Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two '55 Fords And A Trunk Full of Memories, Part 2

I spent many a summer day during my childhood riding my purple Sears Thrasher banana-bike around Miss Ruth Wehrle's circular driveway.  I'd go up the hill, coast around the top of the arc, and fly--FLY--down the other side, out into Sims Street, notorious for its heavy almost non-existent traffic.  At the top of her homemade driveway, under a homemade carport, sat Miss Ruth's 1955 Ford Customline.

From the time I was seven or eight years old I told Miss Ruth that if she ever sold that car I wanted to buy it.

I drove it periodically, mostly to Daddy's station to service it, and mainly to keep from having to jump it off for Miss Ruth in the rare event she would drive it.  Red Sammons drove it in the movie mentioned in a previous post, but mostly it just sat under the carport at the top of Miss Ruth's driveway.

My in-laws and my wife and I spent the night at Miss Ruth's when Daddy died, since our house was full of other family.  I woke up before anyone else--besides Miss Ruth--and in the early morning hours before the funeral she had a simple request.  Would I drive her car for her?

It hadn't been driven in a while.  There's a smell, a scent, that 1950s-era cars and trucks have.  It's not bad, it's just...memories.  I remembered the times I drove the Customline to the station, changed the oil, drove it around the square, and took it back to Miss Ruth's.  I recalled driving my sweet wife out in the country in it, one arm on the wheel and the other around her as she sat next to me.  Before the time of mandatory seatbelts but during the time of COD's (Come Over, Darlin').

I backed it into the carport and hung the key on the rack outside her back door where it always hung.  When I walked in, folks were up and the day was waiting to be faced.  I told Miss Ruth--for the umpteenth time--that if she ever sold the car I wanted to buy it.  She said when she got too old to drive I could have it.

I was living in South Florida when I got the call from Mama.  Miss Ruth wanted me to call her.

She sounded weak, but alert, when we spoke.  "Somebody wants to buy my Ford," she told me, "but I told them they couldn't have it because I promised it to you."  I found out later the "somebody" was Harold Smith, who had always told me he'd buy it before I would.


I borrowed a flatbed from a friend and drove to Barnesville.  The car was right where it always was, under the carport.  When I went into Miss Ruth's house, she was lying on the couch.  She was now legally blind, but knew my voice.  She was bedridden, but raised up to hug my neck.

I looked around the small house.  On the wall was a frame with a wreath made of hair.  I remembered Miss Ruth telling me that some of that hair belonged to an ancestor, George Washington.  Her home was full of interesting items.  My favorite as a child was a miniature Coca-Cola crate, filled with little green Coke bottles.  It's at my house on a display shelf today.

I  loaded up the Customline on the flatbed, secured it, and went back into the house to give Miss Ruth the check.  That's right:  she didn't give it to me, because Mama wouldn't let me take it for nothing.  She remembered Miss Ruth's love and kindness and knew she needed the money.

When it was restored it shone like it did in 1955, only better.  The bumpers had been rechromed, I'd had it repainted Raven Black, and redid the interior.  When I sold it it had 54,000 original miles on the odometer.

I should have kept it.  Just like the 1955 Crown Victoria, the 1965 Falcon, the 1971 Monte Carlo, and the 1971 Grand Prix.  But I didn't.  I did it for my kids.

It was so, later, I could tell them not to ever fall in love with metal and rubber.

Like their Daddy did.

1 comment:

bella said...

I definitely miss taking that car up to the car show... and I know at some point (probably when I get my Shelby or 150) I'll fall in love with metal.