A bit of a digression from our usual fare for this post. Over the last couple of years I've developed a bit of a hobby with old diaries. I'd always wanted to maintain a diary/journal, though not so much because I think I have so much of importance to say for posterity. After my dad died several years ago, I realized that all of the stories he'd told us over the years now only existed in our memories; we couldn't go check them with him or hear them again, they were all lodged only in our imperfect memories as something of an oral history. I made a few attempts over the years to keep a diary (even when I was a kid) but they never lasted, I think because I never thought I had anything of profound interest to write.
Then one day on a lark I bought a diary at an estate sale and started reading it through. That one was from 1948 written by a 60-something-year old Seattle housewife by the name of Lillie May (Reasoner) Smith. She wasn't anything particularly special and mostly she just recorded her daily doings. . . .which I found utterly fascinating. Instead of profound thoughts on Life and the Big Events of the day, she recorded her shopping trips, her husband's work as a longshoreman, picking berries on Orcas Island, dinner parties they attended, etc. Such a different world from the one I inhabit here in the later 20th and early 21st century with our computers and Internets and cable television and cell phones and such. So, I started my own diary, online this time, and went through and transcribed Lillie's entry for the same day ("On this day in 1948. . .") and then entered my own doings. And I kept at it, I guess, partly out of a feeling of obligation to give the world her story as well as my own. When the year was up (her diary only was for a single year), I found another and started in on it. The second one was for 1967, a man this time, and he was kind of dull.
But I found another one that was fairly complete for almost three years from 1952 to 1954 and started in on that. To be honest, for the first month or so I thought it was a teenage girl -- there was no identifying information in it -- but turned out it was written by a teenaged boy from Yakima, Washington. And he had a 1939 Plymouth coupe, much like the one pictured here. He was 16 at the time and the Plymouth kept popping up as he went through his daily teenaged high school boy life.
While we were both teenaged boys at one point, like Lillie May, it was a different world from the one I grew up in. He's had a few adventures in his Plymouth and many, many problems with it, some of which were his own fault. But the way he related to his car and the things he did with it are far different from what I experienced, and I thought I'd share some of his entries with Car Lust readers. No doubt some older readers will relate to what he went through, and younger ones may find the actual writings of a car-loving guy from the early 1950s enlightening.
A couple of notes: He had very small, cramped writing and it was often difficult to make out words. Those I've put in [brackets] with the the word I think it is or in some cases just the letters it looks like in hopes context can render it intelligible to someone. More on the diarist below the fold.
(Sung to the tune that opens "The Andy Griffith Show:")
♫ Well now, take, down, your fishin' pole, and meet me at The Fishin' Hole,
We may, not, get a bite all day, but don't you rush away.
What a great, place, to rest your bones, and mighty fine for skippin' stones,
You'll feel fresh, as, a lemonade, a-settin' in the shade.
Whether it's hot... whether it's cool... oh what a spot... for whistlin' like a fool.
What a fine, day, to take a stroll, and wander by The Fishin' Hole,
I can't think, of, a better way, to pass the time o' day. ♫
The name of that song is "The Fishin' Hole," and those were the words to the whistling theme you heard every time you saw Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie walking toward Myers Lake in Mayberry. Of course Myers Lake didn't exist, so maybe surprisingly, the title openings of the show were shot here.
Just like the music in "The Andy Griffith Show," cars also played an important part. In fact, several of their best episodes were written around them and the people who were driving them. So let's take a gander at a few of these machines... some of them might even surprise you a bit!
You know the saying "There's nothing new under the sun"? Yeah.
Submitted for your contemplation: Girls + Cars. Cars + Girls. I'm fairly certain that the average Roman curri dealer occasionally had a couple of calida mulierculae Romana* posing next to the new (AD) 14 models. And you can bet that the first thing some guy will do when he invents an anti-gravity landspeeder is dress up a future honey or two in quasi-futuristic bikinis (or perhaps grab a couple of Fembots) and sit them on the hood. It's what we do. Hence, compare and contrast:
That, according to Vintage Everyday, is a Peerless Touring Car, taken in 1923 in San Francisco.
And here. . . .
is a more recent rendition.
A couple of things I noted:
-- There's no bumper on the Infiniti to stand on
-- There's probably more steel in the hood of the Peerless than in the entire Infiniti
-- You could probably outfit 20 of the modern ladies in the material in one of the vintage ladies' suits.
Sources for the photos in the links above. And let me tell you, if was a tough assignment doing research for this post. . . . .
* Hot Roman Babes. Loosely translated, of course.
There were probably close to fifty vehicles that were in attendance at one point or another over the span of five hours, and it was a pretty eclectic mix.
Here's some of what we saw.
This past weekend, my son Alex moved in to the dormitory to start his academic career at the University of Evansville. Move-in day at the University happened to coincide with the 39th Annual Frog Follies, a gathering of "pre-'49" street rods for the benefit of local charities.
Something like 4,000 street rods were spending the weekend in Evansville, and you couldn't look in any direction without seeing at least half a dozen. By the time we'd gotten Alex moved in and had dinner, the official Frog Follies gathering was done for the day--but there was a de facto cruise-in going on in every restaurant and hotel parking lot in town.
Here's some of what we saw that evening before the thunderstorms chased us all inside.
David Buehler, who showed me around the old Templar Motors factory in Lakewood for the post I wrote last winter, was interviewed for last Sunday's episode of Cruise-In, a locally-produced car show. Here's the episode on YouTube; David and the Templars take up the first twelve minutes or so.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean. . ."
And he'll probably be driving those mean streets in a 1940 Ford Coupe. Preferably black.
If the El Camino is the Steve McQueen of cars, the 1937-40 Ford coupe is the Phillip Marlowe. Kinda tough looking on the outside, but philosophical on the inside. Not flashy, suave, sophisticated, or calling attention to itself, but tough, effective, and not looking for trouble unless it comes looking for him. Yeah, that's what this car is all about: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.” Or the car.
All melodrama aside, this may seem an odd Lust for me. Heck, pretty much anything pre-1960s is a bit odd for me, even though I've dipped into preceeding decades a few times (e.g., here, here, and here). I'm not even sure why this particular model caught my fancy: I'm really not that into hot rods, of which this generation of Fords is rightly famous. Chopped, lowered, painted gaudy colors. . . .no thanks. I won't bash 'em but I also won't celebrate 'em.
Then again one could conceivably argue that the '37-'40 Fords marked the start of the mass-produced muscle car, of which I am definitely an aficianado. They weren't factory-produced muscle cars like the later ones, but they had the basics down: largely standard cars that many owners -- often for very particular reasons -- modified into ground-pounding monsters. And for the most part they didn't dress them up like a two dollar hooker -- again, for very particular reasons. I like that. I'm a fan of the sleeper, a wicked fast car that looks like a standard grocery-getter until you step on the gas and all those horses come roaring to life.
On top of that, it's a very handsome car, IMO. It's got a nice balance, not too chromed up (usually), and with more of a modern form to it than many others from that period. You can kind of see the direction that automobile design is heading, from the big carriages-on-wheels to a more modern, sleeker, and more aerodynamic design.
The Templar Motor Car Corporation, located in Lakewood, Ohio, was one of the 57 locally owned automobile companies that operated in the greater Cleveland area between ninety and a hundred years ago.
Though Templar went bust in 1924, its 300,000 square foot three-story factory still stands. After Templar's demise, the building was the home of Lake Erie Screw, a maker of threaded fasteners, for many years, and now serves as "Templar Industrial Park," a business incubator for smaller companies, studio space for local artists, and a banquet hall. It's also the home of the largest concentration of Templar automobiles in the civilized world.
Templar built 6,500 or so vehicles during its automotive career, of which there are 37 known survivors. Eight of these are displayed in the third-floor assembly hall of the old Templar plant--the room where they were originally bolted together--and another is displayed on the second floor where Templar's engines were once manufactured.
The curator of Lakewood's Templar collection is David Buehler, a lifelong resident who has had a lifelong fascination with his hometown's only indigenous auto company. David owns the cars in the third-floor display, and has five more Templars of his own at home--and he knows where every one of the other 24 survivors are. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Templar, from company history to minute mechanical details, and a personal collection of Templar artifacts ranging from employee ID badges to blueprints to the only known example of a Templar children's pedal car. Over Thanksgiving weekend, he gave me the full guided tour of the old Templar factory.