Posted by: Jim E | February 18, 2011

No Car…A Paint Job…And Learning To Drive a 1953 Willys…Part II…

Now where was I???…Oh ya…my Mom exaggerating…that’s right…she was somehow a bit upset by my cousin Tom and I painting the neighbors car a nice shade of green…but let’s move light years ahead…well, lets slow down a little…because during all the intervening years my Grandparents drove us were we needed to go…now you must remember, life was different in those times…there was not the “running to the store” a number of time a day…or a week for that matter…and most of the everyday needs were supplied by the “corner grocery store”…in most cities there was one within a block or so of where you lived…also a drug store…maybe a hardware store…and then a ways away would be a larger choice of stores, churches, movie theaters, etc…all within walking distance or a short drive…I somehow miss those days…

We didn’t live in the city of Minneapolis but just outside the city limits…when my Grandparents bought a lot and built their little house, it was “in the country”…that was during the 1920’s…but by the time WWII was over in 1945, there were lots of those little houses and also bigger houses that had been built…and near us, within walking distance was our own local store…”Feld’s Store”…it was an institution in our neighborhood…all the Feld boys grew up with my Mom and her brothers and sister…went to school together…played together…and they went off to war during WWII…and then all three boys went into the business with their mom and dad…who lived above the store…during the depression Feld’s always gave credit to those in the neighborhood until they could pay…I remember running up to Feld’s to get bread or milk or something…and telling them my mom said she would pay on Friday or whatever…they wrote it down…(and of course penny candy)…

All that to say…cars were not always at hand…or always needed…so our need for my Grandparents to drive us was not like it is today…and in those days, we walked…even distances that we would think excessive…walking 5 miles or more to play with a cousin was not abnormal…today, unheard of…and a bicycle was a mode of transportation, not just a toy…it got us places quicker but still may be a long way away…

So for all of those years my Grandparents took care of the driving needs…(okay, now let the light years pass)…by the time I was in high school, all my friends were getting their licenses or already driving…but not me…I don’t really remember why I didn’t try and ask my Grandfather to use his car but I didn’t (it was a 1953 Willys, maybe that was why)…so in my head I was thinking how this would happen…one of my friends in school came to my rescue…he allowed me to drive his car for my license…I passed the test without being able to practice much…(but I didn’t pass by much either, so it all came out even)…I didn’t take my license until I was 18 and ready to graduate (1960) from high school…Oh, I knew I would drive but we had no car…it finally worked out…

Since I was going to college in the fall…I needed to get a car…from working the first part of that summer I saved up some money for a used car…my Grandfather went with me to a used car lot in Minneapolis, stuffed between two buildings, two rows of cars…the one I chose was a 1953 Ford flathead 6, manual transmission, rocker panels rusted out…(it was green, I think Tom and I had that color in mind a few years before)…but with all that…it was mine for $395 and purred like a kitten…who cares it ran…that would be my transportation for the next few years…I loved that car…(here I am washing that little beauty)…

It was not long after getting my first car…the time came when my Grandparents could no longer drive…my Grandma had a stroke and Grandpa was just too weak and sick to drive…one day after some incident while he was driving…my Grandpa just gave his keys to the car to my Mom and said, “I can’t drive anymore.”…and that was it…too weak and sick to drive safely…he was quite a guy…like I have said before…he was  strong person, his whole life…by that time I had a car and was driving…with gas at 25 cents a gallon and a $395 car…I was driving all over!!!…and now it was my turn to drive my folks…

Within a year or so I had met Judie and in 1962 sometime…I don’t remember the exact date…Judie and I knew we would be getting married…there had been no announcement but most people knew that was probably going to happen…one day on the way home from grocery shopping with my Mom…I said something like this to her, “Mom, I don’t know if you have thought about this much. But you know Judie and I are going to get married sometime soon…and I don’t know where we will be after that…so you need to think about what you are going to need to do about getting around.”…she looked a bit surprised but she always took that kind of news in stride…my younger brother was not old enough to drive yet and she would need to do something…and she did…I didn’t know it at the time but I was passing on the driving chores to a previous generation…MY MOM…

At 45 years old…never having driven…she took driving lessons in that old 1953 Willys…stick shift and all…what a woman!!! (and here is a picture of that Willys)…she knew what she had to do…and that was her M.O., she always found a way…didn’t want any help from me or anyone…Grandpa was surprised…and proud, I might add…I, of course was proud too…a little wary but proud…she did it…and passed with flying colors (better than my score)…and she drove until she was 79…

One day I was at work and got a call from my Dad…well, that couldn’t be good I thought, he never called…and asked me to come down to their apartment, something was wrong with Mom…I got there and it was evident…she had a stroke…and though she recovered quite nicely from the stroke, she could never drive again…later we learned that before her stroke she would get lost while driving…didn’t know her way home (and Dad almost blind by this time, would tell her how to get to where she was going…yes, scary)…but though she knew something was definitely wrong…in her mind, she was the one who drove and there was no one else to do it…no one to pass it on to…as in previous times…

Well, it came back to me… well, Judie and I…and Jack, my older brother, who lived nearby…life definitely is a circle…we travel light years again it seems, though it was only a few months…we move them into assisted living…and within a few years both of them were gone…life is a moving picture…and then “the end”…

(Sidebar)…I remember like it was yesterday…I picked up my Dad from the apartment…we were going to see my Mom at the hospital…she was still recovering from her stroke…he was strangely quiet, apprehensive and seemed worried…I looked over at him a few times…and then back…I didn’t know if he wanted to talk or not…I knew he was worried about things he couldn’t solve…finally I said this, “Dad, I want you to listen to me…I want you to know if anything happens to you, we will take care of Mom…and if anything happens to Mom, we will take care of you…do you understand?”…he shook his head yes…and looked at me…I said again, “Do you understand?”…he said, “Yes.”…and, “Thanks.”…and the cloud lifted…(and that’s exactly what we did)…(End Sidebar)…

It has been a ride for me…”no car…a paint job…and my Mom learning to drive a 1953 Willys Parts I &II”…for me, remembering all that has been good…a few tears along the way…and proud of where I came from…no, not proud…honored…

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful story it made me cry. Have a great week!


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