Shades of American Graffiti

When I was in high school my Dad decided to buy me a car.  I guess he got tired of me always asking to borrow his, or worried that I’d smash it up or some such thing, although I never put a scratch in any car the entire time I was in high school.  He had a 1957 Desoto at that time.

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 It had fins the size of airplane wings and looked like it could take off at any moment.  It had automatic pushbutton drive to the left of the steering wheel so it was a cinch to drive – no shifting or popping the clutch (which was fun).  It was a hardtop, so you could be really cool when you were dragging Broadway.  We’d roll down all the windows regardless of the temperature, push the button into gear away we’d go.

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Back then it was not a standard feature to have air conditioning in your car – it had to be special ordered.  I vividly remember one very hot, steamy summer night when my Dad had given me his car and a bunch of us girls decided to drag Broadway.  We rolled up all the windows and PRETENDED we had air conditioning so we could be really cool.  How pretentious – and stupid.  All we did was sweat like pigs and besides that we couldn’t hear what the guys were saying to us when we passed.  Duh!!

Dragging Broadway was the “Thing” to do back then.  Broadway was about seven blocks long in our city, and the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night.  A good place to burn up a tank of gas, but then it was only 32 cents a gallon back then.  You’d eventually meet up with a carload of guys (that you knew of course), park your car and pile into theirs.  Then it was off to some fast food joint for a coke and a burger, or maybe even out to some back-country road if they happened to have some beer.

Then my Dad decided he would buy me my own car – and THIS is what he bought me.  I didn’t have any input at all – he just came home with this one day and told me it was mine.

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It was a 1951 Nash Rambler with a six cylinder with a stick shift on the column – the epitome of style, aerodynamics and speed, huh?  I just about died from embarrassment because I thought it was so ugly.  But then, what the hey, it was wheels and  most of my friends weren’t even allowed to borrow their dad’s car.

So – take what you get and make the best of it.  The thing my Dad didn’t realize though, is what an impression the fold-down seats would make on all my friends!  Okay – get your mind out of the gutter, now!  By this time I was dating Ole, (and he had a 1949 Ford) and most usually we spent our time with several of his guy friends and their girls.  So with fold-down seats it could turn into quite a party – now I TOLD you to get your mind out of the gutter, didn’t I???

I remember one night in particular – very cold and snowing – and the guys had managed to get some Buckhorn beer for $1 a six-pack.  There were Ole and me; his two next-door neighbor girls, Jean and Sue; several of his buddies, Junior, Ronnie, Donnie, and Dennis, and a couple of others girls I can’t even remember at this point.  We all piled into my Little Nash Rambler, Ole popped the clutch and we sped out of town sounding like a little sewing machine, headed for some back-country road to drink that Buckhorn.  When we found a suitable spot we flipped those seats down and all sat in a circle and had a high old time until the Buckhorn was gone.  Needless to say, my car became known as the Party Car, unbeknownst to my Dad who I’m sure didn’t take those fold-down seats into consideration when he bought me that car.

Big Brother had to suffer through a Nash Rambler too, when he went to college.  His was a 1949 up-side-down bathtub.  But it had lots of potential – -

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At one point he and a buddy stored a beer keg in the cavern-sized trunk, ran plastic tubing through the interior of the car up to the dash, and hooked the tubing to a handle so they could draw beer out of the spigot – how convenient, huh?

Of course back in those days the consequences for being a minor consuming consisted of a slap on the wrist and being sent on your way.  Not the case nowadays – fortunately.  When I think of all the things that COULD have happened I cringe and I think of just how lucky we were.  My heart goes out to all the parents who have lost children under these circumstances or any others.

So car interests continue for us – Ole now has his favorite little ’29 Model A coupe that he loves.  The only problem is that Model As were made only for skinny, short people.  You have to turn into a pretzel to get in and out and it’s not uncommon to be rubbing thighs as you go down the road.  Then there’s the ’40 Ford coupe that he’s street rodded and on occasion takes to the drag strip to burn a little rubber.  My favorite, though, is the ’51 Ford convertible – red with a white top.  It’s a big boat, holds 6 people comfortably, and belonged originally to a high school friend of ours, so we’ve got a long history with that car.

Love, Lena

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