Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Car

She was a beauty. A 1950's something Volkswagen complete with a tiny back window; a starter button; a gas tank system that had a flip switch to give you one more gallon before you really ran out of gas; seats belts (rare but Don Cully, who owned her, was a far sighted guy and he put them in all his cars) and a name, Velma.

The year was 1967. I was working at Miller & Rhoads in the Advertising Department as a layout artist. The pay was okay, my expenses few, but saving money just didn't happen. And so when Pat Cully, fellow artist whose cubicle office was across from mine, said that she and Don were selling their Volkswagen that he had just finished rebuilding my ears perked up. I didn't have a car, never had been able to afford one. Over a year out of college and still without a car. Yup, that was me. I walked or rode my bike to my job, to visit friends, and to the grocery. I took the train home to Alexandria. It worked but a car of my own? Sigh. "How much," I asked certain that it would be well out of my reach. "Two hundred," she replied. "Two hundred? I'll take it." Nevermind that I did not know how to drive a straight stick (this doesn't count) or have a clue how much insurance would cost. My own car!

We sealed the deal, I got insurance, and asked my ex boyfriend to teach me the basics of stick shift driving which turned out to be a couple of thirty minutes lessons in a school parking lot after which he declared me good to go. I wasn't so sure but he had me do the driving back to the Franklin Street vintage home turned into apartment units where we both lived and that was that. I was street worthy.

Velma and I were made for each other. I learned to parallel park in the most minimal spots, on the left and right side of the street, all good since street parking was what I had available. I was a proud gal. Especially since I had failed my high school driving test by pulling wrong out of a parallel parking maneuver that I had just executed perfectly between the two poles designated for the test. Dad had always chided me about my depth perception being bad and assured me that I had lots more room than I thought and so this one time I decided to heed his advice and allow that I had plenty of room to make my exit. Except that I didn't. My front fender just barely touched the pole and didn't even tip it over. But it wobbled and if it had been a real car fender it would have suffered, so, I flunked. It was the last thing on the test too. I had done every other part perfectly, driving in traffic, hand signals, the whole nine yards.

Velma and I stayed together all the way into my marriage with Donny in 1969 and beyond. She took me from our first apartment at Westover Hills to Varina High School way out in the country off of Route 5 and back every day without a hitch. Finally one day she suffered what was going to be an expensive repair, an engine issue I recall.We had lost touch with the Cully's. I'm sure Don could have put her back together in a flash but he wasn't on our radar and so off to the junk yard she went. Still I couldn't let her go without a souvenir. And so I took off her beautiful enameled hood ornament and tucked it away. A few years ago I was creating a self portrait construction using odds and ends from around the house (if you lose something goes the family joke, look for it in mom's art) and came across Velma's ornament. We're pals together again.
Self Portrait 2003

1 comment:

Erwin said...

It is always nice to hear from people and their experiences with their first car. Having a car is truly exciting. It's practically a sign of independence! You'll feel like taking on any road or highway, and you can do just that! Just don't forget to fill up the tank! XD

Erwin Calverley