When We Were Young

by Terry Hogan

This is a guy article. Being a guy, I have some ideas of what brings back memories of our days, when we were young. I remain clueless to the workings of the female mind, so there you go. If you doubt this, just ask my wife. For us guys, it may be an "oldie but goodies" song on the radio- one that related to a significant event or time in our young life. Or it may be an old car- restored- that was just like (almost) the one we had when we were in high school. Actually, the restored car is likely what we wished our old cars looked like.

I can still pick out any car from the early 50’s to late 60’s from a quarter mile distance in a medium to heavy fog. I may even be able to give you trivia information on the car or perhaps a school bus game that derived physical abuse on whether it was a "3-hole" or "4-hole" Buick. Now if there are still any females reading this column and are about to give up, writing me off as "beyond the deep end of the pool"- wait a minute. Think about all the restored vintage cars that have been put together, fully restored, with a paint job that you think you can stick your hand in. Betcha that restored car was either (1) like the car he drove in high school, or (2) it was the car he wanted to drive in high school, but couldn’t afford.

For me, it was a ’55 Chevy that I bought in 1962 and customized and painted a metallic blue. For one of my brothers, it was probably his ’62 Chevy Super Sport black convertible with a 4-speed on the floor. He bought this car after returning as an army officer from a 13-month tour of duty in Korea (he always was a late bloomer). Nevertheless, he was kind enough to let me drive it a couple of times. I was a college student at that point, driving a 57 Ford that was not exactly a dream car.

I suppose it is a way of facing our mortality. We’re not young anymore. Pretty young women see through us, at the young stud behind us. Sometimes they have to lean a lot in one direction or the other to see around us. It’s embarrassing and a little dismaying. We were once young.

So, some of us go back to our youth by restoring a car, since we can’t restore ourselves. It can be a little time-consuming and a little expensive, but considering some of the alternatives to this, it seems pretty harmless. I suppose there are some divorces that derive from an old car fetish, but there were probably other causes at work. But in the ranking of marital risks, car restoration probably isn’t in the top ten. So if there are any wives still reading at this point, "go with the flow". Buy a fuzzy sweater and make a full pink skirt with a large black poodle on it. You’ll be a welcomed addition to the car. You may want to buy him a pair of fuzzy dice to hang from the mirror.

Now you may think that I have been drinking Hoosier ice tea too long and have lost my way. Not so. On any summer Saturday afternoon in a small Indiana town, at the local drive-in called "The Suds", you well find my exhibits A- Z and then some. These old guys drive their lovingly restored cars and park them at or near the "The Suds". They first raise the hoods on the cars. Next, they open the trunks to pull out the lawn chairs so they can comfortably sit by their cars. They talk with other old car enthusiasts who are parked near by. None of these guys or their wives is under 40 years of age, and some may have real problems remembering what 40 was like. But here they are next to a ‘55 Chevy equipped with a 350 V-8. Fuzzy dice are hanging from the mirror. Down the road a bit is a 57 Chevy Nomad, painted fire-engine red, with slicks on the rear. The seats are custom-covered. The other direction, you may see a completely stock 34 Ford, or a Packard too old for me to know the age, but showing a straight 8, under a very long hood.

Across the street, you may see three old guys gathered around an old MG roadster, painted a light yellow, with a white interior. Of course, there are a few old truck enthusiasts around. A late 40’s or early 50’s Chevy truck, fully restored, gathers some interest.

In our most recent visit, we met a guy about our age, with his grandson. Grandpa had brought his grandson to see what cars used to be. The young lad of about eight had never seen bench seats in the front of a car. The boy was really admiring the small red dice that were valve stem caps on one car. I’m guessing the car’s owner was watching to make sure his set of four dice didn’t become three.

But I am not above temptation. There, lined up with the others, was a ’67 red Firebird convertible with a white interior. It had a three speed manual transmission and a 6 cylinder under the hood. But the interior looked perfect, and the new paint was nearly flawless. On the windshield was a "For Sale" sign and an asking price of only $8,400. Now, I never owned a ‘67 Firebird convertible, but I did own a ’67 black Camero convertible with a 4-speed and a 327 V-8. It was a honey of a car.

But I’m passed the critical stage, I guess. I made no inquiries. I made no offers. But I did recall when I was young and the black Camero carried my wife and me off from Illinois to start my two years active duty as an Army officer, back in 1969. During the time that we owned that car, we lived in Illinois, Alabama, Virginia, back to Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, back to Illinois again, Ohio, and Indiana and we became the parents of two daughters. Looking back, that Camero and I started down the path of aging together and traveled some distance before we went our separate ways. Yep, I still got the same wife.

There are a lot of ways of dealing with age. Restoring old cars and sitting around in lawn chairs and exchanging stories that begin with, "I remember when…" doesn’t seem to be all that bad of an option.

Why, I remember when….