(Me and my 1964 Volvo 544 on our legendary 1979 trip out West. My friend Bill, who was with me, painted this)
From Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl: If you’ve looked at my “About” page, you may remember that I mentioned that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man also writes. Trouble is, it’s been quite some time since he’s sat down with pen and paper, though I’ve been urging him to do so. So I thought that perhaps the thrilling prospect of certain publication! where millions could read him! might be enough to entice him. Umm…yeah, sure, I know that millions don’t read my blog(more like tens)…but, hey… they could! And…hey…my readers may be small in number but they are the best readers (and commenters) ever! Anyway, here it is—-a guest post from Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man about the beginning of his obsession with wheels.
My Dad sold his new Ford when he went off to World War II. After the war, when he came home, he was mad because a new Chevy or Ford (which sold for $800 before the war) cost over $1000. So, stubborn fellow that he was, he bought a house in the city where two bus lines crossed and refused to buy a car until 1953.
But when Dad got a tan and brown Chevy Biscayne, the family pastime became driving. We cruised the Blue Ridge Parkway; bumpy, rutted National Forest dirt roads; and any other lonesome byways we ran across. Some Sundays, we would drive from Roanoke, Virginia to Beckley, West Virginia all the way and back just to dine at the Glass House Restaurant. My earliest memories are of seeing the mountains of Virginia flash by in all their mysterious beauty through the windows of our 1953 Chevy Biscayne.
Mama eventually got a used, ink-blue 1951 Dodge Coronet named Heffalump, which she drove with the same elegant grace with which she played a Bach minuet. On snow days, she would take us on tours of the Roanoke Valley. Being a polite and gracious woman, she tried not to laugh at the high-powered, finned V-8’s we saw stuck in ditches along the way. But the four of us kids allowed ourselves self-satisfied grins as we glided past the hapless drivers.
Needless to say, my family was quietly obsessed with wheels.
My favorite place in Roanoke to tag along while Mama shopped was the Book Nook. In fact, this tiny store on a one-way side street helped to sow the seeds of my ruination. Not because of books they sold, but because they had Dinky toys—those perfect little die-cast replicas of real cars that fit perfectly in your hand. Between me and my friend Stevie across the street, we owned seventy-two.
If the Dinky toys were the beginning of my ruination, seeing Thunder Road at the age of seven was the pivotal force behind my complete undoing, along with my brother Harry’s Road and Track magazines. For anyone that might not know, Thunder Road was a movie (filmed near where I live now) in which Robert Mitchum played a Tennessee bootlegger who drove his 1950 Ford fast and furious (and full of moonshine) over two-lane mountain back roads. He was a desperate man, liable to do anything to evade both the law and the organized-crime goons chasing him.
Stevie and I pounded his Mom’s rock garden to bare earth pretending we were bootleggers hauling moonshine over mountain roads in our green Dinky British Army trucks. I always coveted Stevie’s Dinky 1950 Ford—black–just like one of the bootlegger cars in Thunder Road. And all these dark influences of my childhood stretched into time right up to the fateful day I got my license and fancied myself a cross between a sports car racing driver and a mountain moonshiner.
I still love nothing more than to be in motion, but these modern cars with mufflers and air-conditioning don’t compare to the 1950 Ford Custom De Luxe howling through the darkness in my dreams.