Curbside Story: 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier – Shining Knight

All pictures from Google

Ah… This brings back memories. Some good, some bad, and all because of a teal Cavalier Coupe.

My Great Grandmother was born in 1931. She came to live in Albuquerque New Mexico at a very young age, having been driven there along with her mother and father on the rumble seat of a 1926 Ford Model T roadster driven by her grandfather.

Growing up in the Great Depression, she and her brother learned to make due with what they had. They made toys from scrap, like soap box derby cars from discarded fruit crates, and kites using old bed sheets and infamously- her father’s good ties!

I remember her telling me when she found out the second World War had ended. She was coming out of a diner with a friend when suddenly the streets were flooded with people celebrating. There was music, laughter, and people passing around the Albuquerque Journal with the headline:

She went to college in the 1950’s and fought against the stigma of women in science based courses. Her father insisted she be allowed in the men’s only math classes and excelled, having a great mind for numbers. This would open the door to her future career, but first, she got a job with a company you may be familiar with if you’ve seen this box,

She worked in Colorado for the Celestial Seasonings company for six years starting in 1969, and during that time collected many tea tins. I still have a Sleepytime tin from her collection on display in my break room.

Her college education and sheer willpower landed her a job as a programmer working for the National Cash Register Company back when computer code was stored on massive reels of tape, and a single computer could take up an entire room. She worked there for twenty five years until her retirement, for which she was given a special model of the company’s first cash register for all her years of service to the company.

This is an example of what she was given. My family and I still have it to this day!

I know this was quite the build up to the subject of today’s article, but it was necessary to understand the life my Grandmother before really delving in. She purchased a 1996 Cavalier shortly after I was born, and that’s the car I most associate her with.

Grandma always said it was her Scottish blood that made her so frugal, and it’s that frugality that I believe led her to purchase a base model Cavalier two door with a manual transmission. It had wind up windows, cloth seats, and a cassette player radio, with which could be heard the big band music she almost always listened too. I used to ride in the back seat, playing with the toys I was allowed to bring along and reaching my little hand underneath the passenger seat to see what I could find. Most often, I’d find a small leather box filled with cassette tapes, and would have no idea what they were.

One time, I remember finding a box of bullets that looked very similar to the one she kept her tapes in. I was too young to know what they were, but I found out when I was older that she kept a loaded .38 revolver in the center console, wrapped in a little knitted blanket.

Sadly, this was the last car she owned. Seeing one like it makes me remember when she came to live with us, after it was discovered she was a very heavy drinker and could no longer take care of herself. My mother and I used to have to check her tire position in the driveway to see if she had left the house whenever we were away. One night, I remember sitting on the couch reading when grandma came stumbling down the hallway. She had fallen in the shower and hit her head. She was acting very erratically and the paramedics were called. When it was discovered she owned a gun, it became a “suicide call” and the police came to the house along with the medical team. The police took the gun from her car and Mom (understandably) didn’t want it back.

After Grandma was put in a care home, her car was sold with permission to a family friend trying to get back on her feet and it gave many more years of faithful service. That is until it stolen by her delinquent son (whom I was friends with when we were younger) and sold to a gang member for a gun and drugs. That same gang member came to her home and demanded the title at gun point. That is the last time anyone heard of the Cavalier again. It was an ignoble end to a noble little car that had served my Grandma for many years and I’ll always love her dearly, despite her many flaws. I’ll always have her stories and the things she left behind. No one is perfect, and while the GM J body cars were widely panned, they too have their merits. The happy times with my Grandma shine all the brighter when held against the darkness of her later years. In a sea of variables, the Cavalier was a constant knight in shining armor to those that needed it most.