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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. My First Car

Chuck Hinman: My First Car. Chuck gets his first car at 28 and says, I don't remember being fit to be tied over not having a car.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Me And My Hair

By Chuck Hinman

My First Car

How old were you when you got your first car? I was 28. That's hard to believe. Both our kids, Paul and Mary Ann, had their first cars soon after they were licensed to drive at 16. And at the time it seemed that was none too soon.

But why didn't the same need for a car exist when I was a young teenager? I can think of a couple of whys. One is that kids now have after-school jobs which were unheard of when we were their age. Also there is a beaucoup of activities that didn't exist when we were youngsters.

Existing without a car

But I can't fathom how I could have existed to the old age of 28 without a car. Was I retarded and no one told me (except my brother Bob)? And what is more unbelievable, I don't remember being fit to be tied over not having a car.

I had a couple years of college, taught school one year, served 42 months in the Air Force (WW2), worked two years at Montgomery Ward Co., dated regularly, and did all the necessary things without a car. So what's the deal? Was it just ME that didn't have a car?

First cars at a late age was common

At the dinner table at Tallgrass Estates a few days ago when the subject of 'first cars' came up, I was comforted to find that my eating partner, John McCanne was 25 and at the table next to ours Louis Ross said he was about 25 when he bought his first car. So I wasn't the only 'old' man when I first got a car.

My need for wheels evolved in this manner.

Bicycle was first transportation

When I graduated from New Hope country grade school and entered Liberty, Nebraska, high school, the high school being four miles from home, it became necessary to have a bicycle.

My first bike was a beauty. It was a 26-inch, blue Iver-Johnson with 'yucky yellow' wheels. It was equipped with balloon tires which were new at the time. My brother's bike, two years older, had 28-inch tires that were the old-fashioned kind. They didn't have inner-tubes.

Weather was no excuse and chores were required

School was four miles away and I don't remember many times, when because of rain or snow, Dad having mercy on us and driving us to school in the car. It just didn't happen and we never dreamed of begging or whining about our predicament.

Contrary to our kids, we didn't have a myriad of after-school activities. The only activity we had in common was sports. Dad expected us to help with farm chores which ruled out after-school participation in sports. No big deal to us.

School parking lots in the 'old' days might have five cars

A contrast in the times was brought to mind recently when I was driving by the parking lot at College High School here in Bartlesville. I couldn't believe the acres of parking lot with hundreds of late-model cars or pick-up trucks. In contrast, our parking lot at Liberty, Nebraska, High School 1935-39 held at most 4 or 5 cars of the teachers. The 20 or so bicycles were parked in a bike stand near the entrance to the school house. There was an assortment of ponies tied to a nearby fence.

During my high school years, the only job I had which required transportation was this. I had ten kids to whom I gave piano lessons. This was a summertime job and I rode my bicycle to their homes. I got fifty cents for a one hour lesson and I saved the money for college in a few years.

Farm kids learned to drive on the farm

Don't get me wrong. Just because we Hinman kids didn't have our own car doesn't mean we didn't know how to drive. We had a jalopy, an open-body Model T Ford that we used around the farm to run short errands, such as carrying fuel to the tractor in the field. We were driving the jalopy at 12 or 13 years of age, something town kids would have died to do. We never got out on public roads although Bob and I thought we could drive better than 'our old man.' That was an endearing name we discreetly used for our Dad when we were smart-aleck teenagers. He would have back-handed us had he heard us.

After high school, I went to Peru (Nebraska) State Teacher's college for one year. I didn't have or need a car. After one year of college I was licensed to teach elementary school. I got a job teaching a five-student rural school, the Bruensbach school. It was eight miles from home and too far to ride my bike. Somehow Dad came up with a two-door Model T for me to drive to teach school. It was not my vehicle but I used it. It didn't have a battery operated starter and you had to crank it to start the motor. But I didn't mind. It wasn't far behind the times. I got fifty dollars a month for teaching that school and saved half of that for continued college education.

Cars were not needed on college campuses

After that year of teaching school, I returned to Peru for one more year of college, my sophomore year. I still didn't have or really need a car. All of my school and extra-curricular activities took place around the campus; the rare times we went down town to the movies, we walked, even on a date. Nobody had a car at school. It was no big deal.

Then fast forward through about four years of World War II when there absolutely was no need for a car. I was twenty-four when I resumed college at the University of Nebraska after the war. Even had I needed a car, they were in short supply because of the war.

Even a job away from home was doable without a car

After graduating from THE University of Nebraska in January 1948, I hopped a train with all my earthly possessions in one large suitcase. I went to Kansas City, Missouri, and applied for a job with Montgomery Ward Company. I was placed in a store manager training program.

I did a stint with Monkey Ward at Monroe, Louisiana. I did luck out in that there was an Air Force recruiter who lived in the same rooming house that I lived in, in Monroe. He was generous with the use of his car. I double-dated with him several times.

Lack of car did not stop love affair

Then when I moved up the Mississippi River to Helena, Arkansas, I began a serious love affair with Josephine Welch. We were together a great deal of the time I was in Helena, Arkansas. We had a large circle of young people with whom we did a lot of things together. No one had a car but that didn't keep us from socializing.

One time when I went back to Nebraska on vacation, Dad brought up the subject of when I was going to get a car. I don't remember having given it a thought before he asked.

End of war brought new cars and a desire for them

The war had been over for a couple of years. New cars were plentiful. Dad wanted a Cadillac in his life sometime before he passed away. He had his eye on a brand new 1950 Buick Roadmaster. His dealer (Otto Klee) wasn't allowing as much trade-in on his 1946 Ford as he wanted. So he suggested that I take it for my car. If I had a little extra money each pay-day, I could pay him a little each month.

I couldn't beat a deal like that, so all of a sudden after 28 years, Chuck Hinman had his first car. It was a blue, four-door Ford sedan. Since it was only three or four years old, it was a good car and I was proud of it. Thanks to Dad and Mom who were slowly getting their second child raised.

Chuck's second car: a Chevrolet convertible

That's the end of the story I started out writing but let me tell you about the second car in my life. It was my all-time favorite.

When I left Ward's in Helena, Arkansas, and my girl-friend, Josephine Welch, I spent a short time as Assistant Manager of a Ward's store in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before being moved to the Ward's store in Bartlesville. Not long after I moved to Bartlesville, I got the 'hots' to trade that Ford in on a 1949 yellow Chevrolet convertible with a black canvas top. It was only a year old and had custom seat covers. I got that car in Claremore, Oklahoma, and drove it everywhere with the top down. I enjoyed driving by stores in down-town Bartlesville where I could see my image in the glass store fronts. What a 'dude' -- a new title for this Nebraska farm kid who never had a car until he was 28. (I was also a 10-month baby so I'm a slow starter).

It will always be 'THE' car of my life. I was dating the gal who eventually became Mrs. Chuck Hinman and I used to think that Connie (Pickett) married my car, not me! S-M-I-L-E. Whatever, I then had two 'women' in my young life, Connie and my yellow convertible. It doesn't get much better than that.

Written by Chuck Hinman. This from January 2009 with information added from a shortened version emailed Sunday, 26 December 2010.

This story was posted on 2014-05-04 01:46:35
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