It was the Age of Aquarius. I wasn’t getting a haircut as often and when I did I made sure the barber left my sideburns long.
I had a new pair of bell-bottom jeans (which my mom said made me look like a sailor – but what did she know?). I also had a “new” car. I don’t remember how long I had this, my third vehicle, but it was long enough to get into trouble. The first two, the aforementioned Desoto and the subsequent unmentioned two tone green Plymouth were stolid monsters. This third one was more of a boat – long and wide and despite that, I may say sleek.
It was a 1959 Pontiac Catalina, white outside with a red interior. And it had tail fins – twin twins, two on each side. With the tail lights strategically placed under them on the back panel, it gave the illusion of the glowing red engines of a rocket. And with a 389 under the hood it had plenty of power.
I was all set to go out on a date. My first. But I didn’t know where my date lived. She worked with me at the Renton Cinema behind the concession stand, and had given me her address. I just wasn’t sure that I had taken the right turn off of the main highway.
So what was I going to do? There were no cell phones in that day. No phone booths in sight. And I didn’t want to go all the way home to call. So I backed into the driveway of the first house I saw to ask for directions.
I walked down the driveway and over to the front door and knocked. The owner answered the door and my question. I indeed had the right street, I just needed to go further up the gravelled road and hang a right in the stand of trees at the top. The trouble came when I went back to my Pontiac.
I hadn’t noticed when I backed in that my car was resting on some loose earth on that side of the driveway. I was soon on my back clinging to the open door as my car rolled down the incline. It was a slow but inexorable procession, only stopping when the rear end struck the garage door of the house. And only then was I able to gain my feet. Quite shaken.
After another round with my insurance company, I was on my way. For the Pontiac was in no way impared. I was able to pick up my date, meet her mother, and head to downtown Seattle – destination the Coliseum Theater, where we saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We both liked Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but she soon let it be known that she was not interested in me.
However, don’t cry for me. Soon after I would go out with another “candy” girl who was interested in me, and later became my wife. Instead consider the rest of the story and never wonder again why guys don’t like to stop and ask for directions.
I remember that one of the butchers that worked at the small grocery store where I worked during high school, one time commented on my tightfitting slacks; that had to be about 1962. He laughed at me and talked about how one day I’d probably be wearing pants similar to those that guys in the Navy wore, really wide at the bottom. I laughed at him and called him an old man, who had no idea about style.
Fast forward into the 70s and lo and behold – the return of the bellbottoms!
I remember the day that I went back to straight-leg pants. A friend across the street had one of those cameras that develop the film right after you shot a photo. I asked her to take one of me and I sent it to my dad. I had also shaved off my beard and went back to straight hair (I had been curling my hair which was popular then). A few days later, I happened to be talking to my dad when I asked him what he thought of the photo I had sent him. He remarked, “Welcome back son.”
Thanks for sharing, John!