123. Sunday Drive

A dilapidated and very ancient Essex car pulled into the local gas station. “Could you let me have half a gallon of gas?” asked my father. “Why don’t you fill her up, now that you’re here?” said the attendant. ”Well,” said Dad, “she might not run that far.”

Or else, maybe he just didn’t have the 8 cents to pay for the extra half gallon.

Yeah, that WAS the price of gasoline in those days! And there WERE two or three attendants working at a time.

My sister Joan’s comment on yesterday’s blob reminded me of our family’s driving adventures back in the 1930s and beyond. Our car trips to visit relatives in Atkins were especially memorable.

Atkins (originally called “Poker Flats”) was a tiny town just 20 minutes drive west from Cedar Rapids, but it was always an adventure getting there and back.  This was primarily because of our car.

My father, Jim Gorman, (a machinist) was always convinced that any rattletrap car – no matter how derelict its condition – could be restored to life given good intensive care.  He always had at least two or three old beaters (usually Plymouths) parked at our house in various stages of usability.

Dad didn’t like to spend more than $35 for a car, so you can picture what kind of prized automobiles were parked at our house.  Most them should have been on life support, not on the highway, but each served its time as the “family car”, and each and every one gave wildly erratic service.

Joan mentioned the old Essex car that Dad had “rebuilt”. Try to picture our idyllic excursions in it.

Our Sunday trips to Atkins featured all seven of us wedged into the car with Mom, Dad, and youngest brother Richard in the front seat, and Joan, brothers Jimmy and Leo, and me in the back seat waging rigorous sibling warfare.

When Grandpa (Knute Longfield) joined us, he sat in the front seat with Mom and Dad. He probably got the window seat since he chewed tobacco and needed somewhere to spit.  Lucky little Richard would “get” to join armed combat with his four siblings on the back seat.

There were only three times when things got quiet: when we got in real car trouble (often); when the Burma Shave signs appeared and we all read them aloud; or when it was time to (shudder) drive through the fairly deep creek which was on the road Dad sometimes took to Atkins. The car would occasionally get mired in the creek, and Dad – cursing a blue streak like the sailor he formerly was – would have to try to push it out.  Our neighbors in Cedar Rapids must have wondered why all of us frequently came home from our Sunday drives muddy to our knees.

There may have been a time when we went somewhere and the car DIDN’T break down, but I can’t remember when it was.  Whenever we all had to get out and help push, I kept hoping none of my friends were exposed to the spectacle.

In spite of the ordeals we faced on our trips, whenever Dad said “Let’s go for a ride”, we couldn’t get out to the car fast enough. Don’t ask me why. It may have been our reckless sense of abandon that I must have passed on to my sky-diving grandson, Bryce.  He would have felt right at home in the back seat of that car.

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4 Responses to 123. Sunday Drive

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    We were just talking with my Dad about his Model T that he had to crank and had a rumble seat. He only paid $30 for it. With a half a gallon of gas, they must have gotten a lot better mileage! Dad, now, only puts $10 at a time in his car.
    You described your outtings to a T! I can only imagine the four of you in the back seat. And I can just hear it now, Burma Shave. With all their popularity, I never saw one can of Burma Shave it our our anyone else’s home. There are great emails on the actual signs.
    What a riot about all your cars and adventures! Keep on truckin’ Octo-Woman!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I love getting these little snapshots of your childhood! (And I don’t just mean the photos–though I love them too!)

  3. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    No………Grandpa sat in the back seat. He spread his legs apart so that he was comfortable. We could never sit close enough so that we touched him. You sat in front, Richard on Mom’s lap, and Leo, Jimmy and I sat in back. That picture of us was taken about the same time so you can see how big I was. We practically sat on top of each other so that we wouldn’t touch Grandpa. Leo and I had just had a laugh about that a few days ago. Grandpa wasn’t a touchable person. He was so good to Mom though, and he always had lemon drops for us. Leo went to visit him in the nursing home. He was senile then, and he asked Leo if he knew “yosie”. He said, “She is such a good daughter.

    That creek you said we went thru was at Mary and Leslie’s, out in Covington but that is another story.

  4. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    I just want to say that Linda should write a blog of her own. She has lots of interesting things to say. If you do, Linda, I would like to subscribe.

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