Friday, March 2, 2012

My First Car

Mine looked like this one.
My first car was a 56 two tone Belair.  That white and turquoise muscle car was a year older than me.  I bought it my senior year of high school.  My mother and my younger sister moved to Montana that year.  Mom had just graduated college.  She was heading for her first teaching job.  A one room school, grades K-8  in Eastern Montana.  I was staying with my older sister and her husband.

My trusty bicycle was my only form of transportation.  One morning I was late leaving work.  I was peddling fast so I wouldn't be late.  It didn't work out so well.

An older couple had seen me and my bike part company. They helped me up.  The lady went into their house and brought me a towel.   At first I was just going to get back on my bike and head on to school.

I brushed off some of the rocks. Took inventory of my appearance.  I had ruined my new nylons.  My green corduroy coat now sported only one sleeve.  Blood streamed down my face.  Soaking into my clothes.  My knees burned.  I ached.  The blood gushed down my glasses. I used the towel to apply pressure to my temple.  My inner dialogue berated me for leaving late.

They wanted to call someone for me.  They convinced me I needed to clean up before going back to school.  Finally I told them how to contact my sister.  She took me to see Dr. Johnson.  

He pulled the remaining small rocks from my hide with tweezers.  I remember the plink, plunk, plink as they hit the metal bowl.   I remember squeezing my eyes shut as he picked up a syringe with the long "sticker".  He then picked up "needle and thread", and proceeded to stitch me back together. He had a talent for sewing.  The scar on my temple, looks like a star.  Today its not visible unless you know where it is. 

My brother-in-law's son was a mechanic in nearby Craigmont.  He agreed to find me a car.  It took some time but he got me a Belair for $75.00.  He and his wife brought it to town and I took a test drive with him.  My driving experience consisted of drivers training without further practice.

Larry let me drive.  I picked a two lane road on grapevine hill.  It never had much traffic.  The road was narrow with hairpin turns.  Lots of them.  I remember his clenched hands turned white as he sat in the passenger seat while I drove.  To his credit he never said a word about my driving skill. Or the fact I struggled to control the speed on that big muscle car.

As I careened around the curves I wondered what had possessed me to choose this route.  It felt like the machine was trying to get away from me as I tried to maneuver it between the lines.  I held my breath as the car gathered speed.  I was so relieved when we finally got to the bottom safely.

I  looked over at Larry and he was kind of pale.  His voice kind of quavered as he asked me "What do you think?"

"I'll take it."

We got back to the house and I wrote him a check.  Someone asked where we had taken the car and he said grapevine hill.  Everyone stared at him.  He shook his head as if struggling with a decision.  "Bring the car to the shop next weekend there's some work I want to do on it.  Don't go down that hill again until I get the brakes fixed."

I recounted this incident the next day at work.  A friend went and checked my car over.  He came back and said wire was holding some things together.  I never quite understood.  Do you ever look back and realize that certain events actually foreshadowed the future?

I took the car into the shop for repairs.  I pulled up to the shop, parked and walked in.   I remember it being dark inside especially coming in from the bright sunshine.  It seemed so  big at the time.  Everything in place, neat, orderly.  I caught whiffs of gasoline, grease and oil.

Larry's wife fixed a great big salad for lunch.  She served it with a white dressing.  I asked her what it was.  She called it "Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing".  After tasting it I became a lifelong fan.

My first tank of gas cost 25 cents a gallon. I moved into my own apartment later that week.  My next tank of gas cost  27 cents a gallon.  I was upset.  I went to work moaning about the cost increase.

 My boss said, "Ruthie its only going to get higher.  You will probably never see it this price again."

I felt run over as I realized that gas was going to cost me a lot.

I graduated from high school that May.  My mom and younger sister came back for my graduation.  They stayed with me that summer.  In August I sold my car for $250 and quit my job.   I moved to Montana and enrolled at Miles Community College.  I was back to riding shank's pony.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. What a nice memory! I remember gas at 25 cents. You could tell the attendant to put in a couple of bucks worth and have it filled! You made quite a nice profit on the car!

  2. I felt like I was there with you during this story through the way you wrote it. 25 cents. Wow. I remember 99 cents when I was a kid.

  3. Oh my, what a story, from the bicycle accident (I guess you were lucky) to the first drive in your 'new' car, I was wondering what was next! I too rememeber those gas prices, but I also know that my first teaching contract paid $3000. a year. The Bel Aire is pretty, but can you imagine driving one of those today! Might be fun to try! Thank you Ruth for another fine story.

  4. That was a fun story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I felt like I was right there with you.

  5. What a car...and what a story! I love the wry, looking back humor - what we know now that we didn't know back then. I think my favorite part was grapevine hill - you had me sitting on the edge of my seat there!

  6. I was so sad you sold it! :( I loved the "plink, plunk, plink" sound effects. Wow - great story!

  7. Also, I love the title of your blog, "Writing to Remember." It's inspired my next few posts, to capture those moments with my kids, so I don't forget. :)

  8. Sweeeet car! And what a memory you have! I enjoyed this story and am amazed at how well you remember the details like it happened yesterday.

  9. Oh, first cars. There's always a story there. That must have been quite a bicycle accident. You so vividly described it that I was in pain for you as I read. If only gas was 25 cents again.

    Thanks for sharing,

  10. I looked at the pumps tonight $3.35 ouch.

  11. Great story! Sometimes I wonder how I ever survived my early driving days. I don't remember using seat belts in the old station wagon.

  12. I loved riding along memory lane with you. I laughed several times along the way. Wonderful post!

  13. Your first car story made me reminisce about by first car as
    well. While reading your story, I was kind of excited for you. It’s as if you
    just got your car yesterday! I am sure you can have a new car, though it’s sad
    that you have to let go of your first car.

  14. The first car is a special memory, right? For many, it's often the car of their parents, or a used car, bought from money earned in part time jobs. It's also the car where we start to get used to driving, which in turn makes you drive more confident.

  15. For most people, their first car is a memorable one. My buddy got his first car on a car dealership at a very low value. He thought that the car would give him a lot of problems, but it was the opposite. The car ran smoothly with no hassle. He was able to use the vehicle for a good number of years with minor repairs and restorations.

  16. I think everyone has their own first car story. Yours is very interesting. I was moved by the Grapevine Hill situation. But I see you handled your driving well on that curved road. Well done for a beginner. You probably had numerous travels and memories with that car. And it’s sad that you have to sell it. Well, I know you’re just being practical. That car, being able to somehow save your health once, is quite memorable.


  17. Oh a Bel-Air! It has received a facelift compared to the
    earlier Bel-Air models, with a more conformist full-width grille. It is among
    of the most recognizable American cars of all time and an apple of the eye of
    the collectors. The Bel-Air is spacious and, fuel efficient with integrated
    tail fins and chrome finishing.

  18. I remember when I first got my Chevy years ago. It was a year before I started college, and I desperately wanted to have a car since I got into a university far from my hometown. I had been a working student since junior high, and I have managed to save some money, but to my disappointment, it wasn’t enough to get me the Chevy. But thanks to my parents and my older sister, they all pitched in so that I can buy my first car. It was a very tearful moment for me when I sat in the driver’s seat for the first time. That day, I have proven that dreams do come true to those who work hard for it.

    Tyra Shortino

  19. @ Tyra. Yes, dreams do come true for those people who really worked hard for it and for those people who strive to get it. I, myself, aimed to have my own car after a couple of years working in a multinational company. And eventually, my dreams did come true. I am a very proud owner of a Chevy Cruze. :) Thanks for your story, Tyra! Your story made me remember about how I strived to have my own car.


Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.