Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man Writes a Post


(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.


18 Responses to “Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man Writes a Post”

  1. Betsy Says:

    Hi Blue Collar Man…. I grew up in Southwest VA –in those mountains you mentioned (even though you were east of us).. I didn’t appreciate those mountains until I left them..

    I do remember Thunder Road–and thought that Robert Mitchum was the cat’s meow!!!! ha…. I’m older than you—so I remember our 1950 Pointiac –which was what I got my driver’s license in when I was 14 yrs. old. One could then get a license at age 14 in VA… GADS!!!!

    We then had a 1966 Oldsmobile 98… It was HUGE–but I got to drive it until I left for college in 1960. Oh –the memories… SO much fun!!!

    Thanks for posting. My hubby has his own blog and enjoys it as much as I do.

  2. Judy Says:

    What a great post! Thunder Road is one of my favorite movies of all time. I always thought my father looked so much like Robert Mitchum. I think that is one reason I liked the movie so much and the fact that he ran that moonshine through our state of Kentucky as well. The song, “The Ballad of Thunder Road” was also a favorite. I think Nascar got started from bootleggers racing with each other or at least I think I read that somewhere once. I remember we had a 1951 Hudson when I was a kid. I, too, remember sitting in the back seat gazing out the window and day dreaming about things I saw along the road. Enjoyed this very much and it brought back some childhood memories for sure.

  3. Benjamin Says:

    Haha, I imagine you’d have to be a *big time* bootlegger to need a whole escort of military trucks to hold the moonshine…but you might have a little trouble getting sideways in those tight, narrow turns :-).

    It’s good to see you on here, Daddy. Very well written!

  4. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Great post!

    Did you know that portions of Thunder Road were filmed in Asheville? Arden…or to be even more exact Avery’s Creek area, along Ledbetter Road off of Long Shoals Road. There was an old quarry there and they filmed some scenes there. I think Mitchum stayed at the Grove Park Inn (of course).

    My mother still talks fondly about her Ford Fairlane convertible with a Thunderbird engine.

    Goo to see you on here, Tom!

  5. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Oh…the reason I know the exact location of the filming is that my Grandpa lived on the other end of Ledbetter Road. He would go down to watch the filming. He always loved Robert Mitchum and that movie, probably because of that.

  6. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Okay I’m an idiot…you said it was filmed near where you live. Duh, me.

  7. Benjamin Says:

    Haha, Wesley, don’t feel bad. I’ve done much worse — I’ve asked some of my friends questions that they actually were answering just as I interrupted them to ask the question! You’re such a faithful commenter, and you have a great sense of humor.

  8. Sharon Says:

    Tom, it was great to hear your “voice”! Please visit again, or start your own blog–I enjoyed your writing very much. And that painting is, as I’m sure you realize, priceless. Say hey to Beth.

  9. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Thanks, Benjamin. That actually does make me feel better.

    I do that to your mom all the time: ask her questions she’s already answered in email. I’m surprised she’s still my friend.

    Hope you had a good Spring Break.

  10. CountryDew Says:

    I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane from my hometown city! Hope we hear more from The Guy!

  11. Linda H Says:

    Very nice, BRBCMan! I enjoyed that. DH and I are about the same vintage.
    So now, BRBCGirl, I have TWO reasons for reading your blog! What a talented family!

  12. Jeff Says:

    An interesting post, BRBCMan. Brought back memories of the ’46 Chevy we had while I was growing up. But there was no romance to driving in the flatlands of South Florida, though I remember well the rhythmic clacking noise of driving over the expansion cracks in the concrete pavement of U.S. 1. And the outhouses at the “rest stops” in the Florida Keys. And the Sunday afternoon drives to see what was new in the area. I wonder if cars are still the focus of teenagers lives these days ….

  13. luckypennies Says:

    A most excellent post! Daddy, you should write a book about your experience with cars. I know so many of your stories orally, and it’s really cool to see them written down in a more concrete form.

    Haha, I still treasure my antique Dinky toys, though I should be far too old by now…

    I hope you post again!

  14. colleen Says:

    We had a 1950 something Chevy too (in the 60’s) but I don’t remember the model. I did not pay much attention to cars. I do remember my mother called all our cars “Betsy” and would beg them to start in the morning by calling them by their first name.

    I don’t remember Dinkys but then again I am a girl. I likely remember the dolls more, like Chatty Kathy and Betsy Wetsy.

  15. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    My family was also obsessed with cars. I remember a big gold convertible caddy they bought used. A 1965 red Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger, olive green with black racing stripe and a 440 engine (is that number right?). They used to drag race down the back roads through the crow-weeds in Jersey City behind where the Statue of Liberty is. With us kids in the car! And of course no seat belts in those days!

    My mother likes to brag that when she took me for walks as a toddler down our busy city street, I’d point and name all the cars–“Buick, Ford, Mercury, Oldsmobile…” This was the early sixties.

    I also had a Dodge Coronet like your mom but mine was around 1970. It was olive green too–looked just like the Charger. My first car was a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible. My father bought that car for me for $55. To stop it, I’d have to throw it into low, push down with both feet on the brake pedal real hard, pull up the emergency brake, and pray. (What in the world was up with my parents? lol) Oh Blue Collar Man, you’ve brought back memories!


  16. eemilla Says:

    I wonder how many car crazies “Thunder Road” created? My grandfather brings his copy with him every Christmas so he can point out all the scenes with some local tie.

    I didn’t see “Thunder Road” until after my hereditary lead-foot was well developed, but I love the trek up 221 to go skiing in my super fun and fast Impreza. I also love driving out in Candler and Leicester, and as much as I love using public transit I don’t think I could ever part with my car (nor could I see myself driving some hulking SUV.)

  17. Going Crunchy Says:

    Welcome, and a howdy to BRBCM! Lovely, lovely post. No mention of motorcycles though…..I assume you are limited to a four legged love?

  18. bestsport Says:

    Thank you. I’m a fan of Thunder Road and made a blog of this movie here :

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