This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for October 29, 2020, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
Neither my parents nor I were ever rich enough to buy a new car every three or four years like some of our friends would do. We always bought “second-hand” cars (as they were called in the 1940’s) or “pre-owned” cars (as they have been called in more recent years). Even after my daddy retired, we kids were on our own, and money was not so tight, he drove his “second-hand” 1950 pickup truck almost until the day he died in 1986. Brand new 1950 Ford pickups sold for about $1,200, but Daddy bought it “second-hand” in 1958. My nephew still drives that pickup, but now it’s called a “Vintage Pickup,” and has much prestige. Restored 1950 Vintage Ford Pickups sell today for between $25,000 and $64,000. Daddy bought it because it was cheap.
I learned to drive in 1947, at age 13, in my parents’ 1938 Ford Two-door Sedan, a “second-hand” car which we drove for many years, already 9 years old when my mother taught me how to drive. Of all the cars my parents owned over the years, that one stands out in my memory bank the most vividly. As a teenager, I was an awkward klutz, and for a klutz to learn to drive a car with a clutch (as they all had in those days), was traumatic. Twice, I almost had a wreck, because I forgot to press down the clutch, — and this was on a road in Dime Box that was traveled by about three or four cars a day at the most, but that’s not counting the horse and wagon traffic which, believe it or not, was still seen back then.
By the time they traded in that old ’38 flivver for a newer “second-hand” car, much of the paint had peeled off, one replaced fender was a different color, the running board was rusted up, the battery no longer rechargeable, and one headlight burned out. My mother’s two favorite axioms, “a penny saved is a penny earned,” and “make do or do without,” continued to guide my parents and me even into more affluent times. Later years, my daddy even acquired one of those new-fangled, clutch-less Ford Pintos for Mama, who almost had a heart attack when her foot felt for the clutch and it wasn’t there. She screamed in German, “Es ist einbeinig! Es ist einbeinig!” (It’s one-legged! It’s one-legged!). Mama never learned to like one-legged cars, even though her preference for Ford vehicles never changed; at least Daddy’s Ford pickup had a clutch!
As much as my mother hated clutch-less cars, I, the klutz, hated cars with clutches, so you can bet that when I was financially able to purchase a car, it had an automatic drive. Driving had never been one of my talents (I failed the actual driving part of the driver’s license test three times, the fourth time I passed even though I knocked down the parallel parking posts), but I did get better over the years. Unlike most young men and women, I was not particularly interested in cars, but, strangely enough, I always loved tractors, and still can’t resist photographing them when I see interesting models. As a kid, I had a collection of toy tractors which were always on my Christmas wish list, and which I loved dearly.
As a teacher, however, and, later, as a pastor, driving to school or visiting parishioners in the nursing home on a tractor, would not have been the smartest thing to do; so my wife and I each had a car. Still living by my parents’ philosophy, I bought good, “pre-owned” automobiles. Perhaps because my wife’s aunt owned a loaded Ford LTD which I hated, not to mention my parents’ love of Fords with clutches, I came to prefer General Motors products. My wife-to-be was driving a Pontiac before we married, and I fell in love with her Pontiac as well as her. Establishing a long-time relationship with the Chevrolet place in East Bernard, I came to like Chevrolets, though my wife came to prefer Toyotas. But way down in my frugal heart, the brand I preferred was really the one that was the cheapest.
Today, I still drive, as limited as my driving is, a 2005 pre-owned Chevrolet Aveo, which I have come to love almost as much as my two daughters and my two cats. No doubt that is partly due to the fact that the pre-owner of my Aveo was my youngest daughter who bought it brand new in 2005 when she went to work for the Beaumont Enterprise. She sold it to me when she went to work for Random House Publishers in Manhattan, where owning a car was a liability. She, too, loved that car, and it’s kind of one of the kids . . . or cats.
Like me, the Aveo is old, and often has trouble starting, but after we both recharge our batteries, we get going, and the going is good!
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and the author of two books, Open Prairies and It Must Be the Noodles.