Sunday, April 12, 2015

Twentieth century memories: our first car

We were living in Brooklyn near the subway and were poor as church mice.  In fact, church mice could have taken our seminar in how to be poor.  We were so poor that my mother sent us a Kosher salami from Columbus, Ohio.  And we ate it. So it seemed like a great idea to get a car. 

Mr Charm wanted to drive to Coney Island and eat at Nathans.  He also wanted to drive up to the Shawan gunk (pronounced Shongun)  mountains and practice his mountain climbing.  There was nothing for it but to buy a car, so we could get out and smell some fresh mountain air, or sea air, as the case might be.

Mr Charm found himself a used car guy called Meyer the Buyer and bought the best car you could get for $75--or maybe it was $250.  He paid Meyer part of his fellowship check and arranged to pick up the car.  He was going to bring it home to Brooklyn and we were going to go somewhere in it.  I arranged for a friend to babysit and got dressed up nice and waited.  And waited.

You younger people--which is everybody, because I'm older than everybody--you don't know what it was like back in the 20th century.  American cars were horrible, and there was nothing else.  The Japanese were just getting into the American market.  So the car Mr Charm bought was a horrible used car, worse than any horrible new car then on the market.  But they were all lousy. 

Meyer the Buyer was in Manhattan someplace on the West Side, so Mr Charm had to come down the old West Side Highway, where the car broke down almost immediately.  .  At the time you did not dare leave your disabled vehicle on the West Side Highway while you went off looking for help, because thieves prowled the highway and would steal all the salable parts from the car.  Like tires.  Stuff like that.  So he sat with the car for hours.

I don't remember how he ever got home that day, but Meyer was intractable and we were stuck with the car.  Where we lived, there was alternative side of the street parking on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 12 a.m,, so every Tuesday and Thursday we had to move the car.  Sometimes it started; other times it didn't, and we had to pay someone to tow it to the other side of the street.

But we did drive to the mountains, and we went to Coney Island and had hot dogs.  We had a good time, too, although Mr Charm had to keep a case of motor oil in the trunk of the car, and occasionally had to pull over and give the car a couple of quarts of motor oil.


Dick Stanley said...

" every Tuesday and Thursday we had to move the car. Sometimes it started; other times it didn't, and we had to pay someone to tow it to the other side of the street."

Thanks for the laugh!

Cars (Japanese, Korean, German, even American) are so reliable nowadays, they don't put a choke on the dashboard anymore. Computers run the carburetor now. We thought we had it good then, but looking back it was pathetic!

miriam sawyer said...

Mr Charm specialized in loser cars, orphan cars, cars with technology which never caught on (hello rotary engine)and other weird stuff. It was never a surprise when steam or smoke started to pour out of either end of the Charm cars.

Oh what a tale I could tell!--and maybe I will.

Dick Stanley said...

Do, please. Meanwhile, having posted on this one of yours at my place, I have been corrected that most cars today do not have carburetors at all. Fuel injection is the norm. I bought a loser once. It was a used Plymouth. Learned my lesson.

Anonymous said...

Stop torturing me with all that car talk!
Signed: envious holder of non-driver ID.

Eleanor Nelson said...

My first car wasn't exactly the greatest or hottest model on the block. It was a late 1990's New Yorker, and the car didn't exactly have the coolest color. The car was pretty reliable and, most importantly, it gave me a lot of freedom. I might not have thought much of the car then, but I do miss that old New York now!

Eleanor Nelson @ Performance Auto VA