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Thursday, October 6, 2016


1947 PACKARD 8
Thursday, 9:45 AM.  Wind variable and calm, the sky partly cloudy and the humidity a low 56%.  The barometer has begun to fall, now at 30.08", predicting rain by early tomorrow morning.
   Driving through Washburn yesterday afternoon I was transported back in time via a classic car on a trailer parked on the side of the road. There it was, my Uncle Ollie's '47 Packard! Only it was blue, not hearse black.  But it had whitewalls and fender skirts; close enough.  
  "Go around the block," I shouted to Joan, who was driving.  She was in Washburn, Wisconsin, and it was October,  2016; but I was already in Long Beach, California, and it was December, 1948.  It was warm and sunny, a light breeze soughing through the palm trees.  Roses were blooming, and I was floating dreamily in my Uncle Ollie's  8 cylinder Packard sedan, on our way to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.  
    We had taken a month's vacation that year, my Mom and Dad and I, one of the only real family vacations we were ever to take.  Looking back on it now, I imagine the money for the trip was some saved from years of my father working in the defense plants during the war. At twelve years of age I wasn't going to ask any questions, and was happy school had let me off (including Christmas) with the admonition that I learn from the trip and keep up with my lessons (fat chance).  We had ridden the stream liner train The City of Los Angeles from Chicago, a journey of thirty some hours.  I had traveled across farm fields and prairies,  across the desert and the mountains and had eaten in the dining car. When in the men's room I had watched the men sitting on the floor, shooting craps and drinking from bottles wrapped in paper bags.  It was as if  were in the movies.
   That Packard was indeed a dream machine, and it had two more cylinders than Dad's '36 Chevy.  The only similarity between the two automobiles was the color, but the Packard's  black was deep as ink in an ink well, the Chevy's black like that of a cheap wool suit.  And the seats in Uncle Ollie's car were plush and comfortable. The engine actually purred,  and was it fast! I loved to watch the speedometer needle reach 70, then hope it would climb to 80. I could have lyricised about it forever.
   Uncle Ollie was the family success story. He was rumored to be a millionaire.  He had ridden the rails to California after the Great War, seeking his fortune, and somehow got into the business of cleaning the yachts of movie stars.  Relatives said he actually knew Edward G. Robinson and Peter Laurie.  My Aunt Agnes even had a mink coat she wore the few times they ever came back to wintry Wisconsin. I didn't give a hoot about the mink coat, but I sure loved that Packard.
   Once around the block, I got out and looked the big blue Packard over.  It must have weighed six thousand pounds.  It had some dings and evidence of body work with Bondo, and a couple of cracked windows as well, but it still was a beautiful memory machine. 
   "Joan, they only want $3,850 dollars for this beauty!"
   "What would you do with it? you can't drive that thing with a broken arm. It has no power steering."
   "My arm will get better, and I'll keep it in the barn."
   "We don't have a barn."
   "I'll build one."
   "You've got a broken arm."
   "Details, details!"
   Well, that was the end of that.  But I did take Uncle Ollie's Packard for quite a spin down memory lane. 

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