In 1969, I bought a 1948 Buick Special 4-door sedan from my friend, Malcolm Lee. He bought the car a few weeks earlier from the original owners, an elderly couple from Acton, Massachusetts.
We christened her Big Alice. In spite of having clocked almost a hundred thousand miles, she was in remarkably good condition. Her dark green paint glistened. Her wide whitewall tires gleamed. And her abundant chrome trim sparkled.
The dinner-plate-sized fog lamps mounted on her front bumper were impressive. Her pin-striped horsehair seats were high and comfortable. Her massive chrome radio dial and speaker grill were flanked by an elegant instrument panel. Big Alice was a regal ride.
In addition to getting me back and forth to work every day, Big Alice carried our young family in style to weddings and other family events. She offered just the right combination of elegance and non-conformity.
My wife and I were driving home from visiting her parents one night, when a New Hampshire State Trooper stopped us. The inquisitive young officer shined his flashlight in the window at me, then at my wife and finally at our two young children sleeping on the back seat.
“Can I see your license and registration?” he barked. It was more a command than a question.
I handed him the two documents. He carefully studied them with his flashlight.
“Who’s the woman in the passenger seat,” he asked.
“Where are you going?”
“We’re just heading home to Lincoln, Massachusetts after visiting my wife’s parents up in Hollis.”
“Stay in the car please,” he ordered.
He walked back to his cruiser and got inside. I was concerned that the flashing blue lights would wake the kids, but they slept though it all.
After what seemed like an hour, the trooper walked back up beside the driver’s door and handed me the license and registration.
“Sorry about the wait. I thought you were someone else,” he growled. Then he turned and walked back to his car again.
I put Big Alice in gear and pulled away.
Several months later, I was unable to get an inspection sticker due to worn kingpins in the front end. I couldn’t find replacement parts and had no place to store her, so I put Big Alice up for sale. A young man about my age bought her.
I was driving along Route 2 in Concord just west of the Prison rotary about a year later, when I saw her pulled off onto the shoulder. I pulled up behind to take a look.
She was like an old girlfriend who had seen hard times since we last dated. Her smooth finish had been repainted a darker shade of green, but it was full of runs and dust. One of her fog lamps was broken. Her once immaculate cloth upholstery was torn and stained, and her floors were littered with trash. I hoped it might be a different car, but the hand-painted Alice’s Restaurant sign that adorned the small passenger side back window was still there.
I climbed back into my car and drove away, watching her get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.
I still wonder if there was another dark green 1948 Buick carrying a carload of criminals around southern New Hampshire that night.
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