Monday, August 24, 2015


I'm ready to hit the road


I was going through old family photo files on my desktop computer this morning and was surprised at how many photos of vehicles there were. Loads of them, from an incredible span of years. Even more amazing is the fact that each vehicle ignited special memories that I had almost forgotten. 

Narrowing these stories down to a few isn't easy, but I'll give it a shot. I'll begin with the oldest. 

The crash of 1928. I'm not talking stock market crash. I'm talking car crash.

The car was owned by my great uncle, Michael Gordon - - brother of my maternal grandmother. Michael was handsome, flamboyant, and artistic. I saw some of his drawings and paintings and they were fantastic. He'd been in the Navy during World War I. After the war he started drinking and indulging in hedonistic pursuits. Despite trying to ignore (deny?) the fact, I'm sure the whole family knew the disturbing truth......that he was.......let's

One night, on a dark country road, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree. He was seriously injured. The right side of the car was demolished. If the impact had been on the driver's side he might have been killed.

In an astonishing theory dredged up from the Dark Ages, the family claimed that Michael's eccentricities and homosexual inclinations were the result of a head injury from the accident.

Hit his head. 
Woke up the next day with a strange craving for lilacs and Oscar Wilde witticisms.

It was a unanimous family assertion that Mike was "never quite the same" after the accident. He became somewhat of a black sheep and his name was mentioned only in whispers of disdain. 

I never met Uncle Mike but I would have liked to. I have a feeling we might have had a lot in common.

This is a rather unflattering photo of my Mom, because she was pregnant with me - - but it's the only photo I have of this particular vehicle.
Anybody happen to know the make or year?

My mother told this story numerous times and it has always stuck in my mind.

It seems that my father bought this vehicle solely because he got a good deal on it. He initially never divulged to my mother exactly where he got it.

In the months before I was born, my father was working at the Metallo Gasket Co. in New Brunswick, New Jersey (incredibly, it's still in existence). He worked the night shift, and my Mom had to drive there every night to pick him up at midnight.

The route she had to take was a dark, completely deserted country road. The most unnerving part about it was that she had to go past an old graveyard.

Mom recalled one particular night when it was so foggy that she literally had to drive at a snail's pace, inch by inch. When she finally got near the factory Dad was outside whistling for her. She kept shouting and he kept whistling until they finally saw each other.

My mother always hated the vehicle that she had to drive. She described it as a creepy old clunker that had a peculiar smell inside. A ghastly feeling came over her every time she drove it.

It wasn't until much later that she discovered the origin of the vehicle. It was originally owned by a funeral parlor mortician, and he used it to haul corpses. It was a Corpsemobile!

I have no doubt whatsoever that my father knew this before he bought it.

Dad with Pontiac

 When I was in my early 20's in California, my parents had five or six vehicles. One of them was a Pontiac Catalina. My father had to take it to an automotive shop for some minor maintenance. He dropped it off there very early in the morning - before the shop opened - and left the key in the ignition. It was a foolish gamble, but he knew the owner of the place and had done the same procedure before.

I was living in Hollywood at the time. That morning, as usual, I turned on the  radio to hear the news. During the traffic report segment, there was a breaking bulletin:
A high-speed chase between police and a stolen vehicle on the 405 Freeway just ended in a fiery crash. The driver of the stolen vehicle was killed on impact.

I didn't think much about it until later when I learned the full story. My father's Pontiac Catalina had been stolen from the automotive shop that morning - along with another vehicle  (by two different thieves). The other vehicle is the one that crashed on the 405 - and the thief was killed.

My father's Pontiac Catalina was stolen by a couple of teenagers. A few days later my parents got a call from the police in Page, Arizona. The teens went to their aunt's home in Page. The aunt immediately got suspicious of the car and called the police.

My parents had to drive to Arizona to pick up their stolen car. It was filled with the teenager's possessions. The cops told my parents that they could do whatever they wanted with the stuff in the car. Dad drove to a local dumpster and threw everything away. Then he had the car washed.

I wasn't there. I heard the story from my Mom.

I have lots of other vehicle tales to tell but I'll spare you. Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.

 I was only two years old when my parents took a trip from New Jersey to Arizona in this old contraption. I think it was a Chevy. I know it was blue. Incredibly, I remember a lot about that journey. 
In the Texas panhandle, in the middle of the night, a fuse burned out and we were without headlights. We eventually encountered some workers from an oil field. They gave my father some tinfoil as a temporary fix for the fuse.
Don't ask me how that worked - but it's what I remember.

My father in his Willys Jeep. I don't know the year - possibly 1948? This is the vehicle that my parents used when they eloped. He later bought a Willys car.

 Mom, me, and 1962 Ford Falcon. I look kinda bow-legged because a bee had stung my right foot and I was trying to keep my weight off it.

Mom & Falcon several years later. That's the car in which I learned to drive. 

 Our 1965 Cadillac. My father got into an accident the day he bought it. Someone failed to stop at a stop sign and rammed into the front fender. It looked as good as new after it was repaired. That was a great car.

This post is much too long. I'd better stop before everybody falls asleep at the wheel.

Hunks in History
a new post on my photo blog.
Famous hot guys from the past. 



  1. Interesting post Jon. The baby car seats have changed. lol

    1. The car seat that I'm in looks kind of dangerous. It would probably be banned nowadays.

  2. Fun post, even though I don't know much about cars. The song, "In the Navy" by the Village People came to mind when reading about your uncle. Maybe your relatives should have blamed his proclivities to his stint there.
    My father seemed to stick with Pontiacs and I don't know why. I don't know what kinds of vehicles he owned before I was born. We had a '56 Pontiac station wagon, then a '61 or '62 sedan. The final one was maybe 1970. I can't remember the years but I do know the colors. His final car was a Buick (I think) I had to drive the '61(?) Pontiac. It was a boat and didn't have power steering.

    1. I was thinking the same thing about my great uncle and the Navy. Of course, there were a lot of gay men in the Army, too.......
      Many of my relatives seemed to stick with the same make vehicles over the years. I had an aunt and uncle who bought nothing but Pontiacs for over 40 years.

  3. Our family went to Florida from PA in June 1964, it was an old Chevy Station wagon with no seat belts or air conditioning. The saving grace was we went through ever small town and never got up the speed to have a crash.

    1. Toad trips were such an adventure in the good ol' days. We never had seat belts or air conditioning when I was a small child. I remember how insanely HOT it was while driving through the Arizona desert.

  4. Standing next to the Falcon, your Mom looks stunning. She could have been a paid model. One thing is certain: she knew how to dress and accessorize.

    1. Paul, I really appreciate your apt observation. My Mom always looked glamorous with very little effort. It was one of her natural assets. And she did know how to accessorize.

  5. I don't know nuthin' about no cars, but enjoyed your stories all the same! Your first photo is priceless!
    Hope you don't mind my saying so, but (in that photo w/ the Catalina) I think your dad resembles Bob Newhart a bit ... snappy dresser, was he?

    1. It was definitely those 1970's clothes.........I would have never thought of it, but he did resemble Newhart.

  6. Well Jon, I got stuck on the woody question. First impression was '39 Pontiac Quality Deluxe because of the split windshield and headlights atop fenders. But then I saw the wipers came down from the top of the windshield instead of the bottom --which was more like late '20s and early '30s --or early '50s utility vehicles. Also, the car's considerable size, in relation to your lovely mom, caused me to think it might be a '49 Dodge Power Wagon with street fenders and non-commercial bumpers. So basically, I confess myself baffled. Sorry I'm no help identifying the behemoth but I sure liked the post.

    1. Your knowledge of vehicles is very impressive - - since I know next to nothing about them. When my Mom retold this story, she usually referred to the vehicle as a "hearse". She did know the make, and I'm thinking that I might have remembered her saying it was a Dodge. I'm not positive, but it's a good guess.

  7. Jon,
    Wow! What a great post! I love the old photos (you know me). And what a fascinating history of your family cars. Gives me an idea to do one of my own. I actually have pictures of some of our family cars, My father liked to buy new cars which was one indulgence my Mother permitted him. Jon, I have to compliment you again on your writing skills. So much talent you have. I continue to be impressed. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    1. 'm glad yo enjoyed the post and it would be fun if you do one of your own on the same subject.
      I love ya, Ron, because you're one of the few who truly appreciates my minimal "talents"....

  8. ah, more of those solid steel cars. but that car seat in the first pix...OMB! AND it's in the FRONT seat, not the BACK! unsafe at any speed!

    heh heh heh, a "woodie".

    my late FIL was in the navy; he met many a gay man. of course, that topic was never discussed in the 50s.

    1. I'm positive that the car seat in that first photo would be banned today.
      "Gay" seemed to be synonymous with "Navy".

  9. I adore your mums car in the third photo
    I always wanted a car like that...
    Always x

    1. That was an unusual vehicle - - I don't know whatever happened to it, but my parents didn't keep it for very long.

  10. I have owned 15 cars, J is just buying his 4th. I have lost track of how many Buicks my father has owned since I finished high school.

    1. I think I've owned about 7 or 8. I honestly can't remember.

  11. Fun post. Seeing cars our families owned in years past can really evoke memories. Maybe that's part of the reason Smarticus and I go to so many car shows. However, we've yet to run into anyone at the shows with a competition orange '61 Chevy Impala who'd agree to let us sit in the back seat for "old time's sake"...


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