Dad’s Old Chevy Took a Beating—But Its Every Flaw Holds a Happy Memory
Pristine when purchased, his secondhand ’56 Chevy would never be described that way again.
In the summer of 1950, my father met us at Malton Airport (now Pearson International Airport) in Toronto. My first imrpession of Canada was the large car he was driving. In Scotland, I hardly knew anyone who owned a car and certainly nothing as big as this 1956 Chevrolet. Back home, we only travelled by bus and train. I was overwhelmed by these mammoth machines traversing all around us! Everything in this new country looked so much larger.
“Is this your car, Dad?” I asked.
“No, it’s your Uncle Charlie’s. He’s thinking of getting a new one. I might try and buy this one, but don’t say anything.”
Uncle Charlie and Aunt Elsie had no children and, although not blood relations, we were very close. Everything they owned was immaculate. Over the coming years, we would visit often. I would sit on the carpet terrified of breaking something. I would stare at this huge black porcelain panther. I had nightmares whereby I somehow stumbled and knocked it off the coffee table. I knew this would be an indiscretion I would have to live with for the rest of my life. It would rank up there with the time I drew a moustache on my sister’s favourite doll!
We returned the car and I was introduced to Uncle Charlie, however my attention was solely on the automobile. I could feel Uncle Charlie’s eyes on me as I walked around it, kicking the tires and feeling the chrome.
Uncle Charlie asked, “Do you like the car?”
“Yes,” I answered, “my father is going to buy it.”
I could tell by my father’s grimace and the hand over his face that I had said too much. Nevertheless, my father did buy the car and it slowly degenerated over time. It would sit during the day in the Stelco parking lot and get covered with a fine grit from the steel plant. On the weekends, my father would do masonry work around Hamilton. The inside of the trunk was always covered with cement and bricks.
On family outings, my parents would smoke with the windows rolled up. The air was permeated with the smell of stale tobacco and chalky masonry cement. The dog and I would lie on the back floor, gasping. They would always question why I got car sick.
When people visited from the old country, we always made a trip to Niagara Falls. In those days you could park right beside the falls.
One afternoon, my father sped up the driveway. He ran into the house and I could hear him yelling angrily to my mother. He then came running out of the house and started spraying the car with a hose. Items were flying out of the trunk and the interior of the car. My friends gathered on the lawn and someone suggested I go in the house and ask my mother what was happening.
“Your father found a citation from the city of Hamilton under the windshield wiper. It says that his car is a disgrace to the city and if he doesn’t clean it, the city will clean it and charge him for it,” she said.
No sooner had he finished cleaning the car than a shiny new Chevrolet pulled up to the house and Uncle Charlie got out.
“Nice job on the car, Eddy,” he said, “I see you got my citation.” As things turned out, it wasn’t the city of Hamilton but one of the secretaries at the Firestone plant where Uncle Charlie worked that had written up the citation.
My father, a jokester himself, took it all in good stride.
Next, read the incredible story of how one man missed out on his dream car as a teenager, then found it parked in his driveway 25 years later.