“O, how this Spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day.” —William Shakespeare
Spring—one of my two favorite seasons, the other one being Fall. But, likely for reasons you might not be thinking. For me, they are best seasons for car shows and swap meets.
Sure, Spring blooms in nature’s beauty and Fall leaves add to their season. But, it’s hard to top the beauty of a classic car gathering, or acres of rusty, hibernating parts waiting for new life as part of someone’s restoration project, transporting them back to the memories of their first car.
Memories of first cars and first dates last a lifetime. It’s been a natural American phenomenon for generations, particularly among young and young-at-heart males that the aroma of gas, oil and polish emanating from that first automobile lingers longer in a man’s memory than the fragrance of the world’s finest perfume.
Memories of my first car are at least as vivid than those of my first date. Understand, that’s no reflection on the attractive young lady who caught my eye, causing me to stammer long enough to ask her out. It’s just that the set of wheels I first called mine captured my heart before she ever had the chance.
Those wheels were attached to a blue 1951 Chevrolet Styleline DeLuxe sitting quietly under the night lights at Rex Kidwell’s Fina Station on South Jefferson in Mount Pleasant the first time I saw her. Rex was a friendly fellow and customers always got a smile, gas pumped, oil checked, windshield washed and the floor mats hand swept with a small broom Rex kept in his back pocket. Everyone got that service whether they filled the tank with higher-priced ethyl gas and got change back from a five-dollar bill, or just said, “Gim’me a dollar’s worth of regular ‘til payday, please.”
The Chevy that caught my eye was not a new car. The year was 1964, but Rex was known for acquiring pristine used cars that met his standards of ‘extremely nice,’ which he would park on the lot beside his station with a ‘for sale’ sign in the window.
Between money from my after-school job sweeping out at Beall’s department store downtown and a short-term, interest-free loan from my grandmother repaid at five dollars a week, I came up with the $250 asking price. That Spring night, some 54 years ago, I drove home in my first car just a few weeks before the end of my sophomore year at MPHS.
As time and money permitted, I added my touches—a split manifold with dual exhaust glass-pack mufflers from Redfearn’s automotive on East Third Street next to the Martin theater, and dual carburetors. To this day, there is no sweeter melody to my ears than the sound of Chevy six with a split manifold and dual exhaust—beautiful music cruising through downtown Mount Pleasant late at night.
Through the streets of Mount Pleasant and beyond, the faithful Chevy transported me to school in the mornings, to work in the afternoons, to the drag races Saturday night and to church on Sunday. Oh, and also on my first date on a Friday night to the Martin theater.
I saw my first date in Mount Pleasant a couple or three years ago, and we enjoyed a short, but nice visit. As we talked, I wondered if she remembered that car. I sure do.