In the history of my family, there was always a story about an automobile.
It could have been the one about my great-grandfather, a farmer in Southwestern New York State, who was fascinated by the newfangled horseless carriage. He would buy, sell and swap various makes until he acquired the ultimate power machine: a huge Locomobile Seven-Passenger Touring.
Or it could have been the one about my mom's aunt, Charlotte, she of Buffalo Blue Book thanks to her marriage to a University President. Only Pierce Arrows would do and only in matching pairs. When Pierce Arrow folded in 1938, she retained the last two she had, a pair of maroon 1936 sedans. When my mom's father (her brother) passed-away in 1951, she entered the cemetery fashionably-late, leaning on the horn to announce her entrance and hold up the gravesite ceremony. Only she could pull off something so audacious and in a fifteen-year-old automobile, yet. She would keep the pair of Pierces until she died.
Or it could have been the one my dad told about his first car, Seventeen-years-old and already the consummate salesman he would always be, he walked into a Buffalo Ford dealership in late 1931. He told the dealership he wanted the Deluxe Roadster on the showroom floor and proceeded to count out the purchase price in cash. Even though he turned-over whatever he earned to his step-mother, he managed to save enough extra to buy the car that caught his eye. "Blue with yellow wheels", he would tell me, "and it had everything, I mean everything, on it!" I was just a child, yet I knew about the leather seat, the side mount tires on each side of the car and the pinstripe. Would a ten-year-old know what a pinstripe was? I did, and I had to have it myself, along with that tan canvas top and rumble seat.
Practicality won out and the roadster slipped into legend when it was traded-in for the next car. It would always be "the one I should have kept". It became a dream; a longing, perhaps, but a dream to a boy who took the story of a car and turned it into resolve to "have one someday". And not just the car, but a full-blown fascination with the era, of the Roaring Twenties and all its facets: flappers and Arrow Collar men, the music, the movies, the automobiles and all the personalities that made the 1950's and 1960's seem like the most boring decades one could grow up in. Elvis? No. The Beatles? Sorry, I don't "wanna hold your hand". It had to be Garbo, Loeb and Leopold, Lindbergh, Colleen Moore and Gertrude Lawrence, even the Stock Market crash of 1929! How about Clara Bow in a Kissel automobile with Chow dogs, all matching her flaming red hair? Would I ever see a Kissel, let alone an Essex, a Cunningham, a Peerless, a Moon or a Durant?
While my classmates set their sights on a Mustang or a Camaro, spewing off cubic inches and horsepower numbers, I was focused on an unknown four cylinder with running boards. My biggest ally was my dad, the original "You Can't Go Wrong with a Model A Ford" man. Like I said, he was a salesman. I was "sold". All I needed was the car, and at fifteen years of age, that was going to take some doing.
I religiously-read the Buffalo News classified every day. And our Sunday drives were frequently interrupted by stops at country used car lots where a running board was spotted, however rusty and decrepit the skeleton of the car may have been. It didn't matter. I didn't have the money, and anyway, there was a small omission of a driver's license. Then, one day, there was The Ad: 1931 Ford Tudor Sedan, Must Sell. We called, we went, we looked and we bought. Or rather, I bought, with a partial cash infusion from my brother. Click to continue...