Claudia Myers: Colorful cars make colorful memories
That’s the reason I didn’t learn to drive until I was 19, because he would use any excuse to drive his hot rod; he drove me to school, to babysit, to the library, wherever I needed to be, and he drove my friends to and from our house – vroom, vroom!
When we moved from upstate New York to Minnesota in 1957 the first thing he did was buy a new car, a gray and white Ford Fairlane 500. I was 17. to know he wasn’t going to let me learn to drive in his brand new car!
My husband’s dad was a Buick man. So you can see right there, that I got “married”. Papa Myers had an old Buick coupe he called “The Wildcat,” and when Tom came home from medical school he would borrow his father’s car and pick me up. We were going to park in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church and fog the car windows. It was a sweet day when Daddy Myers traded in the Wildcat for a sleek little German Opel and gave it to Tom as a graduation gift. We found that it was much easier to fog the windows in a small car.
We got married just before Tom’s final year of medical school. The project was still in effect, but you could get a postponement thanks to the Berry plan. You could therefore be successful in your medical studies, as long as you promised to enlist as soon as you put on your cap and dress. This is how Tom found himself on his way to Germany for a stint in the Air Force, with the little Opel in the hold of the ship, returning to the Homeland.
I came to Germany two months later, as soon as I gave birth to our second child. After two years there, we came home with three children – and the Opel. But, poor, poor Opel wasn’t the same after leaving home for the second time. Immediately he started having electrical problems. Then he developed a horrible scabrous skin problem that looked more like leprosy. There were also psychological problems, I knew that, because every Sunday morning, when I had the three children all bloated to go to church and in the car, it would refuse to start. It’s time to trade it.
By then we had moved to Duluth, where 4WD was not a charming luxury, but sometimes the only thing that kept bread, milk and dog food in the closet. We were working on the old Victorian house, which involved hauling paint, boards and old furniture to strip.
We had never bought a car before, but we had a friend who thought Travelalls were the only solution. So we listened to it and bought one. An ugly brown. My husband is 5 feet 5 inches tall; I am 5 feet 2 inches½, and now we are driving a chariot.
You know Travelalls are built from parts and parts of other vehicles, right? I would say at least 30% of his life was spent in the repair shop waiting for his parts and parts to arrive. The first thing we did with that was to cram everyone up and drive to Hartley Field to see if the legendary all-terrain vehicle could reach the top of “Hartley Rock”. Yes, yes it could. And did.
With the kids going to dance, ski and Cub classes, we needed a second car, so for the first time in my life I had my own car. It was used, and I didn’t care. It was huge and difficult for me to drive. I did not care. It was impossible to park and back up. I did not care. What mattered to me was that it was red – bright red! OK, a little shabby, but yes, it was a red Buick LeSabre, two-door. There were black leather seats and the doors were so huge that I had to be careful where I parked or couldn’t get out. No seat belts, and three rowdy kids and Clancy the dog in the backseat. Every winter Tom would put chains on the tires, and they would become ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. I did not care. It was mine and well you know Red.
Ultimately, we replaced the Travelall with a blue Pontiac station wagon, which turned into a green Buick station wagon. This lucky vehicle was the one the three teenagers used to learn to drive. When we sold it to a man who took it away for $ 100, he said loudly that it “looked like it had been driven from all four sides.” Maybe he was right.
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer with the Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a nationally award-winning quilter, author and local antique dealer specializing in Persian rugs.