DRIVING DOWN MY AUTO MEMORY LANE



Yesterday a friend posted a graphic on Facebook which asked the question:  "Has Anyone Ever Owned A Buick?  If So, How Did You Like It?"  And memories began to flood my mind and heart.   As usual a song which perfectly fit the moment came to mind, "Yesterday When I Was Young" by Andy Williams.  The lyrics of that song seemed to have been written about me - for they fit my life so well.  I suppose many of us can say that, but to me the lyrics touched deep inside. 

Listen to the lyrics in this video and see if you find yourself there:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUbFi5MsyE8

When I left the Air Force in 1958, my family and I came to Southern California and for $75 I bought a 1946 Plymouth from a little old lady in Glendale (literally!).  That Plymouth lasted for a couple of months while I began my career in the computer industry and could buy a newer car.  The evening we took ownership of our cherished almost new 1956 Buick Century station wagon - the poor Plymouth collapsed and died, outside the car dealership.

The 1956 Buick Century had a powerhouse engine, station wagon or sedan.  I drove our Buick station wagon for the next year in Southern California - and then drove it, zig zagging across country.  Leaving the Los Angeles area I drove the beautiful Route 66 to Albuquerque, turned north to Denver to visit my in-laws, east to Kansas to visit a brother-in-law, then south to Alabama to visit my mom and family.  From Alabama we went north to Norfolk, Virginia, where I worked as a Field Engineer on the Burroughs B-220 computer system at the Norfolk Naval Supply Depot for nine months.  Then in our trusty Buick, we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where I worked for several years in the Burroughs Corporation Washington DC office.  We were there for the inauguration of President Kennedy.

In Virginia we downsized to the newly introduced rear engine 1961 Corvair station wagon.  In the Washington DC snow, the ability of the rear engine drive allowed me to ignore the snow when others were stuck on the side of the road.  Then in early 1963, our trusty 1961 Corvair station wagon brought us back to Southern California, where I drove it for a few more years.

In 1965, living the Southern California singles life, I bought a new 1965 Chevy Malibu SS convertible.   That was a "young man living in Southern California" dream car - class and power all the way - top down, wind blowing in my hair.  Even though it was a new and beautiful color (as you can see in the photo) introduced by Chevrolet that year - they must have allowed someone from West Hollywood to name the color.  When a valet parking attendant ask what color of Chevy Malibu I wanted brought around, I said very distinctly, "Purple!  A PURPLE Chevy Malibu convertible."   No way I was going to tell him it was "Evening Orchid" - not in Southern California.

That beauty took me on many road trips.  First up and down the West Coast, then on a move to Huntsville, Alabama, where I worked for a year driving all over the Southeastern states.  Then from Huntsville I drove back to Southern California - riding in style in my "Purple" Chevy Malibu SS convertible.  

In 1977 I took my last road trip in the Purple Passion convertible - driving solo from Southern Cal to Alabama, then to Boston, and then back to Southern Cal via the northern route, about 8000 miles total.

Later in 1977 I met the woman who finally put a ring on my finger and made me settle down, my lovely Filipina, Dory.  We met shortly after my road trip, in the late Spring of 1977, fell in love, and married on September 2, 1977.  A year later she decided I needed a Cadillac to match hers - so she bought me the red 1975 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.  Now I was truly riding in style.  

One day, circa 1978, I was driving from Orange County to to a sales meeting in Westwood, California - and since that was during the time when California had a 55 mph speed limit - I drove 55 mph all the way.  As I was approaching my Wilshire Boulevard freeway exit, to avoid blocking traffic behind me I sped up just to get into the exit lane - and, voila!, there was a California Highway Patrol with flashing lights.

I explained my reason for speeding up - but, rules are rules.  He asked for my driver's license, okay - then he asked for the car registration.  I explained that because my wife purchased the car, it was in her name.  He looked at the registration, looked at the car, then looked at me in my three-piece business suit - and told me with a smile, "That's okay.  You look like you belong in this car."  Yes, there are really nice California Highway Patrol officers - with good judgment and good taste.  Just kidding.  But he was a exemplary representative of our fine CHP family of officers.  No, I am not saying that because our grandson-in-law is a CHP officer.  But, he too, is a fine gentleman, an exceptional CHP officer, a good Christian brother, and to put icing on the cake - he treats our granddaughter like the princess she has always been to us.. 

This is my trip down Memory Lane of the cars I purchased.  Since being wed to my Filipina Fireball, I have not done the actual buying of any car.   She knows I hate to bargain, while it is in her blood.  I walk into a car dealer, or any other store, see something I like - if I can afford it, I buy it.  If I cannot afford the price I see, I walk away.  Yes, I know, dealers expect folks to bargain and that is why they tack on 25% - so that they can allow you to bargain them down 15% and feel like you have a good deal.  

I paid sticker price for the Buick station wagon, the Chevy Corvair station wagon, and the Chevy Malibu convertible - and felt just fine doing it and loved my vehicles.  Not sure what Dory paid for the Cadillac - but that was my transition.  Let  her bargain and I will just enjoy.

When our daughter, Lana, was 19 and working she decided to buy a car.  She found a nice car at a Chevrolet dealer and asked me to take a look at it.  We looked it over, I believe we drove it, and I told her I liked it.  She bought the car - and a few years later when friends asked what she paid, they told her, "You paid too much!"   She came home telling me that I let her pay too much.  I told her, "Honey, you asked to to look at the car and see if I thought it would be right for you.  I liked it and told you that.  But I never pretended to be one who would bargain with a dealer.  If you wanted that, you should have taken your mom with you."  Not sure if she ever forgave me.

To my Friend who posted the original Facebook graphic about the Buick car, "Thanks For The Memory Trip!"  Let's take a trip again one of these days.

God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,

Bill Gray 

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22 May 2019


By Bill Gray
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