Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write about a car…
Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of A BLANKET FOR HER HEART.
Today’s theme is to write something about a car. Well, I think modern cars are boring. Reliable for the first hundred thousand miles, too complicated for the average home mechanic to repair, they actually get you where you’re going. Not so much when I was young.
My first car was a 1949 Mercury bought for $300 when it was nine years old. It had all of 54,000 miles on it, which made it a relic at that time. Its front bumper was bent outwards on one end where someone else had caught it with their car. Bumpers then were made of heavy steel, so straightening it wasn’t easy.
That car was a survivor. The day my first child was due home from the hospital I polished it up so it would look its best in honor of the occasion. No sooner had I picked up my rags and wax and stepped up on the curb than a guy came round the corner and smashed into the driver’s door. And the center post. And the rear door. Lovely. After a fight with his insurance company I got enough money to buy two doors at a junk yard and repair the car myself. Did a good job if I do say so myself.
Shortly thereafter the car began to stall at random times. I was working part time as a gas jockey, so began expensive (for me) attempts to fix the problem with the help of my boss. A new fuel pump and a few other repairs I no longer recall did not solve the problem. Then one day the car wouldn’t start. I turned off the ignition switch, turned it on again, and behold, the engine roared to life. Aha, said I, perhaps? Sure enough, a $1.19 ignition switch (things were cheaper then) solved the problem.
There were more adventures to come. The time it overheated in traffic on a NYC bridge. The temperature gauge (yes, cars had gauges back then) went right to the top and stayed there, but the engine kept running. When I finally reached a gas station and poured water into the radiator all sorts of rust and other gunk erupted from the fill pipe. Though it seemed nothing could be left of the engine, regular use of a radiator sealer (a common product at the time) kept it purring like a kitten. Except when the fuel pump failed. And the transmission burned out. Back to the junk yard I went and fixed them both.
Don’t let me mislead you. Old Betsy wasn’t always broken down. I just didn’t have any money. In college at the time, married with two kids, I was borrowing to live. Even normal maintenance on the car was a problem. When the heater failed I didn’t have the three bucks it cost for a new thermostat. So, I rigged a wooden board to block the radiator to make the car run hotter. Of course, the defroster never quite got warm enough to clear the windshield of winter snow and frost, but who had to see to drive?
After three years I sold the car for $75, then saw it in a parking lost a couple of years later. The new owner had destroyed the interior, which had been immaculate when I sold it to him. It broke my heart to see that, but the car was still running which was some consolation.
Ah, I loved that car. Never felt that way about another. There’s nothing like the magic of your first car. Especially when you had to put so much of your heart and soul into keeping it alive.
The Spot Writers- our members.
Catherine A. MacKenzie