In a previous post I mentioned the first car I ever had. My father bought it and I’m sure it must have been a bargain. Just having a car was a thrill…I didn’t care what kind of car. For me any car was a plus.
Fortunately I was young enough (?16,17?) that the problems the car had were like an adventure to me. The car was a Willys Jeepster. It was not new and had some interesting challenges. It would not go over 50 mph unless you were going down a long hill.The seats were bolted to the floor so there was no adjusting them to reach the clutch and change the gears. I used a pillow to reach. There was a starter button in the floor (how many people ever heard of such a thing?). It was a convertible…you pulled the top up and down. It did not have windows…only side curtains. ?Isinglass? Before plastic. (Now you are getting how old I am.) We lived in northern Virginia and it was cold in the winter. There was no heat. My friends and I didn’t care a jot. We had transportation! In the winter we bundled up and sometimes rode with the top down when it was snowing.
The car’s idiosyncrasies gave us an opportunity to meet people. For a while the starter button in the floor did not reach something called the “starter connector” in the engine compartment. There were two options for starting the car. You either had an available person to put a piece of metal between where the starter button was supposed to connect to the starter connector so that it would reach or we pushed the car. Old cars started easily by someone pushing and someone popping the clutch. If we parked the car when in town we usually searched for an end spot so we could jump start the car if needed. We parked on hills when we could as just drifting down a hill would give us enough motion to start the car. We would also get help from people who stopped to help us. We met lots of boys this way.
Once, in heavy traffic, I stopped for a red light. I didn’t realize that when stopping I pulled up on the steering wheel…..it came off in my hand. With great aplomb I pushed it back on and held it that way until getting off the road. There was a bolt that held it on and we managed to fix it.
The car met it’s final demise while we were in downtown Alexandria. We began seeing smoke coming from the front of the car and pulled into the nearest filling station. It was not the radiator but all the wiring in the front was merrily in flames. The station attendant raced out with a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. My father retrieved us and the car went “where the lost things go.”
This was life in a different era. It was not dangerous for young girls to wander around town and meet strangers. Most roads had speed limits of 50 mph or less. Looking back it seems it was a kinder era. Maybe not…I may have just imagined it that way. I wish it were so now.