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.”
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.
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.