LHS Guys Preferred Talking about Cars
Over Talking about Girls
One major correction to last week's story: the 1957 two-tone turquoise and white 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was proudly owned by Niles Prestage, not "Niles Ramsey." I spent many happy evenings double-dating with Niles, him at the wheel and me in the back seat. Coming from a family of five children, we always had a station wagon, or sometimes even two, sitting in the garage, until my father bought a 1964 VW Beetle for cheap transportation to and from work at Redstone Arsenal. Purchased new, it cost $1,400.00 and boasted all of 40 horsepower. Driving home up Monte Sano required lots of downshifting. Needless to say, neither the station wagon nor the VW was considered very cool for dating, unlike that 1957 Bel Air of Niles.
Cars were the major topic of conversation for most guys at the time; talk about girls was in second place. Ford's Thunderbird and Chevy's Corvette were considered the coolest wheels in the 1950s. A popular TV series,"Route 66," featured two young bachelors tooling from town to town in a Corvette convertible, the top always down and the sun always shining. Apparently it never rained along Route 66. Randy Roman's haunting saxophone tribute to his late wife Kathy, "Corvette Blue" details the beauty and craftsmanship of this timeless American Classic.
The early 1960s brought out competition for Sport Models that could hold more than two people. In addition to Don Stroud's Corvair, Chevy produced the Chevelle, a "muscle car" that featured a "four-on-the-floor" manual transmission. After the Mustang debuted in 1963-64, Ford introduced its own version of a larger muscle car, the 500XL. Mercury had the Gran Torino (later the title of a great Clint Eastwood film), Oldsmobile got into the act with the 442, but production stopped after only a few years, as Olds stuck to its trademark stodgy Delta 88 family sedan; many years later, the tagline for marketing a newer, sportier version was: "This is not your father's Oldsmobile." But probably the most prestigious of muscle cars was Pontiac's GTO. As opposed to the purring sound of a more conventional vehicle, the deep, testosterone-raising rumble of a GTO's V-8 engine could induce goosebumps in any teenage male with a pulse.
Popular Music in the 1960s also was influenced by cars; think of "409," "Little Deuce Coupe," "GTO", "Hot Rod Lincoln". "Dead Man's Curve,", "Mustang Sally," "Thunder Road," "I Get Around" and many others. The popular hit "Teen Angel" was a weeper of a ballad sung by a young lad who had just lost his girlfriend to a car crash.
Back to Chevrolet, whose idea of body style was to change its design every two years. To tell the subtle difference between a 4-door Bel Air 1955 and 1956 sedan, one had to look at the tail lights and maybe the front grill. In 1959 Chevy came out with the Impala as its flagship sedan. The '59 rear deck featured gull-wings on either side of the trunk, under which were a horizontal row of three conical tail lights on each side. The '60 Impala had a straight rear deck and rectangular tail lights; otherwise, it was essentially the same vehicle as the '59. Chevy did the same for Impalas in '61-'62 and '63-'64. I assume this was done to cut down on design and manufacturing costs. But the exception to this rule occurred in the 1957 Niles Prestage Bel Air, with its racy lines and often two-tone coloring. In 1958 the Bel Air body style was radically re-designed to look like a long box, with rounded rear deck; it was the car driven by Ron Howard's lead character in "American Graffiti," subtitled "Where were you in '62?" Suzanne Somers played the mysterious blonde in the white T-Bird, lusted after by Richard Dreyfuss' character. Apparently the 1958 Bel Air did not sell many units (no surprise to us fans of the '57 version) leading Chevy to come out with the Impala in 1959; General Motors learned the hard way (is there any other way?) that Americans want to drive a vehicle that is more sexy than stodgy. Hence the decline and disappearance of Oldsmobile and Pontiac.
Most of us have memories of what we drove while at LHS; some fond, some not so fond, but all are interesting reading for classmates. Please consider helping Tommy out by sending in a memory of your first vehicle, and what adventure you had while driving it. I thought about sharing a story involving what happened to me in the back seat of a 1964 Ford Galaxy at The Whitesburg Drive-In; but then realizing that this is a PG-rated publication that comes out on Sundays I think that Tommy would censor that story.
We featured this in an earlier issue, but John requested we re-show it to accompany his story.
Memphis, TN - Once again this year I am trying to do something special for Lent. I missed out last year, but the year before that I gave up "stuff." Each day for 40 days I got rid of one bag (big or small) of stuff for Lent. This year I am doing to same and so far have succeeded in that goal.
Next week we begin March Madness, and I look forward to seeing some good basketball games in the coming days.
My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.
The Vintage Television
1965 TV Intros, Part 3
From Our Mailbox
Subject: No Mail this week to publish.