Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Rambler

What is it with some people and their cars? (I wont’ be sexist and say "men and their cars" because I’ve known some women with attachments too.)   This morning I was reading over the Sunday Stealling answers of some other people and I read the answers of one man whose first car was a 1964 Rambler.  Out of all those answers for this week's Sunday Stealing, that was the one people commented on.   Apparently Ramblers have a certain mystique.

I should have known this about Walt before I married him. When we were dating, he drove the 1953 Rambler that he bought when he was in college and which carried him from Maryland to California in 1960. (If you ever watched the old George Reeve "Superman" TV show, Lois Lane drove a car just like it, only it hers was shiny.) It was a convertable, but it was unlike any convertible I’d ever seen before--and a lot of the top was held together with safety pins. It got great gas mileage, but went through oil faster than a fry cook at a greasy spoon. We once drove to Los Angeles and stopped once for gas and 15 times to put another quart of oil in the car.

Rambler2.jpg (83490 bytes)
(the license, LWU 504, stood for
"Liquor, Women, and Unity of the church."
Don't ask)

The car had...character. It had a clock that refused to stop. No matter what went wrong with the car, the clock always worked. 

It also hated me.

I don’t mean to anthropomorphize an inanimate object. But this damn car was alive. It was the 1953 version of "Kit" or "My Mother, the Car." And it hated me.

Walt would occasionally let me drive it. When he went off to boot camp for six weeks, he left it with me. Whenever I got behind the wheel, things fell off. Things locked. Things leaked. Things rattled and clattered. It coughed, sputtered and died. I paid the equivalent of two weeks worth of my salary to get the damn brakes fixed when they went out while he was gone.

When Walt got behind the wheel, it purred. Walt always thought I was making it up when I complained that the car hated me. But trust me. It hated me. And I hated it too.

When we got married, we bought an "us" car. It was another convertible. A red Tempest convertible. Very flashy. Very nice. 

Tempest.jpg (63529 bytes)
(We left the wedding in the Rambler, and
transferred to the Tempest which was hidden on
a nearby street)

But Walt couldn’t bear to get rid of the Rambler, and so we parked it on the street with our new car and it sat there. Occasionally Walt would start it to keep the battery running. It would be enough to start the clock and it would continue to tick.

Jeri was born and then Ned was expected so we moved to a larger rental house. By now the Rambler really didn’t work at all (except for the clock, of course). So it would be logical to get rid of it, but we didn’t. Instead, Walt put it in the garage of the new house, leaving the brand new flashy car out on the street in the elements. The Rambler sat there for the year or so that we were in the new house.

Then Paul was coming, so we decided to buy our own house. I finally convinced Walt that we had pushed, pulled, and towed the Rambler all over the place and it was time to get rid of it. Reluctantly, most reluctantly, he agreed. (We did, for a time, discuss the possibility of having it pressed into a coffee table with the clock imbedded in it, still working, but decided it would probably be too heavy to move)

We tried to call junk yards to find a place that would take the car, but discovered that junk yards are elitists. They won’t take a car older than a certain age, and the Rambler had long since passed the cut-off point. We couldn’t even give the damn thing away!

Walt finally found a place which would reluctantly take it, if we could get it there. They wouldn’t come to pick it up.

They closed each day about the time Walt got off work and we knew we couldn’t just drive it there and turn it in--getting it there would be a slow process and there wasn’t enough time. So we took it to the junk yard after hours (Walt drove very slowly and I followed him, ready to push or whatever when the car stopped) and parked it across the street, intending the return the next day and drive it into the yard.

When we returned home, the next door neighbor asked what had happened to the car. Walt told him the story.

"That’s too bad," he said. "I would have taken it for my son."

A home for his baby!

We went back to the junk yard and brought the Rambler back to the house and gave it to the neighbor, happy, finally that it would have a new home.

And then we moved.

We moved to the other side of town, maybe 10 miles away.

Shortly after we moved, we drove off in the shiny new car one day, turned the corner at the bottom of our hill and....there was the Rambler. Just parked on the street. It had an "abandoned car" sticker on it, placed by an alert police officer. We didn’t know what to make of it. The neighbor didn't even know where we had moved. What was the car doing here?

We called the neighbor. It turns out that the son wasn’t quite as enamored of the car as Walt was and so he gave it to a friend of his. The story was that the friend had been driving the car and it got to this street and just died.

My story is that it smelled Walt and refused to go farther.

The problem was that we no longer had the key to the car, and we had never transferred ownership, so technically it was our responsibility. But we couldn’t find the kid who had abandoned the car. It sat there for many days while we tried to explain to the police that we couldn’t move the car. But we waved at it whenever we passed by.

One day it was gone. We didn't know who had taken it, but were glad to see that we no longer had to worry about it.

The next day Walt was taking the bus to work, got halfway there, looked out the bus window and...there was the Rambler! It was now parked on his bus route. This was one stubborn car.

But it wasn’t abandoned now and so it just sat there, parked legally, and Walt passed it every morning for weeks until the day when it finally disappeared.

Near where it had been parked was a junk yard and there was always a huge mountain of car bodies heaped up, awaiting crushing. We always expected to find the Rambler turn up on top of the junk heap, but we never did. It appeared that we had finally seen the last of the car.

I may have hated the car and it may have hated me, but we've never had a car since that has as many memories or has such a great story to tell.


Mary Z said...

Love this story!

Harriet said...

Truly a funny story. I would have thought that California, even back then, would have what's available in Connecticut now. There are several agencies that will accept your car -- working or not -- as a charitable donation. They will even give you a receipt so that you can claim the donation on your income tax.

Bev Sykes said...

now, yes. then, no.

Katrina Alana said...

Cool story Bev!

(Swap-bot katrinaalana)

Anonymous said...

My guy had a car that hated me when we first started dating. The car door would never open for me and the seat belt would lock up so I couldn't pull it no matter how fast or slow I tried to pull it. I was the only one the car door would never open for. Once or twice, he had to reach across and open the door from the inside. I'm almost positive I know how to open a car door correctly, as I have been doing it for 20 som years, so I am just convinced that car was alive and slightly evil.

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