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You Say Potato I Say Desoto

You Say Potato I Say Desoto

Since Evergreen High School in White Center was so far away, there was no school bus service near us. My folks would drop me off in the morning, but they couldn’t always pick me up. I remember a couple of times having to walk home after classes. It soon became paramount that I get my driver’s license and a car.
There were no openings in the Driver’s Ed class at school, at least not soon enough to satisfy my necessity. So instead we found a private company down on 1st Avenue where I enrolled.
The classes met in the evening, and after covering the basics in a classroom situation we were ready to hit the road.
I admit to being nervous. Not on the side streets where there was little or no traffic, but on the busy thoroughfares with traffic lights and multiple lanes. Add to that the fact that it was night time, and you felt like you were on a tightrope. Come time to take my test, it was day time, and I just passed. Maybe if it had night time I would have done better.
Soon afterwards I got my first car for a couple hundred bucks – a DeSoto, which rolled off the assembly line the very same year that I was born. Though my Dad said it ran like a top, is was definitely not your sporty ride. To my mind it was a clawfoot bathtub, flipped upside down and outfitted with wheels and windows. It was a two tone brown, almost faded pink – but one of the hues showing through in spots may have been actually the primer coat, as if some sand-blasting had uncovered it. But it moved. And it gave me an introduction to a clutch, which had not been covered in my Driver’s Ed class. You used the clutch only to shift into first gear, it was automatic after that.
It got me to school, and to work at the Cinema, and home again. I liked the drive to work, especially the back way through Tukwila to Renton. There was a freeway alternative, but I think the car felt more comfortable with a 35 mph speed limit.
But the Tukwila back way was the site of my first accident. It all happened one day after school on the way to work. I had a friend with me as a passenger. We were approaching an intersection where a bridge connected on the right. The bridge spanned I-405, and came up from the South Center Shopping center to the street we were traveling on.
A car coming up across that bridge either misjudged their timing or did not stop. They collided with us – their front left bumper to our front right. The DeSoto was built like a tank. I watched as the other vehicle bounced off, spun 180 degrees and was propelled back down the bridge hitting the abutment. We came to a screeching halt, and I watched in horror as my friend was thrown forward against the dashboard. As we sat looking at one another my jaw dropped, for the bone of his forehead appeared to be caved in. (For his part he probably thought my jaw was unhinged). He raised his hands to feel his forehead and then spoke to reassure me that all was fine. He told me not to worry, because his forehead had always been like that.
It was all rather confusing after that. I think my father picked us up (he doesn’t remember for sure). Since we were ambulatory neither of us was sent off to the hospital. The insurance companies took over, both vehicles were totalled. The other driver was injured and taken to the hospital, but I never heard much after that.
Fortunately the previous owner of the Desoto had fitted it up with seatbelts. At least for the front seat. Bolted in by hand, they had been secured to the floor well of the back seat.
Thank God for seatbelts.

About rwoz2

Poet, historian, writer for stage and screen. Responder to Jesus (Romans 5:8)

One response to “You Say Potato I Say Desoto

  1. John Evans ⋅

    I’m reminded of my first accident. It was the first time I ever took out the family car. My dad had mentioned that he had not kept the insurance up-to-date and needed to send it in immediately. He told me to really be careful.

    I too, had a passenger with me, and we decided to leave our high school basketball team’s game early. A car was parked with its back end over the exit of the parking lot. Its bumper hooked the side of Dad’s ’60 Ford Fairlane.

    I panicked and floored it. I was a hundred yards down the road when I gathered my senses and hit the brakes. When I backed up and got out to see the damage, I was glad to see no damage to the other car. They made bumpers that did their job in those days.

    But Dad’s car? A different matter. There was a crease from the back door to almost the bumper. Needless to say, everywhere our family went for a couple of months, it was the topic of conversation. I was never so glad to see Dad get a new “company car.”

    And Dad’s reaction? When I came into the house, he and Mom were watching TV. When he’d heard my sad tale he said we’d wait till morning to check the damage out since it was so dark out.

    A couple of months later, as he handed me the keys to his new, shiny white ’62 Ford, Dad quietly informed me, “If you do that to this car, I’ll hang you by your nuts.”

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