A woman named Rosa Kinsey who, with a brother and a sister, ran a farm just southwest of Mentone, won a brand new car at the 1932 Kosciusko County Fair. The Kinsey farm was one of several farms where my pals and I would be hired to stack baled straw in the mow, and then, a bit later in the summer, stack the heavier bales of hay. One day in 1954, when I was fourteen, while waiting for a loaded wagon to be brought in from the field, I was snooping around the buildings around the barn and opened a door, expecting to find farm equipment stored within. Instead of harrows or plows, there stood a 1932 Dodge in what looked like perfect condition. I don't remember the mileage but it wasn't much. I asked Rosa Kinsey about it and she said since I liked it so much I could buy it. "How much?" I asked. "Well, do you think $75 would be fair?" I worked at this job and that job and saved my money and at the end of the summer Rosa signed the title over to me.
(I might mention that the Kinsey sisters, come noon, would seat us farmhands at their oak table, the table having been made extra long by the insertion of a couple-three leafs, and feed us the most sumptuous spread that I -- to this very day -- have ever laid eyes upon. Everything was delicious ... there was meat and there were a couple styles of potatoes and there were probably ten or twelve bowls of vegetables and salads, and then, after this feast, the pies were brought out. An additional testimony to the goodness of the Kinseys is the fact that they paid us boys $1.50 per hour while the standard pay for that work in those days was $1.00 per hour.)
I was so excited to own my own car that the first night it was parked alongside the curb outside our house I slept in it. I just couldn't leave it. The only problem was, being fourteen, I couldn't get a driver's license, so I had to have others drive me around, and it wasn't always easy to scrape together twenty-three cents to buy a gallon of gas.
My four-wheeled pride had spring-loaded blinds for all four side windows and the back window. One of my favorite memories is one time when my sister Sheila was driving it around town; her friend Janet Reed, was in the front seat; and my other sisters, Martha and Joan, were in the back seat. Some of my buddies saw them so we started chasing them in whatever car we were in ... Sheila sped down this and that street in town, cut this corner and that corner, and tore down this alley and that alley trying to ditch us ... Martha and Joan kept looking back to see if we were still behind them. All of a sudden Joan pulled the blind on the back window. It was the ultimate "see how you like this, brother!" It was so damned funny I remember how damned funny it was to this day. We laughed and laughed and laughed and Joan and Sheila will laugh again when they read this blog.
(photo illustration from "Instruction" book)
My brother Jim likes to say that I sold the car when I was a senior in high school in order to have money to buy a pack of cigarettes. That's not correct -- I sold it to have money to go on our Senior Class Trip to New York City and Washington D.C., though I probably did buy a few packs with some of the money. And Jim's version does make a better story!