CC Outtake: Curbside Reminiscences From My Childhood

For me, the turn of the year always brings forth a sense of nostalgia – another year past and a longing to look back at the “good old days” of my youth in the early and middle 1960’s. More so now as I’m into my seventh decade – and wonder how much longer I’ll be able to keep these memories…

Paul’s recent article on the step-down Hudson Hornet made these reminiscences much more vivid, as it brought back those long forgotten of a Hudson owned by a family in our neighborhood. That then led to recollections of other “classics” that roamed the streets of our lower middle class section of Columbus Ohio, and their unique and colorful owners. Thanks for the memory jogger Paul – if you’ll allow me, I’d like to reach back and offer some thoughts on these owners and classics, with a now over fifty years of perspective. Note names have been changed and pictures are representative examples from the Internet.

Let’s first look at the Hudson – it was owned by a large Italian family named Murcer. The father was a part time house painter, and as with most others in the neighborhood, didn’t have much money. He drove a early 50’s faded blue step-down Hudson – probably a Hornet because I can remember the large “Twin H” badge on the back. It was  both a work and family car – I would always see his ladder, tarp, and other supplies stored in the trunk and back seat. At this point, the Hudson was at least 10 years old – which in the 60’s was ancient. As an eight year old already fascinated by cars, I thought this Hudson was one of the ugliest cars on the road – compared to the new crisply-styled Stingrays, Rivieras, T-Birds, and Starfires that passed by our neighborhood enroute to the more upscale environs of Columbus, the Hudson could only be described as hoary, bloated, and roach-like. I’d wince when it went by, it was so ugly.

Across from the Murcer’s were the Andrienko’s; a Ukrainian family with the parents first generation immigrants from the old country. Neither the mother or father spoke much English, but the children, several my age, were all born in the US and were typical US kids. Perhaps because of his lack of language skills, the father performed mostly odd jobs; small mechanical and electrical repairs, etc. The family car was a early 50’s “bullet-nosed” Studebaker Starlight coupe. Here was another car that I thought was beyond bizarre – a wrap-around cathedral like rear window and what looked like a propeller hub in the nose,  Its trunk was longer than its hood – maybe the first cab-forward.  Truly weird.  You couldn’t call it ugly – it was too strange to call ugly – I’d just stare at it; puzzled…

Across from our flat was Mr Dillard, a middle-aged, single gentlemen who lived with his elderly mother. He had some type of office job as he always wore a suit to work. He was formal and very uptight – one who had no time for young kids running around causing noise and mayhem. He was a routine visitor to our home complaining to my parents about something I had done to upset him or his mother. He had the only new car in the neighborhood – a bone-stock early 60’s Ford Falcon, white, completely lacking in chrome, with dog-dish hubcaps. It fit his personality…

Down at the end of the street near the railroad tracks lived Mark – Mark was a professor at nearby Ohio State University – and was one of the nicest guys in the neighborhood. A bachelor, he lived in an apartment, and his door was always open to us young kids. Today I imagine folks would raise an eyebrow at this, but Mark was just this truly nice gentleman who would share with us his time, food, books, and music. He also would impart things that maybe our parents had forgot to do – always say please and thank you, never interrupt a speaker, etc.  Surprisingly he didn’t drive a Volvo but a haggard 1956 Desoto – which appropriately was covered with “stop the war” and “save the environment” bumper stickers.

At the opposite end of the apartment complex from Mark lived Tony – Tony was probably in his early 30’s, a bachelor, and a “player”.  I never knew his job, but my guess would have been “salesman.”  He was always friendly to us but was more interested in the string of young ladies that he escorted into his apartment. Between these liaisons, he would occasionally invite us in – he had a ham radio kit and would explain how the radio worked and show us how it operated – fascinating stuff to young kids.  He drove an early 60’s Buick Lesabre convertible – a few years old but in very good shape.

Looking back, I’ve learned some things over the intervening fifty some years;

The Hudson may have been ugly then, but its a gem now. Big flathead six, quality step-down unit construction; sure would love to have one in the garage.

The Starlight coupe still puzzles me – I can appreciate its then (and now) daring styling – but even today when I see one I still just stare at it, puzzled…

I wish I had been nicer and more empathetic to Mr Dillard – who was probably an awkward, lonely soul whose common complaints were likely just his attempt to communicate with us.  And I’d be glad to be an owner of an original bone-stock Falcon.

Mark is one of those few people from your childhood you look back on with true admiration – and a ‘56 finned, hemi-engined Desoto would be pretty cool to have too.

And from now on every time I see an early 60’s Buick convertible, I’ll remember Tony cruising our neighborhood with the top down and a cute young thing in the front seat.

Thanks again for the memory jogger Paul…