Long before roof mounted DVD players, side curtain airbags and air conditioning, there were just four wheels, shiny chrome bumpers and a big steel body. No, forget about seat belts when you were inside. Because all I ever did was lay across the back seat or just sleep on my mother’s lap when we drove to the Catskills on a Friday night.
“Is everybody inside, because we’re leaving”
With that said my Grandfather and Dad would put my dog “Poochie” in the back. They always left a small spot right near the rear lift gate for him to sleep. It must have been no more than a one by one foot square, which always gave him a nice view of Route 17 as we drove through the dark mountains towards Downsville, New York. Poochie was just surrounded by boxes of food and suitcases full of clothing, but never once tried to open anything to sink his yellow teeth into. Yeah, he was sure a good dog, even if he liked to chew on rocks and keep them in his mouth all day.
Oh well, I guess everyone must have some kind of weird fetish, including a dog.
With the Lopez family safely inside, the 58 Plymouth would gently back out of our driveway in Kensington. The tail pipe scraping the sidewalk was always the last sound we heard before pulling away and driving down East Fourth Street. Usually when that happened my grandmother Isabel would make the sign of the cross while my grandfather Paco would just shake his head.
The car must have been as long as an “air-craft carrier”, and the inside as big as the Beverly theater. Or at least that’s how massive it felt. But truth is the car was “gigantic” and much longer than the Nissan Quest that we drive today. Maybe 20 feet long or something like that. And the O’Callaghan’s who lived across the street from us had a similar model, except theirs was the “Airport” version and had an extra row of seats. But what the heck, there were about a dozen of them anyway, so they needed the room.
“Who wants to get ice cream at my restaurant?”
With that said, my Dad would veer towards the right after we got out of the Battery tunnel and park on Trinity Place in front of “McPherson’s”, the place where he worked in Manhattan. With a silver key he would open the door and walk through the darkened restaurant towards the freezer that held the ice cream. Sometimes he let us inside, but most of the time we just watched through the glass window from the sidewalk.
He’d soon return with a handful of vanilla and chocolate ice cream cones. We’d all take which ones we wanted and then run back inside the Plymouth and take our seats.
With the taste of ice cream we were eating, and the smell of a fresh cup of coffee my dad and grandfather Paco were both drinking, the Plymouth would continue it’s journey up the West Side highway towards the George Washington bridge.
With my eyes felling heavy, I’d usually fall asleep somewhere right before the Bridge. The sound of the road beneath the floor boards and the panting of our dog “Poochie” would somehow enter my ears no matter how deep I slept. Always playing a part in whatever dream I could have inside the hallow steel walls of a 58 Plymouth station wagon. But somehow I would always wake up once we got to our house in the Catskills. Maybe it was the cold mountain air or maybe the millions of stars above in the sky.
And with East Fourt street and Kensington a thousand miles away, my grandfather Paco would put the Plymouth in park and shut off the huge hot V8 engine. And just like every time before, my grandmother Isabel would make the sign of the cross and say the same words as always.
“Thank God we made it, thank God we made it”.
Above is a picture of our 58 Plymouth parked in front of 399 East Fourth back in the late 1950’s. I was lucky enough to find the original bill of sale too. My dad bought it from a Plymouth dealer across from Ebbets field back in December 1957, the month I was born. The car cost a little over five thousand dollars new and probably got less than ten miles per gallon in Brooklyn.