[Masthead] Fair ~ 61°F  
High: 63°F ~ Low: 43°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters: Automobiles

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A recent mention of classic cars started a conversation with some younger members of my family. In the first place, I think they were a bit surprised to learn that "Grammy" wasn't a part of the Horse and Buggy Era.

The fact is, my lifestyle always included automobiles. The first family car I remember was a dark green Essex.Its windshield was of glass but the side windows snapped in place and were made of isinglass. Quantities of icy air seeped in during cold weather so there were lots of lap robes to tuck around us during our infrequent winter rides.

Dad made the necessary cold-weather trips to town, to deliver eggs and cream in trade for groceries.He traveled by bobsled or lumber wagon depending on the amount of snow. In the spring there was no way those early autos could make it through black viscous Iowa mud, so an old buggy might be used briefly.

That probably does credit me with a bit of the "horse and buggy" experience.

Memories of the green Essex are dim, but they are augmented by many snapshots of that formidable vehicle. Well before I started to school it was replaced by a black box-like car of the same make, which had glass windows all around.

This was the car my mother learned to drive--well, after a fashion. She had been a "whiz" on a bike, she often assured us. And she declared there wasn't a horse in anyone's barn, which she couldn't have harnessed to some sort of rig.But maneuvering a car down the road, steering, accelerating and shifting gears, all synchronized and in sequence, somehow escaped her. She eventually managed, just barely.

When I was in fourth grade, or thereabouts, Dad traded for a Pontiac. It, too, was black.This was shortly after Ford's Model A introduced rounded, softer lines which GM also adopted.I well remember the day Dad picked up my sister and me after school and we drove all the way to Fort Dodge, a whole twenty five miles, to get the new car.

He must have bargained for it earlier, as there was only a brief bit of paper work in a classy little glassed-in cubicle inside the dealer's showroom before we were off for home. Helen and I both sat in the front with Daddy, examining and admiring every tricky little gadget and knob all the way back to the farm.

I'm sure it must have been a used car for I have no recollection of that "new car smell" which impresses us all to this day. It was so much shinier and sleeker than the old Essex that it was as good as new to us.

So here is written proof that I did escape that earlier era by a few years.An aunt of mine, my dad's favorite sister, laid claim to having ridden in everything from the ox-drawn prairie schooner, to a commercial plane.

She was a true adventurer, to her dying day.Well into her eighties, she realized that the only vehicle which she hadn't ridden was a motorcycle. So she convinced a friend of her son's to take her for a spin.My cousin was frantic before they finally returned.He'd expected a brief run around their small town, but Aunt Jessie liked it so much she talked the cyclist into taking her to the next town and back.

Yes, I barely missed that earlier era and am but one generation from it.Living proof that both time and the landscape do fly by, when you're having fun.