CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
From the age of ten, I was fascinated by cars. It’s not unusual for a boy to like cars, but I was extreme about it. I could recognize any make from any angle. Identification was helped by the manufacturers, who went out of their way to be sure their cars were different in various ways from their competitors.
Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge, Ford, Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, Lincoln, Mercury, Nash, Packard, Plymouth, Pontiac, Nash, Oldsmobile, Studebaker. Several of those made trucks, too, and I could differentiate all of those, including GMC and International Harvester makes.
It was easy to tell one car make from another. There were no “foreign” cars, and each manufacturer made only one model. A Packard was a Packard. A Chevy was a Chevy.
I suppose I liked cars so much because we didn’t have one. When I was ten, we moved from Indianapolis to our little five acre hardscrabble farm three miles from Oakland City. There I became acutely aware of the absence of a car.
In Indianapolis, we didn’t really need a car. We could walk to school, the drug store, the movie theater, the branch library, the grocery store, the Blue Ribbon ice cream store. If we had to go downtown, we could ride the street car.
We didn’t have a car in part because we didn’t have a driver. Daddy was blind and Mother didn’t know how. The main reason, though, was that we could not afford a car.
We didn’t have a car until I was almost 18. The Korean War was going on, Whirlpool in Evansville got a big rifle contract and didn’t have enough workers so were willing to hire anybody, even a blind man. Despite his “handicap,” my father created the best work record in the whole factory. Nonetheless, when the war and the contract were over, he was the first one fired. After all, he was blind. A sighted guy who doesn’t want to work is better than a blind man who does nothing but work, isn’t he? And they say government should be run like a business! 
But for a while, he had a salary, and I was working whatever I could find. We had enough money for a 1950 gun-metal gray Chevy with 53,640 miles. Yes, I have remembered the exact mileage for over 60 years.
We could now afford a car, and we had a driver. My high school provided driver’s ed as a regular part of the curriculum. We drove in groups of three, and I had the good fortune to be assigned to drive with Carolyn Wilder and Ann Turner, the two prettiest girls in school. [I hope Shirley Black is not reading this.] After I completed driver’s ed, Aunt Dorothy took me in her Pontiac to get my driver’s license. It’s amazing I passed, since I was so distracted in driver’s ed by the presence of Carolyn and Ann it’s hard to believe I learned anything about driving.
Toward the end of my high school years, things began to change in the car world, although not in the desirability of Ann and Carolyn, who, when we were told we had to work in groups of three in physics class, automatically chose me. [Now I hope that neither Shirley Black nor Helen McFarland is reading this.] VWs and English Fords and Opals and Renaults began to hit the market. American manufacturers began to make more than one style. You couldn’t just say Plymouth anymore. You had to differentiate between Plymouth Savoy and Plymouth Belvedere, between Cadillac Deville and Cadillac Eldorado.
I still love cars, but they are so boring. They all look alike. I applaud the environmental protection measures that lead to their sameness, but…
Now I recognize them by their emblems. I didn’t have to think about the emblems on the cars of my youth, although I dearly loved that ship on the prow of the Plymouth. Now, though, I know what four rings mean, and an elliptical circle, and an awkward H, and a snaky S, and…
Yes, there are those cars that look like toasters on wheels, but you can’t tell a Honda toaster from a Scion toaster except by the emblem.
It’s okay, I guess, but I worry about the boys who love cars now. Loving cars is not as easy these days. But I have taught my grandson to recognize a 1955 Chrysler Windsor Newport Deluxe.
1] Speaking of cars and business guys, I had breakfast a few years ago before a class reunion with my late classmate Jarvis Reed. After college, Jarvis worked in the retail car business his whole life. We were talking about “government should be run more like a business,” and I said, “Some business people are really stupid.” Jarvis looked quite offended. “Only about 90% of them,” he protested.
Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:
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Yes, I know I promised to stop writing for a year while I try to be a real Christian instead of just a professional Xn. But this isn’t very professional, is it?
Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her latest book is, What Goes Up. It’s published in hardback, paperback, audio, and electronic, from B&N, Amazon, etc.