This post, like all the others I’ve already published, is not an excerpt from my book, “Baby Boomer Reflections: Eighteen Special Years Between 1946 and 1964.” That book will hopefully be published in May 2015. These are additional special thoughts I want to share.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Unfortunately, “yesterday” was sometime during the fall of 1961, a Friday night, the first time the town’s car dealers could reveal their new models to the public. To build excitement, those cars were shipped to the dealerships wrapped in a covering. The dealerships covered the insides of their showroom windows so nobody got to see the new model until “that” day.
On “that” day, my Dad and I went to the local Ford dealership. I knew it was because I would soon turn 16 and get my driver’s license. I just knew that Dad wanted me to be the envy of the town. We entered the showroom, and I saw it … a yellow two-door Galaxie V8 175 horsepower Sunliner automatic convertible with a black vinyl interior. As I recall, that car had a window sticker around $3,000. I simply couldn’t believe it. Was I going to be popular with the girls!
But that wasn’t to be. Despite my protest, Dad had his eye on a red Falcon (similar to the blue one in the picture) with a three-speed column-mounted manual transmission. It had one option … a heater. The Falcon came with a straight-six, cast iron smokin’ engine that produced 85 horsepower with its one-barrel Holley carburetor. It was about $1,000 cheaper than the Galaxie. While $1,000 was a significant difference to pay in 1961, I didn’t care. What girl would want to be seen with me in a Falcon?
Dad told me that we could add seat belts, back-up lights, a radio and maybe, at some point, an air conditioner. How could I be dissatisfied with that? The only similarity with my dream car, the Galaxie, was that both cars had black vinyl interiors.
By the way … it was Dad’s car. I was probably a little presumptive in offering any opinion.
On occasion, Dad did let me drive his car, and I had some real adventures when he did. I’d sit in it at night and listen to AM radio from distant cities since the signal strength was better in the evening. Many mornings, Dad couldn’t get the car started because I’d drained his battery. I thought it was cool to let the car come to a lurching stop without me using the clutch. I’d also try to start the car from a stop using second and third gears. Dad couldn’t figure out why the clutches needed to be replaced.
And then there was the night I drove his Falcon into a house. As I remember, it was going to be a romantic night. My date was sitting next to me and I had my right arm around her shoulder. That meant I had to steer with my left hand. The car did not have power steering. I also had to shift gears with my left hand, and when I did that, I had to steer with my knee. I turned the corner of an alley, attempted to shift into second gear, through the steering wheel, and my knee left the steering wheel. The steering wheel turned suddenly, trapping my arm against the column shift and I drove into a house. My date got out of the car and walked to her home. No romance … a myriad of explanations. If I only had the automatic Galaxie!
There are other extenuating circumstances, but I’m not confessing.