(Another excerpt from my now-integrated "Blasts From the Past" blog, circa 2008)
To look at me, you would never assume that I have a thing for cars, but I do. It’s strange, this fascination of mine, but it goes back a very long way–back to the early 1970s and a highly unlikely Christmas present under the tree.
As a child, I was what you would call today a “girly girl”. My mother would dress me in finery – matching coats and hats, satin-sheened dresses and gloves, black patent-leather shoes and spic-and-span Buster Browns. Despite once being caught next to a trash can in the act of creating a home-cooked meal with a piece of stale bread in one hand and a near-empty bottle of Heinz ketchup in the other, I was to all intents and purposes, the model little girl and rarely did I get all grimy in the sporting arena. Being petite, I was uncoordinated and gangly and had no aptitude for athletics of any kind, save folk dancing.
I'm more of an information lover, than a sporty type fan. I have always had a good memory for numbers and things. I still know my old student number from university by heart, I remember my best friend from grade school’s phone number, and I can tell you all the best picture Oscar-winning movies from 1960 to the present day. I can recognize just about every breed of dog, and I can also point out different cars on the road.
Why would a “girly girl” care about cars? Thank Santa Claus and Red Line “Hot Wheels” and the miles of orange track with its loop-the-loops all laid out in the front hallway of the bungalow on Pyramid Crescent.
My sister, Nancy and I would spend hours running our Camaros, Firebirds, Corvettes and even a Ferrari down those plastic tracks. We’d watch, mesmerized as they flew down the raceway and wound round the bends. Our cat, Fourchu was fascinated as the tiny cars ripped along and often created a major roadblock in the path of oncoming vehicles.
Although I know my dad owned a 1958 Mercury Monarch, the first real car I remember was my parents’ aquamarine Ford Galaxie 500. It was all square edges, bench seats and a huge trunk we often used to carry my toboggan in winter. We made trips to Nova Scotia in that car and I recall sleeping on the long back-seat with my pillow under my head, my orange and white teddy-bear tucked under my arm.
|A Girly-Girl and a Galaxie|
We had that car right through my childhood until 1975 when my dad came home one day with a brand new Midnight Blue Chevrolet Impala. That was a car! It was monstrous, really and could fit our family plus the family next door if we all scootched a bit. I learned to drive in that behemoth.
|Today on "The Price is Right"!|
It took me until I was 21 because my dad insisted on teaching me and our lessons were fraught with frustration on the part of my father at my not following his instructions, and fright on my part as I dreaded going on the highway.
One grey day, we were out for a lesson when my dad insisted that I head to the on-ramp for the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) highway. I balked. Like a mule, I blatantly refused to do it. We were on the service road that flanked the highway and my dad told me to stop the car. He made a fatal error when he got out on his side to come round and chastise me. I saw my chance and took it. Tearing off in the car, I left him standing at the roadside where it had now started to rain. I did the only thing I could think of to do, I headed for refuge at our church.
After banging on the door of the rectory, and wailing my story, the rather taken-aback priest eventually convinced me to go home. I drove home tentatively and then raced into the house and promptly locked myself in the bathroom.
An enraged father on the other side of the door did not convince me to come out for quite some time, but when at last I did, he had calmed down considerably.
The sheer bulk of the Impala was awe-inspiring. One night in 1986, while driving home from a club with my friend Marianne, we were stopped at an intersection on a back road. Suddenly, we heard a bit of a bang. I said, “Did you hear that?” Marianne replied, “I think it was behind us.” We turned around to find that a Chevy Chevette had actually ploughed into the back of the Impala. This car was a Matchbox toy compared to the Impala. When we got out to inspect the damage, there was none–to us, but the Chevette was toast.
I’ve driven various vehicles. In 1979, I was at a party with a new family from Argentina who had just moved in to the neighbourhood. Their daughter was my friend and she had two gorgeous brothers with whom I got on well. One of them let me take a spin in his deep purple Mustang. That was wild! Then I ran up on somebody’s boulevard and almost took out a hedge. Memories.
I once drove a boxy, pedestrian, Reliant, K-Car home from another party in Etobicoke, under the watchful eye of my boyfriend. The car belonged to his mother, who was none-the-wiser. It took me back to the “Galaxie” days.
On another occasion, in 1989 (with yet another boyfriend) I drove a Subaru station-wagon back from Toronto because said boyfriend and his buddy were too drunk – they spent the drive home on the highway, chucking cassette tapes out the back window! Our relationship didn’t last much longer after that.
I didn’t get my “own” car until just a few years ago. Technically, it belonged to both my husband and me, but I did the majority of the driving and he took the bus to work, so I considered it mine. It was a black, Toyota Echo Hatchback. I loved that car! It had no power steering, but was automatic. It took might and brute force to make turns, but I loved the feel of the wheel and the sense of being part of the car. The only problem with it was the climate controls. More than once, I ended up at the side of a snowy-road with a windshield fogged on both sides.
My girlfriend Lynn once purchased an ancient Italian Fiat. It was a sexy car, if ever there was one. We drove north to cottage-country one summer weekend, with the top down and the wind blowing our hair into mats. Driving a car like that is a real guy-magnet. It’s the equivalent of a man walking a cute dog that’s irresistible to young women. We left them in our dust!
Rudy, (one of my last boyfriends before I met my husband), drove a white, sporty Mazda with bucket seats. He was Italian and rather an aesthete (he always had fresh flowers in his apartment and a colour co-ordinated closet). He also wore leather driving-gloves, fancying himself Mario Andretti or something. My mother got a great kick out of those gloves. It was a wonderful little car though.
I’m a fan of the show, “Top Gear” on BBC. I can look at those cars for ages and dream about what it would be like to drive a vintage Jaguar like Inspector Morse or even a Peugeot like Columbo. Truth is though, if I won a packet of dough, I’d be at the nearest “Porsche” dealership to pick out my “911 Carrera” as fast as my Chrysler 300 would take me.
I apologize for going off on a lengthy tangent, but cars just get my engine going!
To think it’s all down to Santa's choice of “Hot Wheels”!
P.S. Zoom on over to the Sepia Saturday blog (just click the image below) and see what other folks are remembering about Christmases Past.