Adventures in My First Car – or Was it My Second?

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Do you remember your first car and getting to drive yourself wherever you wanted to go? Well, I do! Freedom, fun, adventures with friends . . . that car was like magic!

Actually my first car I never had the chance to really, completely enjoy. My first car was a present from my uncle who owned a wrecking yard! I know that sounds kind of bad, but really it was a great gift. It was a 1956 Chevy – made the same year as I was born. My Uncle Jerry always told me that he would get me my first car and he did!

I didn’t waste any time getting it fixed up. The first thing I did, with the help of my daddy, was to get it a new paint job. I had it painted metallic forest green! It was awesome with lots of sparkles in the paint. I loved it. Then I had yellow and orange shag carpeting put in to replace the old floor covers. Next came the shimmering white upholstery. It was looking awesome. Well, awesome to an almost 16 year old. Can you tell what decade I turned 16?

As it happened, right before I was able to take the drivers’ test, I broke my leg, and yes it was the right leg. In the meantime, my daddy was between cars so he started driving my “green hornet” to work. One night while driving home, the clutch slipped and completely ruined the gears. I was heartbroken! Daddy said, “Angel, it will cost more than that car is worth to fix it.” Then came lots of tears.

Freedom and the Open Road

So, the ’56 was sold and my leg began to heal. In place of my beloved ’56, daddy bought me a used Opal Cadet. It was really cute. It was yellow with two black racing stripes on the hood. I loved it. After two trips to DMV to finally pass my drivers’ test, I was on the road. It was exhilarating! I could go . . . anywhere. Okay, anywhere my parents would let me. It was still the most freedom I had ever felt.

Not long after I got my license while daddy was at work and Mama was busy on some project around the house, I convinced her to let me go to San Francisco — by myself! I still can’t imagine how I got away with that! But I was out the door while that “yes” was still hanging in the air.

San Francisco was two hours away from our home in Lodi, California. It seemed like I would never get there. Then the fun began. My Opal Cadet had a clutch. Every stop light I came to I prayed I wouldn’t roll back into another car. If you know San Francisco, every stop light seems to be located at the top of a hill.

I went to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 69. I drove down Lombard Street — the craziest road in the world. I stopped to look at the ocean and bought a big round of San Francisco Sour Dough Bread and a cube of butter. It was awesome. I hated to go back home.

I drove my car to school and as the only one in my gang of friends to have a car, I took everyone everywhere. Our campus was open for lunch so we had Taco Bell and Wienerschnitzel or A&W or Jack in the Box. It was not good for my diet!

Automotive Peculiarities

I loved that I had no trouble even changing the tires on my car. It lasted me through high school and I was still able to drive it to college. It did have some peculiar features. It was really small. One day while I was trying to parallel park with a gang of very cute boys watching, my car would just not cooperate. You might say it was parked a lot like O.J.’s Bronco. In frustration and embarrassment, I left it at a very acute angle and headed back to class. When I went to go home, my car was parked perfectly with the tires touching the curb! Those boys must have picked it up and fixed my terrible parking job.

Another peculiar feature was sometimes it was down-right stubborn and wouldn’t start.

“Daddy, you’ve got to fix my car!” I told him.

Back then when cars were pretty simple, Daddy was always able to fix just about anything on them but not that car! He finally found out it was in the alternator some way but a new one didn’t fix it. So he gave me a screwdriver and told me to turn on my car, then get out, open the hood and put the screwdriver between two screws on the alternator. It worked every time! I impressed a lot of boys that way.

What was your first car? Where did you go for your first day trip? These are wonderful memories. Now that my oldest two grandsons are 16, I’m going to have to remember to tell them about my experiences. I’ll try not to tell one of them about their mother flipping her little red Jetta into the ditch!

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