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Friday, July 29, 2016


A friend and I were reminiscing the other day about the first cars we ever owned.  I doubt if there is any guy who can’t fondly recall in detail his first “heap” and I am no exception.

Mine was a 1954 Ford “Mainline” two door business coupe.  I loved that car; it was a “stick shift” with a 6 cylinder engine and because it was a business coupe, it had no bells and whistles.  It was designed to get salesmen from A to B with no frills. 

I was 16 and the thought of luxuries like whitewall tires, a radio, or an automatic transmission were unheard of on the Mainline model.  The driver was the only one who got an armrest, an outside rear view mirror, and a sun visor.  As far as a radio, I had to get a cheap AM from Sears after I saved the few bucks to afford it. Those were the days before cars had FM radio so it was only AM and didn’t even have push buttons to find the stations.  I had to dial them in.  As far as air conditioning, Cadillacs were about the only cars that had it then.  I used the 260 form:  2 windows open and going 60 miles an hour. 

Electric windshield wipers were unheard of then also.  They were vacuum operated which meant that every time you pressed on the gas pedal, they would stop!  If nothing else they forced you to drive VERY carefully when it was raining!

My heap looked like this only without the side chrome strip
There were 50,000 miles on that Ford in an era when cars were pretty much used up if they made it to 80 or 90 thousand miles.  But, with only $600 saved up and borrowed from my parents, I wasn’t expecting the world.  Besides, I now had wheels, which was a lot nicer than hitch hiking or walking.

My parents made it clear that they wanted their loan paid back ASAP.  It was the 1950’s and the term “work ethic” meant something.  If you borrowed money under the terms of an agreement you were expected to pay off that loan per the agreement.  There were no special dispensations for family members in most cases as integrity meant something then.  Hence, I got a summer job doing delivery work throughout my hometown Cincinnati area.  It paid $60 a week and gave me the opportunity to learn my way around the metro area.  When school resumed, I worked part time in a grocery store.  I still remember my last payment on that Ford and my receiving the title free and clear.  I felt like a big shot!

The 1950’s seem like a million years ago now.  In most homes, dad was the bread winner and mom ran the house.  When kids came home from school mom was there to greet them while dad usually rode the bus to and from his job.  Many vacations involved family trips to the seashore or the mountains in the family car for a brief respite from the typical workdays. 

The mandatory military draft was also in effect so when boys tuned 18 they had to get a “draft card” which meant that they eventually would have to serve in the military.  They could wait until they were called or voluntarily join but either way, there was usually no way to avoid serving.  The military did a lot of guys a lot of good whether it offered them a career or taught them some valuable lessons about life which with many cases I see today, are sadly lacking.