In an earlier post about our Christmas activities, I mentioned that as a kid in the early 50s I had
I don't think I was much different from other boys my age. I wasn't athletic, but I did like riding my bike at breakneck speed around my neighborhood. I dressed up those grips at the end of the handlebars with streamers, a crisp blue and white, until I was too old for that sort of thing. I liked using clothes pins to clip playing cards onto my spokes to make the bike sound like a motorcycle.
I also had a battery-operated turn signal, and I can recall still the warm summer evening when I rode down the block on Sixth Street, anticipating all the way the thrill of using that turn signal when I got to Radnor Street. There I turned right, past Stoudt's ice cream shop, and then right again onto Lexington Street. Those right turns continued the whole way around the block. Then I turned around and went the other way around so I could turn left at every corner.
At that age, perhaps ten or so, I began to notice cars and soon was able to identify every make and year. I awaited anxiously the new models each fall and would declare, "That's what I am getting when I am old enough to drive," being totally unaware that those models would be in the junk heap by the time I could afford my own car.
Since my dad was a Ford man, I love Fords the most. I recall in sixth grade, when asked by the school psychologist what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded immediately, "President of Ford Motor Company." He laughed and even remembered my answer when we met again in junior high school. (It's not that I was 'unbalanced' -- that would come later -- but everyone, at least those of us in an experimental accelerated curriculum, saw the school psychologist yearly.) As it turns out, my mother -- who knew everyone -- knew him, too, and he mentioned my remark to her, as well.
We neighborhood boys would sit on the front porch and watch as cars approached on busy Sixth Street. We'd vie to call out first the make and year of each car. No car passed without proper identification from us.
|Similar model, different color.|
|Great for attracting girls!|
Soon enough there were far too many makes than the Detroit "big three" to recognize them all, and that childhood passion passed into history.
Before admiring real cars so much, many of us boys were into models and toy cars and collected them in various ways. Cereal boxes would contain little plastic models of the latest cars, neatly wrapped in little cellophane bags. SIX NEW MODELS! COLLECT THEM ALL! the package cried out. I happen to still have some of those little cars. Most are just one color of plastic, but some I clumsily painted, adding two-tone color schemes.
Sets of these emblems were available for 25 cents each (perhaps three in a set?). I had quite a few, but they have long since disappeared. This picture is from a website written by a guy who apparently keeps everything.
With these plastic cars and metal ones, too, we "played car" in several spots in our urban neighborhood. One was the "dirt alley" behind our house. It was a pedestrian path that lay behind a garage belonging to a house around the corner. We dug into the earth and made ramps and roadways, parking lots and gas stations, all out of dirt. (This is why my children, playing with their latest iThing, cringe when I say that as a child, "The only toy I had was dirt."
Some of those toys are still in my collection of Christmas items. They come out (if lucky) once a year to play a part in a Christmas village. Some are those old cereal cars. Others are Matchbox cars that I collected once I had developed an interest in trains and Christmas villages -- probably the start of my interest in representations of structures (mostly houses) that still grab
me today when I see one. But that's another blog post.
|Renault 16 looking presidential|
Mine was a light blue color with a black leather interior. I drove it to Québec City and back one summer. After that, though, things started to go wrong with it, and it was in the garage more often than not. At one point the only people who would work on it were all the way over in Carllisle. One day, when getting an estimate on the latest repair, I asked the garage owner if he's like to buy it. He gave me $300 for it.
|Volaré wagon, just like ours|
Next came the Camrys. We started with a burgundy-colored wagon and then added a silvery blue sedan. Both of those cars lasted forever, too, at least 13 or 14 years. One of the women who was in my group at Montpellier in 1966 told me in a letter last year that she had just traded in her Camry after 27 years! And then only because it was rusty, and her husband was embarrassed.
We had a Ford Explorer for a while, along with Susanne's Subaru wagon, and The Box! One day my son Matt borrowed the Ford for a while, and he and his mother cooked up the idea of selling it in Baltimore. I never knew about that until it was gone, gone, gone. If you see it, please let me know.
ADDENDUM, March 23. I found this photo of myself in front of our house on Sixth Street. You can see my brother Mike's Ford convertible to the left. I think that's a Rambler wagon on the right. It belonged to a neighbor.