On a sunny Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1964, my dad told me he wanted me to go with him to run an errand. There was something secretive about his request along with a sly smile on his face, making me stop whatever it was that I was doing, slip on a pair of shoes, and head out the back door behind him. No questions asked.
He wouldn’t tell me where we were going. “You’ll see,” is all he would say. But with Decatur being a small town, it wasn’t but a few minutes before we were pulling up into a parking place at Callaway Oldsmobile on Ponce de Leon Avenue in downtown Decatur. Before we got out of the car, he told me that he wanted me to help him pick out a new car. We were moving to Safety Harbor, Florida, later that summer, Mama didn’t know how to drive, and Daddy would be working in Georgia for a few months after we moved, closing the Georgia operations of the Tampa-based construction company where he worked. He wanted me to have a reliable car, so that I could drive Mama wherever she needed to go, since he wouldn’t be there with us. He told me he wanted to buy a car that I would like.
There were several cars to choose from on the lot. But one in particular caught my eye and beckoned me to her. I wasn’t sure if Daddy would go for it. She was a baby blue Olds Cutlass two-door coupe with blue interior, and bucket seats. She was beautiful. He let me test drive her, along with another Cutlass that was dark green with white interior and bench seats – not nearly as sporty as the blue one. She was the car I would have dreamed about if I had known getting a car like this was even a remote possibility for me!
Daddy asked me if I was sure that was the car I liked the best, and I assured him that it was. He and I followed the salesman into the showroom, and sat on one side of a large desk while the salesman sat on the other side, jotting down numbers with a pencil on a sheet of lined paper, while punching numbers on an adding machine. He and Daddy discussed all of the features on the car as he added up all of the numbers. When he was done, he handed Daddy the paper. The total came up to $3,500. I was shocked, and knew that it most certainly would be a deal-breaker. Daddy surely wouldn’t pay that much for a car for me! But he did, after whittling the price down to $3,000, and two days later I was proudly driving my baby blue Cutlass home.
Another two days, and I was driving her, with my friend, Susan, in the front seat beside me, to go swimming at the local pool. All the windows were rolled down, the sun was shining, and the Beach Boys were singing over the radio speakers at full volume, “Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around”. I was sixteen years old, and I was in heaven.
Last week I bought a new car. It wasn’t a Cutlass, but a Chevrolet Cruze.They don’t make Oldsmobiles anymore. It wasn’t baby blue, it wasn’t a two-door coupe, and it cost a wee bit more than $3,000. And I wasn’t sixteen years old. But I was as excited about buying this car as I had been so many years ago when I went with my daddy to buy my first car. It smelled wonderful – that new car smell hasn’t changed in all these years. Some things don’t change.
But other things have changed. This car is so much smarter than my Cutlass was. Everything on it is computerized, electronic, smart, safer, and it even knows my music preference.
Driving home from the dealership, I set the satellite radio statio to “60s on 6” to listen to some good old rock and roll. And what song began to play? The Beach Boys. “Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around.”
Once again, I was in heaven.