On Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were driving across the Kenai Peninsula, and we met several vintage cars on their way to Eddy's Auto Car Show that is held in our Seward Neighborhood each Labor Day. I told Madelyn the make and year of most of the vintage cars we met since most of them were familiar and easily identified. “That was a fifty-seven Chevy.” “Look, that’s either a 1950 or ‘51 Ford.”
“I can’t believe you know that,” she said, though we’d been there before. She used to think I was just making things up when I called out the make and year of an older car, but somewhere along the line she realized that I was a true man of the sixties and I knew my vehicles. I grew learning to recognize and name cars of the fifties and sixties. Like the boys in Secondhand Summer, I watched with cars with an almost religious fascination, and as teenager there were always Motor Trend and Hot Rod magazines around the house.
Long before we could drive, boys like me and my brothers, would be educating ourselves about cars, preparing for that special day when we got a driver’s license for the drivers license was the true measure of a person’s movement from childhood. You might be official a teenager at the thirteen, but we all knew that until you had that license, you were just a kid. And, in fact, driving was such an alluring thing that some of us were driving independently long before we were sixteen.
Part of growing up was also planning and saving to buy a car. Having a license was one thing; having a car of my own was quite another. And having a car meant having a job pay for it and those things all worked together to building a mobile, independent population.
|From Wikipedia: a brodie knob, or knuclebuster|
I had three older brothers to watch going through this process and I watched as our Dad taught them the mechanics. My brothers emulated Robert Mitchum in Thunder Road, an action movie about fast driving moonshiners in fifties muscle cars, a forerunner of Fast and Furious. When he was in high school, Tom had a fifty-one Ford sedan that he seemed to spend more time working on than driving. Mike later had a fifty-seven Ford two-door hardtop that he souped up to be faster than it was safe. In a place where the nearest pavement was forty miles away, cars driven fast took a beating and some times didn’t take the corners. There were lots of wrecks.
When my brothers got older they graduated to the sixties muscle cars, and just like Sam Barger’s brother Joe, my brother Tom had one of the first Mustangs in Anchorage, that he loved to race.
|Our last rental car, a VELOSTER!|
I never caught the car bug as bad as as my brothers had it, but I did and still do like to admire and critique the cars of that time. During college, Madelyn and I used to cruise, and I mean Cruise, between Idaho and southern California in a 1966 Oldsmobile 88. Two-door hardtop, massive engine seats the size of couches, and a trunk the size of a pickup bed. What a ride. Since the seventies, cars have become more and more similar in appearance and there are more brands on the road. Most cars pass me on the road unrecognized and unremarked, but the cars from the decades of my youth are monuments of another time. I think they represent too, a lifestyle and attitude for some of us that shaped our character. Even in the lasted areodynamic, high-tech ride, some ways we are still mobile, independent drivers with one hand on the brodie knob and a foot on the gas.