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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Buying Your First Car
By John Deering

Your first car!  I’ll bet you  wish you had found a way to keep it.  Before WVXU (91.7 fm) radio became the grand radio station it is today, I used to do editorials on the air on various subjects that applied to the Greater Cincinnati area. Quite a few listeners were kind enough to comment favorably about my topics and how I had expressed them.

Interestingly enough the one that brought  a  couple of phone calls to me was the one about my buying my first car – a nine-year old 1941 Chevrolet.  I hope this feature will bring back pleasant memories of  your first car too. Yes,   I wish I could say, “I still have that car.” If so, I’d drive it the 4th of July parades.

Anna and I were undergraduates at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers’ College in the fall of 1949, and we had come to Highlands as student teachers. Since we both lived in Covington, we had to ride three buses in the morning to Fort Thomas and another three each afternoon to go home.  That was Okay for temporary teaching positions; however, when Mrs. Grace Kellogg died tragically in an auto accident, Superintendent Russell Bridges -  after speaking to Miss Avice White, my supervising teacher - asked if I’d like to stay and teach the 9th- grade English classes. “YES!” I replied enthusiastically, and thus my career began.   Since we were carless and bound permanently to those six busses each day, I decided:  I need a car.

Yes, Anna and I were still living at our homes with our parents, and we were “carless,” which meant we were riding those six busses from Covington to and from Fort Thomas every day. I needed a car! (Oops! I have already said that!  Oh me!)  With my first paycheck deposited  and some monetary aid from my mother, she, my younger brother, and I went   car shopping soon after Christmas.  

Well, when going to used-car lots – at least eight or ten – I asked the managers if there was a prewar Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth on the lot. I usually was met by an enthusiastic salesman assuring me that he had just what I needed.  Of course, most of the “price- available” cars were very high mileage ones and a few had had the odometers set back, but there usually were  service station stickers   on the door jams that gave away  the true record of mileage. I drove a couple of them, but found them lacking.

A couple of others were “reluctant” starters; however, some eventually accomplished the act of starting after some grinding noises had emanated from under the hoods and some black smoke appeared from the exhaust pipes,  I  began to accept the idea that we were going to have to ride all  those busses a  while longer.  

Well, as a perennial optimist, I still had hope that there was a nice car waiting for me somewhere. So we kept on looking.  Finally when despair was about to overcome me and we were about to go home, we passed another lot; so I gave in to temptation, stopped to inquire, and heard again. “I have just what you want!” After looking around, I asked, “Well, where is it?”

“It’s at Covington Buick,” he replied.  “Oh no,” I answered. “We have been there and they have nothing I want.” ”They don’t know it’s there,” he replied. So we succumbed to temptation, got into his car, and went to see this mystery car. We arrived there, and he took us to the wash bay, and (drum rolls and trumpet blasts) there it was – a metallic green, 1941 Chevrolet coupe. He told me to get in and start the engine. I stepped on the starter and it started!

IT ACTUALLY STARTED! There was no grinding noise  under the hood; there was no black smoke emanating from the exhaust.  It started!  It purred! It had 47,000 miles on it. No other car I had seen that day had such relatively low mileage.  I had found my car.

Now, those of you who have lived through World War II will remember gas rationing reigning supreme during those years, and thus this car had lived a rather sheltered life in Park Hills. The owner, a young woman, evidently had stayed within the limits of three gallons of gas a week.   Her father, the owner of the agency, had just given her, his daughter, a new Buick for Christmas [1949] and she was selling my car -- to me. “How much?“ I asked. “It’s $600,” he replied. “Gosh, I can handle that.  After all, I’m making almost $2,000 a year,” I thought to myself.  “Will you take $500?” I asked.

“NO!” he replied with determination; so after driving the car, I succumbed again that day and bought my first car.  To this day, I wish I still had kept it. It indeed was the car I had intended to find somewhere that day.  Optimism paid off!   After we had married and Ann was also teaching in Fort Thomas,   we three – the car, Ann, and I -- moved to Fort Thomas.  It was truly a nice one that we kept until we bought our first new car in 1953.

Buying a new car was a different experience too. Through the years, we have had some “interesting experiences.” (I’ll bet you have too!)  Buying our first new one was fine because Bill Smith of Campbell County Motors [the Webbers of Fort Thomas] in Newport was the salesman.  I had taught his son Lynn. He knew me and he was on our side, so to speak. We had to wait almost a month to get the new one because we had ordered it to have tinted windows.

We kept “checking” on it, though. One evening we intentionally passed by the Campbell County Motors on Mommoth   Street to see if it had come in. We saw one with the colors we had ordered inside the shop area; but since they were closed, we had to duck under the partially closed sliding door, approach the car, and then we saw tinted windows and realized: This one is ours.

We did not keep our first car – the 1941 Chevrolet -- but we wish we were still able to say proudly, “This is our first car!”  Since we had sold it to a student – Ronald King -- I saw her “glaring” at me every school day! Again  I hope this has brought some nice memories back to you.

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