Thursday, June 25, 2009
All God’s children got a 1957 Nash Rambler Metropolitan
Mrs. RWP and I, along with E. and N. (two of our descendants) and also the dog, just to make things complicated, have jetsetted off in our ten-year-old Toyota sedan for sunny, rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny Tampa Bay in Florida. The purpose of this particular 500-mile trip was to return E. and N. to their rightful owners after a fun-filled month in north Georgia.
I don’t know how much blogging or comment-replying I will be doing for the next week or so. In fact, this may be it, as laptops are at a premium hereabouts. One has to take a number, stand in line, and wait for one’s number to be called.
A comment by Pat -- an Arkansas stamper -- on my last post, in which she confessed to backing her father’s car into a willow tree when she was ten years old, brought one of my own memories up from the deep.
Let me set the scene.
As I mentioned, my parents didn’t own a car. But a few months after my mother died, a co-worker of my dad’s wanted him to meet his widowed sister-in-law (and by his I mean the co-worker’s sister-in-law, of course; my dad already knew his own sister-in-law). So my dad borrowed a little red-and-white Nash Metropolitan -- yes, Virginia, there was a Nash Metropolitan -- from the guy who had delivered the 25-lb. blocks of ice for our ice box before we finally got a refrigerator, and one Saturday in March 1958 we drove 30 miles to Coppell, where the two finally met, my father and my future stepmother, or as I have often thought of them, the irresistible force and the immovable object.
Mildred had been a widow for about a year; her husband of more than 20 years, Clarence, had died of a heart attack the preceding April. She was the mother of four. Her oldest son drove a turquoise 1958 Thunderbird and owned an actual boat. Interesting, but irrelevant. Best of all, to my way of thinking that day, was that her house had indoor plumbing.
So the die was cast. Dad and Mildred fell head over heels for each other. He was 51; she was 43. They knew almost immediately that they wanted to be married to each other. They decided to wait a couple of months, though, until I graduated from high school.
My dad went out that very week and bought a 1952 Dodge or Plymouth (I really can’t remember) for a couple of hundred bucks. It was midnight blue. He wanted a vehicle of his own during the ensuing courting period so that he wouldn’t have to rely on the nice iceman’s miniscule red-and-white Nash Metropolitan, seating capacity: 2. Plus he was a smart man and probably figured out rather quickly that it would be difficult to court anyone in a Nash Metropolitan.
After the second of what became regular Saturday trips to Coppell, Old Blue sat in our driveway unused during the week. On Monday through Friday, Dad rode in the car pool, as usual, to his job at the aircraft factory in Fort Worth. He left our house at 5:45 a.m. every morning. I had just turned 17 and had never driven a car. But I had watched carefully as I sat beside my father on those two trips to Coppell.
I was getting ready for school one morning and thought to myself, “Driving a car looks pretty easy. I bet I could drive that car to school and return it to the exact spot this afternoon and Dad would never even know I took it.”
At the place where our oval driveway joined the dirt road that passed our house stood a big oak tree. Driving turned out to be a little more complicated than I had envisioned. After an initial sudden lurch forward, I guess I froze. I know I didn’t brake; I know I didn’t steer. But I definitely accelerated.
Ka-BOOM! I drove Old Blue right into the oak tree. The tree was not harmed in the least, but the entire right front quarter of the car had met its Waterloo, had rendezvoused with its own immovable object, had been damaged beyond repair.
That day was one of the worst days of my life. I knew my dad was going to kill me, or worse, when he got home. He had a quick hand and a wide belt and I knew I was doomed. If it had been possible, I would have died a thousand deaths that day.
At 5:00 p.m., my dad came sauntering up the dirt road from where his carpool dropped him off at the paved road. He, of course, was very surprised to see what he saw at the end of our driveway.
As it turned out, Dad was philosophical and I wasn’t punished. He even laughed, I think. He said he thought my living in fear all day long was punishment enough. He went out the next day and bought a baby-blue, 1953 Chevrolet and continued courting my stepmother on the weekends. As far as he was concerned, Old Blue was just a means to an end, and one means was as good as another.
Love saved the day. Not his love for me. His love for my stepmother.
That accident and its aftermath put the fear of God into me. No wonder I waited five more years to learn to drive a car, and then only because I imagined the ridicule I would face if my bride had driven us away from the church.
I remember the 1953 Chevrolet, because we had it for several years. So successfully have I suppressed the memory of the few days we owned Old Blue that I cannot remember whether he or she or it was a 1952 Dodge or a 1952 Plymouth. But I will never forget what started it all, that borrowed red-and-white Nash Rambler Metropolitan Coupe, seating capacity: 2.
(Eventually a photograph will go here)
(This looks just like the one Dad borrowed, but according to the internet it is owned by Dale Carrington of Puyallup, Washington.)