Thursday, January 26, 2017

1935 Buick

Right after WWII, my mother drove a big, black, well-used 1935 Buick sedan. It was the first car I remember. It had long sweeping front fenders and four heavy doors that closed with a resounding thunk. The front doors were hinged at the front, but the back doors were hinged at the back and opened from the front. They were called suicide doors, I guess because it would be suicide to open them when the car was moving.

A chrome goddess graced the top of the radiator surround with her arms extended behind her, her back gracefully arched, and her breasts thrust shamelessly forward. Beneath her was a winged shield with Buick written in ornate script. On either side of the grill was a large teardrop-shaped headlamp.

The seats were covered with musty gray mohair that scratched the backs of my arms and legs on a hot summer day. A plaid wool blanket was folded over a blanket rope across the back of the front seat, and cloth-covered straps hung just behind the rear doors to assist passenger egress.

The spare tire was mounted at the rear in a metal cover between two graceful, nickel-plated tail lamps. While not the top-of-the-line model, it was still a big car.

My first recollections of the Buick were driving with my mother to go grocery shopping in Nashua at the First National Store on Main Street. She sometimes left us in the car while she shopped, which was safe and acceptable in the 1940s. My four year-old brother and I stood by the open rear windows and called out to passersby on the sidewalk until my mother came out with a bag-boy carrying her groceries.

If we behaved, she took Pine Hill Road back to Hollis and stopped at the airport so we could watch planes take off and land. There were boxy yellow Piper Cubs, a tiny Ercoupe and our favorite, a sleek maroon Stinson.

But the best times in the old Buick came after it was retired to the field next to our driveway. Then it became ours.

I remember sitting behind the wheel, my feet unable to reach the pedals, turning switches on the dash as I pretended to chauffer my sister and her friends. Or sitting on the roof with my legs hanging in front of the windshield urging an imaginary team of horses away from stagecoach bandits. It was a six year-old boy’s delight except when the summer sun was high and the faded black paint got so hot we couldn’t climb on the car without getting burned.

Then one day, a man came in a tow truck. My brother and I called him names as he hoisted the front wheels of our car off the ground and hauled it away. We never saw the Buick again.

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