Curbside Capsule: 1955 Ford F-100 – Paging Fred Sanford

(first posted 1/23/2018)        Very thankfully, there are more than a few cable channels these days that specialize in reruns of shows I loved watching when I was growing up.  This is not to say that I never watch new or recent shows.  It’s just that many of them seem to have serial plotlines that require some sort of commitment to following both continuing storylines and character development.  Usually, I just don’t have that kind of time (or lasting interest).  Give me a good, old, “regular” half-hour show where all you need to know is contained within twenty-two minutes of dialogue.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen a particular episode before – even twenty times.  Part of the fun of watching again is remembering someone else’s reactions to a plotline, which were often just as humorous as the jokes themselves.

“Roseanne”, “The Cosby Show”, “Three’s Company”, “The Jeffersons”, all of these are classic shows that by the first four seconds into their theme songs, I’m already smiling from ear-to-ear.  “Sanford & Son” was a sitcom I particularly liked, recognizing from my dad’s uncharacteristically enthusiastic reactions to Fred Sanford’s and Aunt Esther’s banter that these jokes and jabs being exchanged were a bit more on the naughty or cantankerous side.  It’s funny to pick up on words and exchanges in these old episodes as an adult that I had missed as a kid.  The dialogue was often written so well that it all still seems perfectly acceptable now to have allowed us kids to watch along with the grownups.

Last fall, this F-100 was parked down the street from my friends’ house which is, literally, right at the city limits of our hometown of Flint, Michigan.  This truck looked instantly familiar.  I couldn’t figure out if I was trying to make a mental Pixar connection (as in “Rusty” from the movie “Cars”), or something else.  It soon dawned on me that this truck resembled Fred and Lamont Sanford’s old truck.  Their workhorse was actually a 1951 Ford F-1, so this truck wasn’t an exact match of the one in that show.  What I did think about, though, was that at the time “Sanford & Son” was on the air, that truck was just over twenty years old.  This made me reflect that theirs had been a particularly well-preserved example for the ’70s, even for Los Angeles (where the show was set), as rustproofing has come a long way since then.

Garage and yard sales remain popular in the Flint area during summer and fall.  My mom used to stop at them occasionally when I was growing up, but more often, my family would be hosting a garage sale of our own.  Much like the bed of Fred’s old, red Ford would be piled high with people’s discarded things in the opening credits, all of our personal effects that were no longer wanted or needed would be on full display in our driveway or front lawn on several folding tables, tagged with unevenly torn pieces of masking tape which were haphazardly marked by my mom with prices that seemed completely arbitrary.

“One dollar and twenty-five cents?”  But I like that toy Firebird!”  “You haven’t played with that in a year.  Let someone else have it.”  Our neighbors and other passers by got glimpses into our family life that were sometimes uncomfortable or embarrassing for me at the time.  I mean, did any of our neighbors need to know that I had played with a Lite-Brite until I was nine?  (Just so you know, I’ll go on record in 2018 as defending my love of that Lite-Brite!)  In my own adulthood, I do now completely understand the importance of space in my house and of getting rid of things that aren’t needed.

I’ve made reference before in a previous piece that there have always been (and still are) a lot of old pickup trucks on the streets in the Flint area.  Unlike this example, though, the vast majority of them seem to be branded as either Chevrolet or GMC.  It was still a bit of a surprise to me to see a classic Ford pickup parked on the street, and I wondered if my friends’ neighbors might have been semi-recent transplants from another area of Michigan (i.e. Dearborn).  No matter.  Any old, classic, American-branded pickup is welcome here in hardworking Genesee County, Michigan.  As for the original “Sanford” truck from the TV series, you should all be pleased to know it’s still alive, kicking, and making the rounds.

Just like our featured Ford truck, my family was a transplant to the Flint area, as neither Mom nor Dad have roots there.  It’s where I’m from, though, and very proudly so.  Never let anyone try to convince you not to take pride in where you come from, however you identify that place.  Each of us is from somewhere, and many of us define “home” in different ways.  Thankfully, there were kinder interactions in my parents’ household than what I observed in the fictional Sanford residence, but there’s something to be said for the authenticity of that dialogue… and the realness of the slight wear on this truck, which is clearly someone’s treasure.

(Flint suburb) Burton, Michigan.
Saturday, October 14, 2017.