the image of all six of you in the VW Beetle. I know what that's like. My mother, aunt and grandmother plus seven kids would .... well, I'm going to save that for the next installment of these car posts.

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  5. Red 1964 Dodge Dart.

    And there were three of us in the back seat. No air conditioning. Some getting sick did occur on those long drives...
    ~

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    1. Hey,thunder, we had a Dodge Dart, too. I can't remember the year though.

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  6. The first car I remember was a DeSoto, and that is all I remember about it.

    Next car was [what turned out to be a '53] an Oldsmobile, grey with white trim, four door, cannot remember the upholstery, bench seats (of course), which served between '55? and '62, with the occasional stall. I think it stayed in Germany. Next car was a Buick Special with seat belts (lap only), blue (not midnight blue, but almost cerulean), bench seats, don't remember the upholstery. We had a fixed order of seating: Dad (or Mom) at the wheel, Mom (rarely Dad) in the other front seat, my brother behind Dad, my sister in the middle, me on the right.

    In the early '70s, I had a minor accident in that car that ruptured the fuel line. I drove it to work and back home and it conked out there.

    It was replaced by a Volvo, which was mainly my mother's car, and I think an Audi, which was Dad's, and I bought a used Chevy Malibu, which turned out to have an exploding engine (it was replaced after Dad Went Down To The Dealership and probably threatened them with the State). The Malibu was a two-door (I probably need to explain that I just do not remember upholstery) silvery greenish with a vinyl roof and took me to Allentown with 8 other people for our karate exams (we were pulled over for speeding. The officer kindly did not notice) and cross-country round trip, after which it suffered being parked in Manhattan. A friend bought it and then I discovered that the vehicle reg/title had gotten lost and every effort to get a duplicate was returned with the note that they did not have a Chrysler with that VIN.

    I did get to drive-ins, but the last time was in '75.

    No, really.

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    1. D., thank you for sharing your memories. But I'm going to be unsatisfied until I get detailed descriptions of those interiors. ;-)

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  7. With my learner's permit neatly folded and safe in my wallet ... I learned to drive and to be cool in a two-tone '56 Chevy.

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    1. Bill, that sounds like a classic. And very cool. What were the two tones?

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  8. But but but .... this is all I can think about now. I used to love all these old sappy songs.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEaO1OWH9DU

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    1. Teri, I know! Me, too. I have this on a CD.

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  9. I remember a red Ford Galaxie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Galaxie
    My folks bought the vehicle used & back in the day I was paper thin. I was getting out of the car @ the grocery store & while in the car, felt my foot hit the pavement. The dealer put cardboard over a rusted out part of the floor, then covered it with carpet.
    I had major motion sickness as a kid & would toss my cookies after about 3 blocks ride in the car. In retrospect, the fact my Dad was a 3 pack a day smoker & I was stuck in the enclosed car did not help either. Yuck!

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    1. Oh, Fran. I cannot imagine having to cope with motion sickness and cigarette smoke. Yuck is right!

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  10. Yes, Lisa, this is beautiful writing. The idea of having one of my babies in the front seat, between my husband and I (obviously without a seat belt) makes me smile. I can honestly say that if I didn't have to buckle them into car seats and belts when they were younger, I would have likely had more children.

    My first car? Believe it or not, I'm still driving it. Luxurious gray minivan. Say it with me... oh, baby...

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    1. Oh, MSB, you're so right about those carseats. Life savers, but holy crap! There is nothing like stuffing a baby into a snowsuit and then into a carseat.

      And high five on that gray minivan! I had a silver one that served me well.

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  11. This ancient brown car -- I have no idea what it was -- that broke down one hot summer day when my mother planned to take my brothers and me to the pool. I was four years old. She decided our pool plans would not be ruined and that we would just walk. It was only a mile or two away, but for a four-year-old, that's a long distance. I remember sweltering in the heat and crying from exhaustion and cursing that brown car and then, when we finally arrived at the sparkling public pool, feeling like it was worth it.

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    1. Laura, I would have changed my plans. Kudos to your mother for hanging in there an getting you and your brothers to the pool. It turned into something you remembered instead of remaining just another day to forget.

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  12. A greenish blue Rambler wagon that broke down every chance it got.

    I've changed the blog name and address, but you'll find me, Puddles, and Slim here now. Follow the avatar links.

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    1. I love the name "Rambler."

      I followed you back to your blog, Brewella. Thanks for letting me know.

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  13. A cool green Ford Charger. A blander copy of Starsky and Hutch's set of wheels, people still did the Hey Charger (Victory V) sign in the streets.

    I did feel very blessed.

    Although once my dad slammed the door on my knee when I was going to tennis. Not intentionally of course. Yikes that hurt. Maybe I have a thing with car doors because my ex began to reverse onto my heel as I was getting out once - I leapt away so as not to ruin my boots!!

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    1. Save the boots, Cat! I like your priorities.

      And lucky you! That Charger would have been way cool with or without the red and white Starsky and Hutch paint job.

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  14. I remember a lot of the cars my dad had, '46 Pontiac, '50 DeSoto, '51 Olds which my older brother traded in on a new '55 Chevy. My brother was home on leave and one day he dropped my dad off at work and during the day traded that Olds for a new '55 Chevy. He said he had to get my dad's signature for the paperwork (car loan, etc.), spent a couple hours cruising around, signed my dad's name on all the papers and picked up my dad after work with a new car. The Chevy was a much better car, the Olds vapor locked on the test drive, but my dad still bought it. Don't know why my dad traded the Chevy for a '57 Buick which turned out to be a lemon.

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    1. Kulkuri, you sent me searching for photos of those different models and years. What a gorgeous time for cars at pieces of art.

      Your brother sounds like a take charge kind of guy. Good thing your dad didn't raise a stink about it but somehow suspect that he was glad your brother made the trade.

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  15. I can't think of any cars because this song is now stuck in my head. I thank you. ;-)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEaO1OWH9DU

    I know I'm not the only one. Please tell me I'm not. I'm worried.

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    1. Teri, you're not the only one.

      You're about to get hit with some more cars and songs. Sorry in advance!

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  16. My first car was a bright yellow Ford Fiesta. It ran on three cylinders because the fourth was locked up or something, and it was a stick shift. I went into a mild panic every time I had to stop on an incline.

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    1. Similarly, my first car was a green Gremlin. It couldn't make the hill to my high school parking lot, so I had to go the long way around. Of course there were those few days I tried to make the hill anyway, and I was always sorry.

      The thing I remember most, though, about the car was the smell. The smell of those cardboard air fresheners I'd hang from the mirror because I thought it would mask the smell of all the weed I was smoking.

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    2. Averil, that reminds me of my friend Amy's first car. A screaming yellow Mercury Maverick. I don't remember any calamities having to do with gears, but there were a couple of dicey moments in that car that may have involved beer.

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    3. tericarter, mmmmm, pine and pot. It's the hallmark scent of high school.

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  17. Oh, Lisa!! I loved this story! Seriously, beautifully written!

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    1. Aww, thanks, Meleah! And thank you for tweeting the link! xo

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  18. The first car that I remember was a brown, 2 door Duster. It had cracked, faux leather seats that Dad decided could be repaired with tape...

    He would take my sister and I to the "penny candy" store every month on payday while he bought gas. One Saturday, we were running late. Dad slammed the door before checking to make sure that Me, Too (that'd be ME) was fully in the car. He slammed my pinkie toe in the door, right by the 'hinge' of the door. I've never seen a man go from "Impatient/late" to "chalky white and in tears" quite that fast. My toe still isn't right.

    I believe that I got an entire QUARTER worth of penny candy that day.

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    1. A Duster! And brown is such a 70s color, isn't it? Rennratt, all I could think about your story was "bless his heart." I'm sure your father felt like crap for a long time after.

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  19. It's strange to think just how much time went by while things seemed to stay relatively the same. The car I remember that was my dad's pride and joy was the 1958 Chevy Impala in turquoise (much like this one but a hard top). Drive-in movies? yes Drive-in restaurants? yes (our first McDonald's had a sign that said 100 sold) Broad new highways that went to northern lakes nobody but couriers du bois had seen before? yes.

    American Graffiti type drag races were standard Saturday night fun a few years later. Two friends who'd bought matching 1932 Chevvies they fixed up to race were so excited after the motors were dropped in they forgot the engine bolts. Their first sprint ended when one of the 409 500 HP dual quads hit the road at 60mph. The guys were both okay but sad.

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    1. susan, that Impala is a work of art. So beautiful.

      That scene you describe reminds me of Grease. Those poor, poor cars.

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  20. Oh, the nostalgia! What a great story Lisa. The first car I remember is my father's turquoise Comet. It was such a big deal to go to McDonalds when we made it out of the sticks to the big city. I’d organize my burger, fries and shake in the back window before eating. I was once sleeping in the backseat with my brother and sister, and my father threw a cigarette butt out the window that blew back in and landed on my hot pink polyester shorts. It melted a hole in them and burned me. He felt bad about it. That was back in the days when we kids played in the haze of smoke at our mother’s feet during the morning coffee klatch, then went home for Campbell’s soup and tuna fish sandwiches for lunch.

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  21. One of the cars my dad had that really stand out was a 1968 Plymoth Road Runner. It was blue as well, but more like the color of the south seas. I loved the horn and I'm sure I drove the neighbors and my parents crazy by honking it when no one was looking. The first time I drove, it was a 1956 Cadillac. It was great until I high-centered it on a poor, unsuspecting juniper bush. It was my uncle's car. Oops! :)

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  22. Beautifully written, Lisa. You really took me back to that time when, with my family, I sat in a 1958 green Hudson with the same cinderblock snack stand and same crackling speakers. Bravo!

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