Sunday, April 02, 2006
Dad's '55 Fairlane...
Scanned from about a tenth of a frame of a 46 year old Kodachrome slide, so forgive the quality. Mom in the right front, me in the back and my sister probably on the other side; she was less than a year old.
Before my first kindergarten teacher, or my first classmate crush; this car was my first true love. I've spoken of Dad buying it new and it bringing me home from the hospital already. Dad usually kept other things for a daily driver (I remember a '57 Fairlane, and a '59, a Willys Jeep, and the Studebaker pickup he put together from a wrecking yard, the truck cost him $25 and he pulled the driveline from a '53 coupe I remember playing in at 3 or 4 very dimly).
From the time I was old enough to ask, he promised me when I got my license the '55 would be mine...
Mom learned to drive in this Fairlane while she was pregnant with my sister. She turned a corner too short coming home from her license test and scraped the Post Office steps down the side of her; that's when Dad bought his first air compressor and paint gun. Mom says the only reason she came home is she was pregnant so she knew he wouldn't hit her...
In 1965 Milgram offered Dad a raise from $12,000/year to $18,000 if he would go into supervision. Instead of running the meat counter in one store, he was responsible for 18 and "made the rounds" from store to store, driving between 500 and 700 miles a week around town, getting a car allowance and mileage. The '55 with it's 272 (Ford's first overhead valve 8, the displacement grew each year until 1959 when it became a 352) and a 4 barrel carb, it only got about 12 miles to the gallon of premium.
He started talking about trading it. I was 9; the first dealership he went to talk to was in Tonganoxie, KS and I stood out in the parking lot crying my eyes out and apologizing to the car because he was going to trade her away. I was mad, disappointed, heartbroken...I wouldn't speak to him for several days...I reminded him of his promise and he told me "you can't keep them for pets, son"!
Finally he bought a new '65 Fairlane, but Grandpa Fritz offered him more for the '55 than the dealer had, so Dad sold it to him for my Grandma to drive back and forth to work. I was happy, the car was right around the corner (we had moved from here into Dad's new house he built the year he was promoted) and I got to see it all the time; I knew that someday she'd be mine!
Grandma got hit coming home from work one night, someone running a light got the right front fender, the grill and bumper. Dad did the bodywork and paint and she was good as new again; my world was right again!
In '67, Dad had put enough miles on the '65 he wanted to trade it in. He bought a new red two door Fairlane; Grandpa bought the '65 for Grandma and they sold the '55 to my cousin David. He drove it for about 3 years as he went through college and got married (Vietnam era for those who remember draft deferments). He started pulling the emblems and the hood ornament, "cleaning up the lines" he called it, spotting her with prime and talking about the custom he was going to make of her. I still have those emblems and ornaments...(and I wonder why my wife thinks I'm a packrat)!
He was driving her back and forth to Lawrence and KU everyday for classes from Kansas City. He and his buddies decided one day that even though the oil wasn't touching the dipstick, they didn't have time to add any right then or they'd be late to class.
They blew up the motor; David sold it to some kid who wanted to stuff a big block in it and build a "real hot rod" of her. When I finally got my license I asked my cousin where she was and he said that she was sitting in a field with the hood off, no motor and a tree growing up through the engine compartment because the kid had cut the firewall out to fit his big engine in and then figured out how much he had weakened everything by doing that and just quit and left her there.
I'm still pissed about all of it! I know better, I know I shouldn't be, I know I should outgrow it, but damn she was a beautiful car!
If I ever win the Powerball...