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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: The grandma car

© Another Day in the Country

When Laurel Ehrhardt and Martha Schubert, both from farming families near Ramona, got married in 1936, Laurel had turned 21 the week before and his few earthly possessions included an older Model A, two-door, with that trunk lid that could be made into a jump seat.

Not long after the wedding, they drove the Model A to Lodi, California, where they started married life picking grapes for one of the Ehrhardt uncles. This saga began in June. A year later, in August, I was born, and when I was six weeks old, they drove the coupe back over the mountains to Kansas.

“I installed a heater myself, because it was fall, getting cold in the mountains, and we wanted you to keep warm on the trip,” Dad told me.

This time they set up housekeeping on a little Scully farm where Laurel had grown up. His parents moved closer to town, still farming.

That’s how my odyssey with Ramona, and cars, began. My father loved cars — especially new cars. He was just a kid when the first Ford was showcased in Ramona. He dreamed of having one; but I never heard the story of how he came to own the Model A.

Dad was always careful with his car purchases. The cars were always new and he “traded them in” every couple of years. Because my father eventually became a preacher, he felt the cars he chose needed to be “humble” models, so a Ford or Chevy was the usual choice.

We did have a Plymouth once and a parishioner’s goats climbed all over it when Dad made a house call. Dad said that maybe it was a chastisement from God for the pride he felt in that shiny, immaculate car.

I remember the days when car dealerships covered the windows of their showroom, teasing the prospective buyers with the date the paper would come down to reveal the latest models. We were always there. One year, Dad succumbed to a gray and white, Pontiac hardtop — I think it was 1954 because I learned to drive in that car. It was an automatic beauty, definitely not humble.

The first car my husband and I bought was a 1955 Chevy hardtop, two pale shades of yellow. I loved that car. Wish I still had it. Unfortunately, Ted loved new model cars. I accused him of sleeping with the new car brochures. So, after the Chevy we had a Valiant — strange car, a white Falcon which I tolerated because the interior was red, a dark teal Baracuda which I loved and almost caused a divorce when my husband traded it in, a mustard-colored Toyota station wagon which I hated, and more.

The first new car that I bought on my own — as in choosing and paying the whole bill — was a Honda. I remember going car shopping and it wasn’t fun.

I was in graduate school, newly divorced, and needed a dependable car, not a showpiece. I must admit, I like a car with a little zip — and the Honda wasn’t it. When I got to the hill leading to home, I attempted to accelerate and sadly realized the car was already giving all it had. I cried.

This was not the “first car” I’d imagined, but it turned out to be a good car. It was what I called a “generic” car. One time I came out to the parking lot where I was interning as a therapist and saw five identical cars.

In 2007, I bought a used car off a lot in Hillsboro.

“You deserve a comfortable car,” my sister said, “and we need one big enough to pick up the family from the airport.”

The 2002 Lincoln Town Car worked and I dubbed it “The Grandma Car,” because a lot of older types seemed to have them. This car had a cushy ride and lots of room while newer cars were getting lower and more cramped.

Aside from the fact that the car barely fits into the garage, it’s been a good car. We’ve taken it on several cross-country trips, enjoying the ride and the great stereo system; but it’s getting older every year and times are changing. Parking spots seem smaller and I find the rear end hanging over the allotted space.

As I age, so does the car and neither of us are as efficient as we once were. The power windows are sluggish. The motor that adjusts the seat stopped working so now when Jess drives my car she has to have a pillow behind her back. The air conditioner takes a bit to really cool down.

Then a leak occurred somewhere in the air suspension that floats us down the road. Most of the time it’s OK, but you never know. Last winter, we were caught completely without that cushy air lift on an extremely cold day and had to “low ride” our way home — cautiously. I was laughing. Jess was embarrassed.

The mechanic said, “it’ll cost at least $1,000 to fix,” and we looked sadly at the car, tallying up several things with $1,000 repair bills attached that could be done to my 2002 grandma car. Lately, the suspension has been working.

I told John, “Do not wash the underside of the grandma car when you change the oil and check the fluids. I think it’s Kansas dirt holding that car together,” for another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 29, 2018

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