Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Cars

My folks had a ‘48 Dodge four-door sedan when I was a kid

We have been driving the blue truck lately.

Really, it is an older bright blue pickup. Granddaughter#7 named it “the Blue truck” when she was little and not many vehicles were brightly colored. She could always spot it in the parking lot. We pulled into the Safeway parking lot the other day and I counted at least six bright blue vehicles there, and another drove in as I was counting. They stood out in the black and gray jumble of other cars and pickups parked there with an occasional bright green or orange splash among the drab.

My folks had a ‘48 Dodge four-door sedan when I was a kid. They bought it new, and it still had the “war look”: upside down bathtub, dull bluish color. The only concession to modernity was a sun visor.

Apparently, from 1941-45 no new cars were built. The auto industry was all in for the war effort and used their skills and machinery to build vehicles and other things for the military. About 1945 they were released from their commitments and began gearing up for private autos again but they had to rely on the pre-war style for a couple of years while they retooled for the new era.

By the time I was a teenager, cars were every color, and they didn’t all look alike. Who can forget the Studebaker with its rocket front end, or the Henry J’s sleek small body style. You knew what kind of car it was by how it looked: vibrant colors, flattened body and no two looked alike.

I wasn’t really a car fanatic but the boyfriend(s) were, although they usually were driving a revamped late-thirties something. We girls learned a lot by osmosis. And some had big brothers or dads who followed the trends or may even have been car dealers. Every new model year was as exciting as Christmas.

Fifties and sixties cars were unique. Body styles were sleek and inventive: flip-up headlights, hard-top convertible, lots of chrome, tail fins. Colors were fantastic: brilliant red, metallics of all shades, even black was glossy and bright. Those were the years that some cars became classic. Car styles reflected the freedom of ending the war and getting on with life and each maker had its own idea. They wanted their machine to stand out in the crowd.

And hood ornaments! In the beginning, hood ornaments were designed to camouflage the radiator caps which were on the outside of the hood. Of course they soon they became decorative. Dodge’s charging ram appeared in various poses depending on the model. The various winged ladies of Plymouth, Chief Pontiac on those cars, and many other designs, fancy and simple made their appearance over the years between the thirties and eighties. But apparently in the eighties hood ornaments were designated a hazard. Someone thought they could cause injuries if the car hit a pedestrian, I guess. Now, if you see a hood ornament it is breakaway and made to disintegrate. Instead, the icons are inlaid on the grill, or trunk or dashboard.

The seventies began a more sensible time. The boomers were having kids and Life was getting real again. The station wagon, while always popular became the vehicle of choice and the SUV came into being. Also more subdued colors: forest green, browns and golds, gray. Society had returned to Earth and gotten on with Life as it is really lived.

I read that, like fashion, car trends mirror the economics of an era: the more flamboyant the style, the better the economy and the more carefree the society. The seventies were the beginning of a major inflationary period, similar to what we see today and the cars were beginning to reflect it in color and style.

I think we have finally climbed out of the “classic dull” color period for vehicles if not the boxy style. Bright blue seems to be the in color right now, but I have spotted several lime green and some yellow rigs and lots of white cars and pickups. I’ve always questioned having a white car in Alaska, but that’s me. Others obviously think differently, or don’t think about snow, dust and lots and lots of mud.

We have owned a couple of other bright blue rigs in our life: a fifties-something Mercury and a ‘57 Chevy (if we’d only known then what we know now!!). But now we are the sedate older couple with a gray, four-door sedan.

Except when we drive the Blue truck!

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