Saturday, September 23, 2017


I do not know who the “Caldoni” person was for whom our vehicle was named, but I loved that I could drive around with her name on my license plate. We bought the 1949 Chevy Suburban from a friend. She (and we always referred to it as “she”) was just what we needed then. We had four children at that point, and planned to have a couple more, so the two back seats were ideal. CoolGuy rebuilt the engine: the original straight-6, and reupholstered the seats and the sun visors–matching brown corduroy. Oh, and he installed a piece of plywood on the floor in that one place to cover the little spot where the metal had a hole in it, and you could see the road underneath. Her paint color: mostly rust and primer.

Yes—it was another in a succession of $500 vehicles that we had been driving since our marriage, ten years previously. He was an enlisted Navy man, and I was a college drop-out who worked at a laundry/dry-cleaner until we had the second child. Then, I stayed home and Mom-ed. I had a couple of children who came to our house after school for day-care, so I had a small extra income. BUT–I didn’t have to work to provide a car payment–because I was married to a mechanical genius.

I simply didn’t care what the vehicle looked like–I just wanted it to start every time I put the key in, and to keep running as I drove on my Mother Errands back and forth from the doctor to the grocery store to the beach. We lived in San Diego, so I didn’t need air conditioning nor a heater that worked. I just needed to not have to wonder if I’d get stranded somewhere. Thanks to the skills of my very talented husband, I always had a successful trip.

Many people were appalled, however, at this latest ride. One friend looked at Caldonia and said, “Gosh, all you need is a dead grandma tied to the top.” (She knew I was well-read enough to get the reference.) One of our sons (a second-grader) said, “Mom, some of my friends think Caldonia is really ugly. But, I like her!” My parents didn’t say anything about it, but I’m sure the summer I arrived for a family reunion, with our four children, and me about six months pregnant, in THAT truck, they probably talked to each other privately. BUT…my husband had replaced the transmission in my dad’s cattle truck a few years prior, (my dad was a top-rate farmer, but was not mechanically inclined) so they knew that whatever I was driving was going to get me there and back.

But, some people, besides us, appreciated her. One day, two guys knocked on my door, asking if I was willing to sell it to them. They offered more than we’d paid. They begged a little, actually. No, truly, it wasn’t for sale. They needed it to cannibalize parts to fix up one they owned that was in better shape. Nope. Not for sale. I had five children by then, and every seat was taken.

Besides, she was pretty fun to drive. She had “three on the tree” transmission. I’d grown up driving pick-ups like that on our farm, so I had the skills. The starter button was on the floor. Only the front door windows could be rolled up and down–the back windows were too rusty to slide open. It had a top & bottom tailgate opening, so we could open the back a little if we wanted to get more air flow. The radio worked! (CoolGuy can fix sooo many things.)

But, eventually, we had to give up our old friend. My husband’s time in the Navy ended, and he took a job that would move us to a colder climate, closer to our families in Wyoming. We chose it, for just that reason. Caldonia was really better suited for the weather in SoCal. We didn’t have any trouble at all in finding someone who recognized her beauty and charm. And, at the same time, a civilian guy who worked with CoolGuy was retiring, and decided to buy himself a new car. He talked about how he was going to sell the old car to a junkyard for $50, and my husband offered him more than that. But, the guy refused—he took our $50 and we ended up with a 1968 Chrysler New Yorker. That co-worker had been the only owner, and no one ever actually used the back seat because the couple had no children. The odometer had 72,0000 miles! In the eighteen years he owned it, he’d only driven it back and forth to work, or out to a restaurant with his wife.

But, that’s another car story.

This is 1984 at my parent's house. We had gone up there for our olde's son's baptism. We were packed up to return to California. CoolGuy's chopper is in the trailer. He'd gone on a ride to Yellowstone with some old friends, while I'd driven around visiting with my friends.

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