‘that is what you drive if you are not in a nursing home’

Barbara Dyer: My automobiles — Corvair convertible, red Rambler, blue Saab convertible, and 22 more

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 10:15pm

After purchasing at least 25 automobiles of all makes, models, and colors, I retired and decided to trade my van in for a sporty car. The salesman, with whom I had traded many years, said, “I have just the car for you.” We took a test drive in the beautiful light blue Saab, with white leather seats, and it was a convertible. I did like it more than any other I had ever bought. Within a half hour and many dollars later, it was mine.

Within a short time, it turned out to be my identity crisis, because I think it was the only one in town. If I went to the grocery store, I would meet people and they would say: “Oh, I've been looking for you. I knew you were here because I saw the car in the parking lot.”

If I went to the Post Office, people unknown to me would say, ”Is that your car?”

Why did they wonder? Maybe because my hair was white? So my answer was, “Yes, that is what you drive if you are not in a nursing home.” No more questions.

The first new car I bought after I started working was a 1949 light green Chevrolet Coupe.

On my lunch hour I walked to the bank and drew out the money I had saved for a new car. Then I walked to the garage, located where the Safety Building is today, paid for the car and drove back to work.

How disappointed I was when, at 19,000 miles, the body was rusting badly.

Explanation was the factory had not used the proper primer before painting the car. The second thing was I drove half way down Chestnut Street and it was wobbling. Explanation was the factory cross threaded the bolts when they put the wheels on.

Needless to say, I traded that car in a hurry, at a loss. Of course.

In 1957, a beautiful Swept Wing Dodge was on a turntable in the show room. It was red with black trim and fins. It rode smoothly and I was glad because I had to drive an ill family member to Bangor quite often.

But after about 25,000 miles the transmission went. Explanation: I didn't exercise it enough.

I told them I didn't know I was buying a horse.

There was no “Lemon Law” in the early years of my buying new cars. I had to pay for the repairs or trade it.

I also bought a cute black Jeepster, while I had the Dodge. I was going to teach my niece to drive and didn't want to use the new Dodge. The Dodge cost new $3,500; that was expensive at the time.

One year, I bought a light blue DeSoto with white leather upholstery and it was one of the few second hand cars I purchased. That was a nice car.

I had quite a few others, including a white Corvair convertible. The red Rambler was the only one I bought on time, because someone told me that was the way to go. I paid it up so fast, I had a notice that I was behind in my payment. I told them to look at the year, not the month, and it was instead nearly paid for.

When I got into the Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge group, my luck was better so I stayed with them. I will not ramble on about all the others.

One rainy morning I saw a tall weed that did not belong in my front garden. So, impulsively, I dashed out to remove it, as I had always done. The garden was wet, so I did not intend to step in it. However, one step too many and I slipped and fell.

Once upright again I walked into the house; well... it hurt a little. It was 7 a.m. But by 5 p.m., I knew something was not right, and I was in pain.

We are fortunate to have the emergency room, but I hate spending five hours there. Cat scans and X-rays showed nothing, but they suggested I take a room in the hospital. It took a little convincing, but I finally gave in.

A wonderful orthopedic surgeon came to my room the following morning and told me that something was wrong, and an MRI would probably show it. He was correct and operated that day, after I had a spinal.

As I returned to the hospital room, I told the nurses that the doctor had a sledge hammer and was pounding bolts in me. They laughed and said it probably was just little screws.

When the doctor checked on me later, I told him my story. He said: “You are correct. I had to put two bolts through two bones and pounded them.”

He took the time to even draw me a picture on my message board.

Due to a few things that followed, I was required to have doctor appointments and my “advisers” informed me that I could not get into my favorite car because, being a sports car, it was too low.

So I was to buy one where I could fit in the passenger seat. I could not even test drive it.

The fast-talking salesman brought a very large, four door “old lady's car.” He exchanged it for $13,000and my convertible.

I didn't like it, and when I could drive, as it was too big for me. It was two years old, but maybe that was all I would need. I only drove it a few times.

But it sat for a while and then I noticed the power steering was gone, the tires were cracked, and a very bad noise in the back end that was not the muffler.

I drove to talk with the salesman, and asked him where he got that piece of junk.

He had a “CarMax” sign on his door, so he had to know. After he fumbled a while, he said, “Oh yes, it was a rental and came from a car auction.”

If I had known that, I never would have bought it. I was to pay for all the troubles, before I could even trade. I never dreamed that I would be put out of driving and lose my independence and the money it took me so long to save, that way, after 75 years.

On a brighter note, I don't have any car insurance to pay, nor inspections, nor oil changes, nor calls from neighbors to drop what I am doing, and take them to Stop ‘n Go for just a cup of Cappuccino. I don't have to say, ”I shall never trade with that car dealership again, nor the salesman that I once trusted.”

When I started working at age 18, I began to pay my own way in life, and I can say that I planned and saved some my whole life. I did have more clothes than probably were needed, but I dressed up for work. I drew plans for a home on graph paper. I built my house from paycheck to paycheck without any mortgage, but much of my own labor, and always bought a car when I had saved enough money to pay for it.

I have no regrets (except losing my Saab convertible).

It took determination and hard work but that is the blueprint, and as the saying goes:

”Live while you are living.” (But save for the future.)