Thursday, February 10, 2011

Youthful Memories

So, what's the very first thing you remember? I know people who say they can remember things from when they were one year old. Really? I can barely recall what I had for breakfast. However, the first 'image' I have as a memory is of a planter.
Yes, I know. Some of you are certainly thinking, 'This explains a lot'. My family lived in an apartment on NE 82nd. Street near Biscayne Boulevard (US 1) in Miami until I was two or so. This is my Mom trying to hold me up in the courtyard behind the apartment due to the extreme weight of my diaper, and look, the planter!

Of, course, I wonder, as we all should with our 'memories': Do I actually have an authentic memory, or have I convinced myself it is for real? Do I 'remember' the planter or did I look at this photograph as a small child and insert the memory in my own tiny but hyperactive brain?

The photograph had been lost to me for nearly sixty years but when I saw it again I recognized the planter instantly, the shape, the grapes, the little palm tree. It must have made quite an impression on me, being my size and all. It may have stuck out brightly amidst all the grownup legs that many children are lost among.
I have had other instances in my life where I 'remembered' something very clearly only to have it unequivocally proven that it didn't happen that way! Was I protecting myself, perhaps attempting valiantly to make myself appear better? Yeah, like that will happen!

Well, that's what I first remember, along with fleeting images of scenery - like through a car window. I could see through the car windows because my mother was probably holding me in her arms. My parents never owned a car seat. They probably never heard of a car seat and I'm willing to lay down good money that neither of them ever used a seat belt in their lives.

Yet, my brother and I are still alive! How??

Speaking of cars, when I was a kid my father was an automobile mechanic. Actually, he was an automobile mechanic before I was born, before my parents were married and long after I was a grown man. It just sounds better to say, 'When I was kid...'.

The first
car I remember my father owning was a Terraplane. Yes, a Terraplane. What? Haven't heard of them? They were built by the Hudson Motor Company in the mid-thirties.

John Dillinger drove a Terraplane for a while, they had an excessively sized engine compared to body weight, so they were fast.

You know, it just occurs to me now, having written the name down, that this word is a play on 'airplane'. A terraplane would be an earth-plane or
ground-plane. See 'terra firma' (solid ground) or 'terra cotta' (pottery made from earth or clay).

Interestingly, my planter may have been terra cotta, how's that for 'everything's a circle'?
Back to my father's Terraplane, I have no idea whether the model and year he owned was the same as in the photo here, although the condition was probably about what you see. I can't show you any photograph, why would anyone want to take a PHOTOGRAPH??
Notice a couple of features on this puppy. First, the suicide doors that open backward from what is normal today. It was easy to get in and out of, but don't accelerate with the door open or you're in deep water!

This car had 'running boards', essentially a built-in step to help to get up into the seat. They were also very useful for cops to stand on and fire shots at John Dillinger who was trying to escape.
The model my father had definitely had no back seat and the front seat was just one long bench. And the front windshield was separated into two, much cheaper panes of flat (non-safety) glass.

Note also the radically simplified dashboard. No unnecessary knobs or flashing lights. You may notice the single knob to the left through the steering wheel - that's the choke. No fancy-schmancy automatic choke. You had to operate this locomotive. You turned the key, pulled out the choke and pushed down on a little knobby on the floor to start the car.

Notice also that there's only room in the front for two adults and a brother. The little kid had to ride up in the back window and I don't recall any seat belt up there for me either. Fortunately, we never had a head-on collision - that I can remember.
Unfortunately, I don't recall if my father's model had the last feature I wish to point out. If you look at the trunk, you'll notice that it opens backward as well, from the front to the back. And it wasn't a 'trunk' at all! It was another seat. An open-air, no-way-to-get-into, better-hope-for-dry-weather-in-Miami seat. They were popular for quite a while, they were called rumble-seats.

Guess why.

As circumstance would have it, I DO have a photograph of my mother in a rumble seat, long before she met my father. This was taken on the Fourth of July, 1942. That's my Mom on the left in the rumble seat and my Aunt Del in the passenger seat. Aunt Del isn't in the rumble seat because she's pregnant with my cousin Audrey who wouldn't be born for a couple of months yet. Please - no rumbling.
Remind me... How are we alive?


Leah Kleylein said...

one of my first memories is the drive up to PA from Florida when the whole family moved up here. I remember being in Grandma and Grandpa's big brown buick.

Dave said...

We are still alive through sheer luck!!

StillOutThere said...

Terraplanes were sold from 1932 through 1938 and came in all body styles from roadsters w/ rumble seats to stylish 4 door sedans. All with running boards. If possible I would have posted a photo of my survivor 1934 Terraplane convertible for your readers.