CC Kids: Sco and the ’59 Edsel – Inheriting the Free Thinker Gene

This is a photo of my older brother and sister and me (the little guy in front) circa 1963 in front of the family’s 1959 Edsel.  There’s a lot to unwrap in this photo.

First, I don’t know who took this photo (presumably my mom) but I don’t think they intended to make the fin on the adjacent unidentified car look so menacing.

Second, in 1963 my dad, a union plumber, had just bought his first house (the house I grew up in) in small town Minnesota, and so on top of having three small kids, a new 1959 Edsel must have been quite a stretch.  But my parents saved money where they could (note that I have fully grown into the hand-me-down “outfit” I’m in while my brother still has a few good years left in his jeans), and we had the sort of solid middle-class lifestyle that a blue collar job used to provide.

Third, an Edsel? Yeah, my dad was, and is still, a free-thinker.  He had a company pick-up for work which back in the day was driven only for work because what hick wanted to be seen driving a pickup around town?  Hence the Edsel, big, luxurious, hip I guess.  Polarizing looks I suppose, but it didn’t bother my dad, who, by the way, passed the “indifferent to polarizing looks gene” along to me, an owner of a 2004 Scion Xb and a 1973 Peugeot 504.  Although I spent my early years in the backseat of the Edsel, I don’t remember much about it other than that it was two tone white with turquoise, had a green fabric interior, that I inadvertently put it into neutral and “drove it” down the driveway when I was 4 (don’t remember this), and that my dad had it nicely repainted in 1967 only to have it totaled a few days later.

With his growing family firmly in mind, the choice for a car to replace the Edsel was clear – a 1965 Mustang convertible, white with a black top and interior, 289 V8 with a stick. As I noted, my dad was a free thinker, and wow, a Mustang, a convertible!  I have no idea what my mom thought, but I’m sure this decision was not cleared at the top.  But as for 8 year old me, sure I’ll squeeze into the back seat and sit on the transmission hump, no problem!  This was the standard fate for all youngest siblings back in the days before mini-vans and individual captain’s chairs, and so I happily tolerated the less room and the usually cigarette smoke-filled cabin while I tried to get the Twins game in on my new transistor radio.  In fairness my dad in 1969 also bought a blue Buick Deluxe station wagon (with the 2-way tailgate and 2-speed automatic tranny) which I guess would be the unloved, family appropriate, polar opposite of the Mustang (see, so he was aware that perhaps he went too far with the Mustang.

Anyway the Mustang was eventually handed down to my brother who drove it in high school (sweet!) until he drove it off the road in a snowstorm on the way to be traded in on a grey 1976 Chevy Chevette (let’s try not to point fingers here, everyone knows that mistakes were made).  And I inherited the big rusty Buick wagon which was great for beery late night rides into the countryside (except on gravel roads where it would fill up with road dust) until it died of a leaky gas tank and general neglect around 1978.

My dad is now 89 and willingly gave up driving 4 years ago.  I don’t think he misses driving but he does always ask me what kind of rental car I have when I visit him in his assisted living facility.  And he’s always amused when I pick out some sort of oddball car like a convertible PT Cruiser, Chrysler 200, or Jeep Compass with a loud plaid interior (which I usually do).  Did my dad and genetics steer me away from plain cars, or was it those formative years looking eye-to-eye at the giant nose of that Edsel?   Who’s to say?