I needed a car my senior year at Brandeis, as I would be student teaching at a local public high school first semester. My parents arranged to “sell” me (for one dollar) my mother’s seven year old Valiant (similar to the car in the above photo). Dan, my steady beau, flew out to Detroit to help me drive it back to Waltham.
The car was already old, but I was thrilled to have it; my first car. It didn’t have power anything besides steering. No A/C, but at least it was road-worthy at the time. When Dan graduated a few months earlier, he had taken out a loan and purchased a Toyota Corolla 5-speed that I couldn’t drive. I did not yet know how to drive a stick-shift. I also knew nothing about caring for a car. We didn’t think about oil changes or snow tires or anything else to help keep my car on the road. We lived in an apartment complex (then a condominium complex) with outdoor parking only.
Dan and I married right after I graduated and we settled in an apartment in Waltham, then, two years later, bought a condo in Acton, quite a long drive for both of us, as I worked in Waltham (a half hour drive) and he worked in Cambridge (at least 45 minutes, maybe longer, depending on traffic).
At some point, the knob that controlled the heat fell off and was lost. I could no longer turn the heat on and the winters in New England are cold. The car also leaked oil like crazy. I passed a Shell Station on my way to work each day. My joke – always – was, “fill up the oil and check the gas”. But it wasn’t funny. No one had thought to tell us that we should be doing more to keep the car running smoothly and now it needed a gasket job.
The guy at the gas station (those were the days when stations also had repair shops) also informed me that I could replace the knob easily and get heat again. Miraculous! So that go fixed. But before I could give up the car for that gasket repair, I rear-ended someone at a stop light on Rt 2 in Acton in October, 1977. I wasn’t paying attention; lost in thought. We had seat belts in those days, but no shoulder belts and my teeth went through my lips when my face hit the steering wheel. An ambulance took me to the hospital for stitches, the car was totaled. It was 10 years old and not worth much.
I hastily bought a VW Rabbit with front-wheel drive, much better-suited to the winters.
We keep our cars a long time. With all the bells and whistles on them, when something goes wrong, it can be very costly and then it can be time to trade it in. We always do the routine maintenance (we learned our lesson after that Valiant) and do very little driving these days. Mostly back and forth to the Vineyard, 90 miles each way. Other than that, it is local errands, just a few miles running around town. Though Dan has a fancy car, he likes to put the mileage on my less expensive car, so drives it all the time when we are together.
So far, so good, though just a few weeks ago, the lock button on the front passenger door of my car started to rattle. The only thing I can do to make it stop is push it down manually. Dan thinks my car is still under warranty for a few more months. I hope so. They may have to take the whole door apart. This could be the start of a big repair…
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.