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It Was The Summer Of ’69 (Really)

midamericaclassicmustang via eBay
midamericaclassicmustang via eBay

Gary’s recent story about his first car reminded me of my first adventures with automobiles. I found it necessary to get my first car after high school in 1968. Since I was the oldest of 5, my parents had no money to buy a car for me. That was up to me. I worked at a gas station a couple of blocks from the house during high school, but my new job, working 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in the data processing department at the regional office of Standard Oil Company was 8 or 9 miles from the house.

No problem getting there, I took the bus to Northland, a shopping mall across from the office, but the buses stopped running at 11 p.m. I was actually able to hitch a ride with a guy named Jerry who lived on my route home. He would drop me off at the corner of Warren and Southfield on Detroit’s west side and I would walk the two blocks to my house. He initially wouldn’t accept any money for gas, but after a while he apparently thought I was taking advantage of him because said something to another co-worker. It was then I decided it was time to get my own wheels.

Since I couldn’t afford a new car, my first car was a 1963 Ford Galaxy purchased from a salesman who lived down the street. It had about 80,000 miles on it, but for $300, I could drive myself anywhere! Since it had so many miles on it there were a few problems and after a while it was time to find something else.

Living in Detroit I wanted a “muscle car”, a Chevy Chevelle SS 396 with a 4 speed transmission, but those cost about $4000.00 with all the goodies. Then I found it. The 1969 Plymouth Road Runner (beep beep) with all the goodies for $3000.00. Ah, but where is an 18 year old kid going to find $3000.00?? The Standard Oil Credit Union. They took the payments right out of my paycheck! How cool was that?

Funny thing about that was Jerry was also buying a Road Runner and going through the credit union, but my loan was approved before his. (Might have had something to do with my uncle who got me the job). He wasn’t too happy about that but he got over it. His was red. Another co-worker, Ron also got in on the act and bought a Road Runner that was kind of a butterscotch color. (We referred to it as baby S%!#t yellow; he took it in good stride, though. He was a good guy.)

Needless to say, I spent Saturday nights burning a tank of gas that summer, (it cost about 35 cents a gallon) just cruising Telegraph Road and, yeah I drag raced. Never got caught, but I did get a speeding ticket one Friday night on the way home from work. In fact, in the 9 months I drove that car before being drafted in February of 1970 I put 15,000 miles on that car!

Those were the days. Now when I hear somebody burning rubber I say to myself “Hey I did that when I was 19”.

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