What teenager doesn’t dream of having their own set of wheels? For Teresa and I, that dream came true in 1969. Strapped for cash, Mom got us our first car when we were 16. Free at last, we didn’t have to take the bus or ride our bikes to school all the time. We had a car!
Mind you, this was no ordinary car, but a vintage Oldsmobile, circa 1953, already a wreck so that Teresa and I couldn’t do it any further damage.
Cars back then were sprawling beasts. They could easily seat six, with three in the front, and three in the back. The trunks were so huge, you could stuff a few more friends inside if you were going to the drive-in and wanted to maximize your return on your theater investment.
But my mom also got us this car, so we’d have a way to visit her at UCLA, where she was laid up in the hospital undergoing another round of treatments to her afflicted right leg.
Teresa and I would wind our way through Studio City and Sherman Oaks, over to the Sepulveda pass, and then over the hill to the medical center to visit her. Having our own car made the trek less painful. Flooring it up to 50 mph, for a few moments we could pretend our family didn’t have any problems.
As any teenager can attest, when you have a car, you’re an instant hit with your friends. We both became very popular that year, stuffing our pals into the Oldsmobile to do donuts in the dirt lots, play chicken with other teenagers on Van Nuys Blvd. or just drive for the sake of driving.
I can still smell the stale stench of that worn upholstery, with its history of several drivers before us. The odor was a cross between wet dog and dirty socks.
The car was a pale shade of gray, or perhaps, this was its mature color having weathered so many miles over the years. The chrome was still intact, with those shiny bumpers that could withstand any damage from behind. The dashboard looked like an airplane cockpit, with all those buttons, knobs and pedals that glared at you as you attempted to start the car.
We had the Oldsmobile for a few years, before my mom came into some settlement money from her accident, at which point we got a brand new Chevy Malibu. It was a sleek beauty to drive, but I’ll never forget that clunky Oldsmobile, a real vintage beauty.