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Cruisin': A Man and his Car
In Jan. 2 Issue
Russell County News
By Ron Cowell, Columnist

Maybe a man’s earliest experience with an automobile, influenced by the way  his family valued this possession, plays a larger role in his future vehicular choices?

Think back to your first ride in the family car. Can you see that car in your mind’s eye?

For me it was a green 1949 Plymouth. I was just a little boy but that was the first car I remember my Dad having.  The family went for long Sunday drives to nowhere in particular. Maybe out to the Park or just a trip to visit someone we have not seen in a while.

Dad seldom bought a “new car.” It was almost always used, big and powerful. Safety, power and reliability were more important than flash back then.

Maybe living in the North, a reliable family vehicle to Dad meant having needed traction for traversing over deep snow covered roads.  

Here in Kentucky I worry more about driving on ice.

Some may even recall that distant winters past meant putting chains on back tires for traction. These were briefly replaced by tires with studs that were supposed to be superior on ice, but chewed up the roads.

Later, there were simple snow tires that had to be mounted and rotated yearly. Every November, I hear the ghost of my father’s voice in my head, “Did you put your snow tires on yet?” Of course in later years front wheel drive and all weather radials have made this practice much less common.

My Dad finally traded that 49 Plymouth in on his first brand new car.

That was the green and white 56 Ford I told you about in an earlier article. You remember, the one I painted for him with the left over house paint.

He was really proud of me that day, but that was a day I would rather forget.

The time eventually came when a teenager was old enough to get his first car. Today, a lucky teen, on his 16th birthday, might find a brand new car, perhaps adorned with a fancy red bow, sitting in the driveway.

This was unthinkable for my generation. Like my Dad said, “You want a car, save your money and buy one. You needed the insurance money also.

Back then when the family car traveled more than 100,000 miles and the time to trade it in approached, a lucky son might inherit the old model.  He became financially responsible for both the auto insurance and any needed repairs.

I remember when I got my first car.  It needed a lot of work.

Dad however did give me a lot of help and a small loan to get it safe and road worthy.

BUT I remember having to pay him back every cent he loaned me.

As I look back now I realize that loaning me the money was of benefit to him also. He no longer had to take time out of his busy day to transport me from one place to another if I couldn’t get a ride from a buddy.

A man may not remember his first teenage crush, but his first car remains a love affair that never departs. Reminiscing that big black 1960 Mercury and how it felt to get behind the wheel and drive it down the road is something I will never forget!

Fast? That car could beat anything. Strong and reliable? It seldom needed repairs. Good in bad driving conditions?

It was so heavy she could handle in the worst raging snowstorm.

Of course it also used up as much oil as it did gas and got about 12 miles per gallon. Somehow, when a gallon of gas cost .21 cents, this never mattered much.

I suppose youthful memories seem more glorious in our later years.

So what does a man’s car say about him? It’s highly personal and individualized. For me, a family car is something that gets you safely and comfortably from point A to point B. It shouldn’t be extravagant or cost too much to repair. At my age now, driving in the snow is less important, because I’ll just stay home until the roads are passable.

In retrospect, I guess that makes me an average, uncomplicated guy. Conservative, not flashy, and someone who cares more about a dollar than impressing anyone.

That’s my self analysis anyway. Now this holds true for the family car but my Classic cars are a different story all together.

There I want flash, speed and something every one will look at.

Sometimes today when I’m cruising down the road, I’ll see an old car still out there heading up and down the highway.  

I can’t help but think back of how much fun it was to drive that old car of mine with it 98 degrees outside, humidity at 85 percent, no air conditioning, all the windows rolled down, sticking to the leather seat and just how much fun that was.

Then I lean back in my truck I drive today, turn on the air, with the lumbar seat adjusted to fit my back for comfort, set my cruise control and remember how much more fun it was to travel back then.

Wait a minute, maybe I better think that over again.

If your Car Club is having an event and you would like us to tell everyone about or someone who you would like to see featured in this article send all information to, .

All information on upcoming events needs to be in at least two weeks before the event.

If your Club or church or group is having an event and you would like to display some classic cars at that event let me know at least two weeks in advance.

Until next time, Keep Cruisin!

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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