Distancing among the memories, praying for a new one

“Things may end, but memories make them last forever.”

– Unknown

Good memories help us appreciate our past and often lead to a fondness for tangible reminders of those days. Maybe it’s a piece of furniture we grew up with, kitchen utensils mom cooked with, or tools that dad used in his shop. Those living links to the past tend to generate comforting recollections of times we thought would never end.

When those memories are rooted in the finest generations of automobiles to ever roam the highways, that obsession can be excessive … or so I’ve heard. Can I help it if my garage reminds me of a time when the cars in it were much younger, and I was too?

Since the plan to kick this coronavirus crud to the curb is to stay at home, I’ve mandated my own personal plan for social distancing. That will be hunkering down in the garage and soaking up the atmosphere while completing some much-needed tinkering on the cars.

Don’t ask me how that’s different from any other day in my garage. Hey, if a plan works, it’s a good plan.

The decor in my garage is signs, shelves of old soft drink bottles, rows of oil cans, hubcaps hanging on the wall, and license plates that have survived recycling to put one more generation of joy in an old car lover’s heart. It’s a reminder of a kinder, gentler time when kids feared licks from Coach Gilbreath’s paddle at MPHS more than a rogue virus from China.

Prime procurement places for those prizes are typically car swap meets—flea markets for cars, car parts, and old car stuff. Center friend Dickie Gilchrist and I have a long-standing road trip tradition of attending one of the season’s first and one of the largest swap meets in this part of the country, The Pate Swap Meet near Fort Worth. Sad to say, it’s looking like that pilgrimage this year will be another virus victim.

Garage goodies gathered during our last trip included a superb set of 1956 Texas license plates, automotive magazines from 1959, and a couple of bottles: “Triple XXX Root Beer” and RC Cola. A bonus gift from brother-in-law Tom while bunking at my sister Leslie’s house for the trip was a two-page magazine ad heralding the fine qualities of the “New 1957 Fords.” 

Antique shops can also add archival acquisitions. Bottles for long-gone drinks such as “Dad’s” Root Beer, Nehi, and Sun Crest, and a Borden’s glass milk bottle embossed with “Elsie” from the days of home delivery in time for breakfast are personal examples. On the automotive side, recent discoveries include, a tire patch can from the days before tubeless tires. My father and grandfather both kept tire patches handy. Experiencing a flat tire meant stopping on the side of the road to swap the flat tire for the spare, throwing the flat in the trunk and patching the tube in it upon arriving at home.

Then there’s the skates I scored not long ago, identical to those on which I amassed many miles at the Mount Pleasant skating rink on highway 67. They were even equipped with white laces like mine, a really trick touch in the early 60s when I was a regular at the rink. 

All these things are not just garage memorabilia, however. Some are perfect props for car shows. The skates, my high school band jacket (yes, I have that, too) and maybe an old drive-in movie schedule from the 60s thrown in the back seat of my ’55 Ford, just as they would have been in my car during high school years, add to that living link to times we thought would never end.

Good memories make the garage a really good place to be confined during a time of social distancing while praying that covid-19 will soon be just a really bad memory.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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