Growing up in Claremont was all about cars. And Cadillac was king. We didn’t have one, but Ronnie Agel’s mother did, and it made him special – not to mention the fact that she looked like a movie star. My Uncle Bill had a gray Oldsmobile, and my mother drove a blue Buick – both very nice cars. For some reason the cars never changed colors, even though they got “traded in” every two years. When the new models came out, they actually looked different. One year it was lethal tailfins, another year the wraparound windshield. Once in a while they came up with something practical – seatbelts, for instance.
My father was the exception. He mostly drove General Motors cars, but usually a stick-shift Chevy or something like it. He kept a car for as long as it would run, and he didn’t seem to care about being out of style. Maybe it had something to do with growing up in the horse and buggy era, or maybe it had to do with his driving habits. Nothing serious, mind you, but he had a habit of getting into minor accidents. We told him he should keep his eyes on the road and not look at his newspaper (sort of like texting while driving). For some reason he only ran into likeable people.
My friend Mike refused to ride with him. One day we were going downtown to the movies, and my father offered us a lift. I convinced Mike that we should accept. We got to the Latchis Theatre, and I said “I told you so.” We watched my father pull away and plow straight into the car in front of him. I don’t remember what movie we saw, but I do remember that Mike never took another ride from my father.
Cars had personalities. Take the Chrysler Imperial, for example. It wasn’t a Cadillac, but it cost about the same and suited a certain kind of driver, preferably one smoking a cigar, like Sammy Satzow (his son, Michael, runs North Country Smoke House in Claremont and helps keep alive the spirit of Temple Meyer David). There was one other member of the expensive “big three” – the Lincoln Continental. People who drove them were usually from out of town. Then there were the cars that time forgot – the sleek Studebaker, the boxy DeSoto, the square Nash, and the stodgy Packard. And my all-time favorite, the obsolete Edsel. It was gone almost as soon as it got here. My father-in-law had one, unloaded it for next to nothing, and cursed his bad luck when they became collector’s items.
Back in 1953, GM’s president said, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the nation.” Little did he know how true those words would become. Today the Government is in the car business, so what’s good for GM really is good for the nation – and for Canada too (they own a piece of GM). The lesson to be learned from all of this? Don’t make my father-in-law’s mistake. Buy a Pontiac.