in his backyard haven

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Our CARS - 3 Brand New in 45 Years!

CARS: Three Brand New Cars in 45 years!

I couldn't sleep one night and started thinking about our cars.  My ramblings got so long that I've broken the blog into three parts:

Part I of III

When Dennis and I met on my 16th birthday in 1962 he was driving a blue-green ’56 Ford Fairlane, hard-top.  He also worked at Ford Motor Co on the assembly line.  The Ford was our date car until he acquired his Dad’s 1958 Chevy Belair Impala in anniversary gold.   (Vern always bought a new Chevrolet every three years.  Betty received the older Chevy and when Den got into the plan he bought the 6 year old car.) 

The Bel Air was hot stuff, huge enough for three couples and built like a Sherman tank; and eventually was very pricey.  Dennis wanted to “secure” our relationship but couldn’t afford a diamond ring so he designed a birthstone “promise” ring for my birthday.  He took the design to Lenco Jeweler in Los Angeles and ordered the peridot set in a gold flower.  When he went to pick up the ring in the Bel Air he was “crusin” on Santa Gertrudes in La Habra and had a close encounter with a car that ran a stop sign.  Her car was totaled by the tank Bel Air which spun around 360 degrees while Dennis laid flat on the front seat.  (It was the first car they had with seat-belts; the belt left a huge bruise!)  The ring was saved; the car was repaired and lived a long life many years.  He sold it to a vet when Den went into the Air Force on July 5, 1966.

The neighbor was “Daddy Laughead” - or Dave’s Dad - a former Navy pilot who taught the teens their way around engines.  Den was a great student!  He always said he could  fix any car with a hammer and a screw-driver.

We got married in 1967 and rode in Vern’s brand new ’67 Impala - but only for the wedding.  Den bought the ’61 Impala for our first car together.  He was almost late for the wedding so he could put on new tires, change the oil and have it washed!  We drove it a few years.  Liz had an aluminum and canvas baby bed that tied in the back seat; later an aluminum and vinyl car seat that hung over the back like a swing.  Dennis said it was real fancy since he had grown up using a wooden orange crate to sit on.

In 1970 I was pregnant a second time and Dennis’ enlistment was up.  We had a choice: 1) chance it in the civilian labor market without insurance, or 2) re-enlist and have the government pay for this birth!  The re-enlistment came with the bonus we needed to buy our first brand new car.  We lived in Lompoc, Ca but Dennis went to Vern’s fleet dealer in the LA area to order our “Malibu”.   Well, he came home all wide-eyed with excitement!  There was a new model called the Monte Carlo!  It was a sleek 2 door with all the latest gadgets.  He went south to pick up the new car in late March while I waited in Lompoc.  When he returned on March 31st I was in labor and we headed to the base.  What is at every base entrance but a guard shack and several young bucks - and they had never seen a Monte Carlo!   They had to check under the hood, kick the tires and generally inspect everything before we got through!  Joe arrived shortly after midnight on April 1st!  It was a grand event - a new son and a new car all at once!

Well, pretty soon we acquired the ’67 Impala (see a pattern here?).  We were now a two car family with three kids and we got a lot of milage out of the wedding car.  Dennis being pretty handy with automotive tools maintained that car until our first-born, Liz, was able to drive it to high school!  

The Monte and the Impala were our staples for many years and eventually became known by our friends for all the clever applications Den used to maintain them.  Did you know how useful those paper and wire “bread ties” can be under the hood?  These cars remained with us from California to Wichita, KS and on to Sherwood, AR.  We filled them up and kept them running!

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