Growing up there were three major automakers, Chevy, Ford and Chrysler, from which I could easily have found something that Papa might have chosen, when he finally decided that he needed to invest in a family vehicle, somewhere around 1964.
The old Plymouth needed a quart of oil every time we went somewhere, and the ’56 Ford Sedan was nowhere big enough to accommodate both the family and a picnic lunch, when we would visit Noel at Dominguez. No, the time had come to get a new car.
In family discussions around the dinner table, I openly lobbied for a van, of any make, because I envisioned the seat being removed, so that we could sprawl out in the back, and more comfortably read. Color was of little interest, but style was crucial.
“Get something really hairy, Papa!” I urged, using an adjective that I knew would prolong the conversation.
“Hairy…” was all he said, while giving me the quizzical, twinkly eye look.
“Yeah! You know, out-a-sight, cool, hip, with-it, hairy!” as though no other discussion were needed. Had I thought to mention it, I might have added, “Anything but a Rambler, Papa,” but who would ever have thought that that was necessary?
When the big day finally arrived, and he sallied forth to make the big purchase, JT and I waited around, keeping our fingers crossed. Somehow, some way, we knew he would never let us down, so when that white ’64 Rambler station wagon pulled into the driveway, I felt as though I had been sucker-punched.
|Shivers down my backbone...|
A Rambler? A Rambler station wagon? Could you possibly be serious, Papa? To myself, I said this, but never aloud. That simply wasn’t allowed. When Papa was happy, everyone was happy, so I for one, was not about to rock any boats.
Seriously, though, a Rambler?
Even at that, I had no idea what was about to befall me, because Papa had a plan, and I was at the center of it. His plan was that his new acquisition was going to remain pristine, with me being the one to do the maintaining.
Now his plan became much clearer: He’d bought this late-model (!) vehicle in excellent shape, he meant to maintain its market value, and then, somewhere down the line, he could buy what he really wanted. What that was, I did not speculate about; I was too busy doing damage control.
The first Sunday after he brought the vile vehicle home, he took me out and outlined his plan. I would get the vacuum cleaner, vacuum the car out, wash it, chamois it dry, and then come in to collect my reward: $.025, which Papa obviously thought was a king’s ransom. Don't forget, this is the same guy who used to pay a kid my age, Brian, the same quarter for a whole day’s work.
It’s not that he was mean, or petty, but simply, that was the way his world operated. Kids worked because they were members of the household, and if there was something for a bonus, then more’s the better.
I was crushed, pure and simple. Not only did I hate this old-fashioned car, I had to wash it too? Ramblers were for old people. My grandpa drove a mid-fifties Rambler sedan, and I loved it, because when I was in it, I was with Grandpa. I loved the smell of the interior and I loved the fact that he played the radio when we went places.
There was nothing of redeeming value about the Rambler. I endured and collected my weekly quarter, until I finally started working Sundays at Sunrize, and thereby got off the hook.
Imagine my shock, after I had entered the army, and was away from home, to find he had bought a red and white 4WD Chevy Blazer, which he then proceeded to drive down to La Paz, at the southernmost tip of Baja, California.
Timing. You know?