Memories Of My First Fast Chariot And Lessons I Learned
THE BLUE ROCKET
While I often think of the many memories and lessons I learned in our blue 1962 Oldsmobile F85 station wagon, my good friend Kenneth Madden from Minnesota sparked my memories of stations wagons past with his wonderful stroll down memory lane which you can find on YouTube at https://youtu.be/NU-QcXONrqM. If you have not listened to or watched his show, I highly recommend it.
FIRST STATION WAGON
While our family may have had other wagons, it is my first memory of a station wagon for our family. I called my mom and dad to go down memory lane in it, and I found out that our memories, like the road systems in general, seem to be deteriorating. We agreed that it was likely a 1962 or possibly 1963 Oldsmobile that was blue. Dad was pretty sure it was an F85, because he usually had to buy the parts to fix it.
Our 1962 rocket was not new, but it was new to us and arrived in mint condition: a moldy, well-used, mint. It had plenty of metal, a few dents, plenty of chrome, plenty of rust, and plenty of holes. But it was a dream chariot for me. None of these photos are of our car, and I’m not sure any survive. I am quite certain the car did not survive.
One fond memory growing up was driving the blue wagon to Joe Steiner’s farm, in rural Tremont, Illinois, to pick up milk. We would load up about thirty-two to thirty-six gallons of milk per week in gallon jugs and load them four at a time into the back of the wagon. As you can see, the wagon had plenty of room. We would then take the milk to church, or what we called meeting, where individual families would take the milk home for use that week.
HOLIER THAN CHEESE
Our blue wagon had more holes than Wisconsin’s finest cheese, so milk accumulated in the various cracks and crevices of the vehicle. This problem did not become apparent until we had a flat tire on a trip to Minnesota near Eau Claire, Wisconsin. As memory serves, we coasted down the exit ramp and stopped at the bottom, on the side of the road, to change the tire. The curdling memories from that day have faded, but I think I have some of the details fermenting in the corners of my mind.
I remember that my grandparents were with us, and that we piled out of the car. We had to remove the luggage from the back to get to the spare tire, and we opened that rumble seat area picture here. I remember we discovered that this particular area of the car had no leaks or holes and was filled with about eight inches of curdling, crusty, fly-ridden milk. I also remember that the cops and firemen were called to direct traffic, while the firemen hit it with the hose, from a distance, to wash all the milk out. We got the tire changed and continued our trip after all that excitement.
SO GOOD LOOKING
Say what you want about our version of the car, I still remember how nice that car looked from the rear. All that chrome, some of it rusted. But I still have a vivid picture in my mind of the circle emblem on the back with the long Oldsmobile logo and the taillights. My brother and I spent lots of time climbing in and out of that back, putting in and removing jugs of milk.
UNDER THE HOOD
While I have some memories of the engine under the hood, I remember my dad spent more time there than I. I do remember the big V-8, starter, and alternator and all the belts. I don’t remember working air conditioning but it probably had a non-working version. I remember the windows all rolled down as designed, as this was how we stayed cool on the longer trips.
While the instrumentation on the dash was probably similar to this, I don’t recall much other than the speedometer went up to one hundred and twenty miles per hour. I don’t recall Dad taking our rocket this fast, but I remember many journeys above seventy and eighty miles an hour that were quite thrilling and terrifying.
The car had its holes and probably wasn’t built with safety in mind. I remember riding in the middle row of seats with my brother and dropping pebbles out the holes in the floorboard, and then turning to watch them bounce down the roadway behind the car. It probably wasn’t a good thing to do, and may not have been safe, but we both survived without the inconvenient, unnecessary safety devices like seat belts and floorboards.
MY FIRST DRIVE
This is the car that I first remember helping to drive on that trip to Lake Norway in Minnesota. I remember my dad telling me to let off the gas or accelerator and me hesitating as we were still way off from the stop sign at the t-intersection, but it turns out Father knew best, as the brakes were on break and didn’t really work well. We survived the turn, but I learned a valuable lesson in when to listen to dad, when he was yelling above the noise of the engine.
I’m sure the car had its flaws, and it didn’t sip fuel, but we took many trips in that car, and I’ll cherish the memories when they come and go. To many, I’m sure it represented the failure of the American automobile manufacturers to make a car that lasted, as it had its dents, bumps, and bruises. But that car had character, ran like a dream, and got us almost everywhere. It was loud, and maybe a little obnoxious, but people knew we were coming and going.
My dad kept that car for the longest time and kept it running, like it was a member of a royal family. And, it probably was his queen to some degree, as he had to have it to make a living. I learned that my dad could treat things better than royalty, as royalty in this day and age seems to have forgotten the past that it represents.
That wagon taught me the joys of being together with the family. Most of the time, when we reached cruising altitude and speed, we couldn’t hear, smell, or touch each other, as we were hanging on for dear life. But we could smile and look at each other knowing we were going places and getting there in fine style.
THE ERA OF THE STATION WAGON
My dad had VW, Plymouth, Ford, and Mercury station wagons after that one, but they just don’t make them like they used to. But the memories created in each of those wagons will come and go and remind me of good times as a family. I’m sad that era has passed along with some of my memories of those simpler times.
My memories of this car, and the other details, may not be correct, as my dad and I are getting old, and our memories fade. Do you have memories of cars and trips past? I encourage you to write the stories, or leave comments before you forget them. Feel free to follow my ramblings at the links listed below: