We called her Pam by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By My First Car

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I grew up in a house that was on the highway leading out of town, with lots of truck traffic, across the street from a Texaco station.  “Uncle” George and “Aunt” Mary owned the station, and they lived in a humble apartment above it. Being on the highway, he was set up to service big rigs as well as passenger cars. Even though my dad was very handy with auto repair, Uncle George worked on a lot of our cars.

My church youth group pressed into Pam like clowns into a VW bug.

He also worked on the car that belonged to our pastor’s wife, a woman of size who drove a seafoam green and cream Ford station wagon.  In those days, license plates were coded according to the county that issued them.  Her plate started out with the letters PAM.  After many years of ownership, she decided it was time to sell the car and sought Uncle George’s help.  I in turn had been talking to him about buying a car.  I had saved up the princely sum of $140, and he suggested I offer her $120.  And just like that, I was the proud owner of a ’57 Ford wagon.

The floorboards had rusted through in a few places so you could see the highway going by under your feet. The steering had enough play in it that you had to turn it about 2″ before you were sure that the forces might be with you to successfully complete a turn. Dad was able to give me some valuable auto maintenance life lessons as various bits froze up, fell off, or disintegrated. Uncle George gave us family pricing but even so I probably paid for her a couple times over in replacement parts. The driver’s seat forever bore the imprint of the previous owner’s derriere.  I loved Pam.

My friends loved her too.  She became the go-to vehicle for hauling the marching band’s tubas or drums when we played halftime shows during football games. My dad used her to haul the worst of his construction project materials (the ones that were too dirty to haul in his truck.) My church youth group pressed into Pam like clowns into a VW bug, somehow also fitting in all our gear to go to summer camp.

My mom was a remarkable woman, the most generous and open hearted person I’ve ever known. This was the era of Jesus freaks. My sister brought home a couple who had been crashing at a coffee house downtown, and without missing a beat my mom made beds for them in the basement and they joined our family for a brief sojourn. Since I was heading off to another state for college and my dad wanted to be rid of her, the husband bought Pam. A steal at a hundred bucks.  Later I learned that he had totalled her – get this – driving to the DMV to get his first driver’s license. Sigh.

Pam had a lot of personality, plus she was mine, all mine.  Like most people’s first car, for better or worse she defined my ideal for many years to come.








Profile photo of Susan Susan

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this story and the visceral way you loved that car and everything about! And still do.

  2. rosie says:

    I’m curious, did your dad ask you before he sold your car? Just curious. This reveals your warmth and light optimistic take on what goes on in life. I am unfamiliar with “Jesus freaks” , can you explain what that was like or meant.
    I have heard the term, but don’t know how the context applies here. Keep writing, I enjoy your work.

    • Susan says:

      I was already off to college by the time dad sold Pam. And he had put so much BS&T into her, I figured he deserved the money. Jesus freaks, or Jesus People. That was a movement in the 60s and 70s, at least on the west coast. Lots of people converted to following Jesus, it was a short-lived social trend. It mostly manifest itself in hippie behavior under the guise of leaving it all behind and living a life of poverty like Jesus. Bumming around, crashing on couches..maybe it’s the equivalent of couchsurfing today? “Couchsurfers for Jesus!” I’m off to make some t-shirts.

  3. John Zussman says:

    Construction materials too dirty for your father to haul in his truck—so he used your car??? Love this. Lots of good details and great lines. (My favorite: “my church group pressed into Pam like clowns into a VW bug.”)

  4. rosie says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I lived in Texas, and most of the non Jewish people I knew were not that kind of Jewish freak and would probably have been unhappy with the term.

    T shirts? Wow, do you do prints or do you sew them together in unusual
    combinations? Sounds great. One of my younger son’s friend, had parents who made T-shirts and made them for many rock bands including the Rolling Stones. The wife was high a great deal of the time and she was a wonderful artist. She had a bathroom that was decorated in a covering of click together blocks, oh, I remembered the name… Legos.

    • Susan says:

      Lego bathroom, ha! I meant it to be a joke about making the t-shirts. Heck, that’s the problem with online communications. No nuance! Thanks for your wonderful comments, and engagement with Retrospect.

  5. Constance says:

    First of all, I so don’t remember dragging hippies home like that. I believe it, I just don’t remember it. lol
    Second, OMG, is that Gary Z. I the photo? Where do you suppose all the members of that whole clan are today?
    Haven’t thought about Pastor and Mrs. T for a long time.

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