The Bullet comes home – after sixty-five years on the road
My first car was a black, 60 hp, 1935 Plymouth Tudor sedan. It was not the deluxe model so it didn’t have a sun visor or windshield wiper on the passenger side.
It was eleven years old when I purchased it in Atlanta, Georgia for $250. A thick book and a pillow were placed on the seat so I could see over the dash.
I drove only at night so the police couldn’t see I was only 15. The 1,200 miles to my home in
Temple, Texas passed slowly at a top speed of 55 mph, but it was love at first sight for me. During the day I curled up on the back seat and dreamed about my beautiful Plymouth.
It had no safety glass in the windows, no air conditioner or radio, no power steering or power brakes, & no power windows or turn signals. I stuck my arm out when I wanted to turn; straight out meant left and straight up meant right. I felt like I was bragging every time I signaled a turn. But I could lever the windshield up when I wanted ventilation.
Peggy named my wonderful car “The Bullet” because she said it was shot. Out of respect, we never used that term when we were within earshot of the car.
When we were in high school, in the late 40s, I’d take Peggy home for lunch, and thirty minutes later, pick her up again. We always had a few minutes to sit in the Bullet, listening to Eddy Arnold on the portable radio while waiting for the bell to ring. Gas was 11 cents and I often pulled into a station and bought two gallons for a quarter, and saved the three cents change for next time.
When Peggy and I wanted to go out on a date, like for a burger and a movie at the Arcadia Theatre, I’d pawn my two-dollar bill with Peggy’s mother. I was always able to buy it out of hock by babysitting or mowing the neighbor’s lawn. I still have that two dollar bill, but it looks a little wallet worn. I am trying to decide where to leave it when I’m gone. Can’t be just anyplace.
When I went to Yellowstone for the summer of 1950, Peggy drove the Bullet for three months. That fall three eventful things happened, Peggy started school at the U of Houston, I joined the Air Force, and my mother did something terrible with The Bullet. When I came home on my first leave, the car was just gone, and no one was willing to talk about it. I went into mourning.
The story is told in my book Too Far to Walk, that I’d give $250 again if anyone could find The Bullet for me. I felt outside of the hope that comes with possibility. When I mentioned it to my friend Richard Blake, who is a serious car nut and has 9 garages all in a row, he went to work. Richard is the world’s leading authority on the sun, and is a retired solar physicist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
It took some long months for Richard to find The Bullet’s twin brother. It was in Maryland and he successfully talked the owner into selling. With one email I came out of mourning after sixty-five years. All of a sudden, instead of feeling old, I felt like I’d ripened. It’s wonderful to refresh the memory of a friend long past.
For many years Dr. Blake has been one of my heroes, but now I will give him a gold star to put on his bathroom mirror.
Eat your heart out, Mr. Rolls Royce.