November 01,2014


"Tales From Outside The Underbrush" is meant to succeed the monthly series of predecessor essays that were in effect, largely if not exclusively set inside "The Underbrush" of geological exploration and forestry, to a universe outside that specialized environment. This "outside world" is one where life is also lived and experienced, and though most often reflecting a different level of circumstance, is not necessarily suggestive of a higher level of civilized behaviour and experience nor a more intelligent reaction to such by the author; just different and outside the conventional underbrush. Hyperbole will continue to be employed for emphasis or effect, or just to avoid the boredom of straight fact or opinion. Reader reaction and comment is invited and welcomed if delivered in a civilized fashion.

This month's entry continues the tale.


"Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it."


"Ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts."

Serge Gainsbourg

"Beauty is the love that we devote to an object."

Paul Serusier

"Offensive objects, at a proper distance, acquire even a degree of beauty."

William Shenstone

There was a time back in the early post-World War ll period, if not before, that automobiles displayed a profusion of styles of sufficient difference, and often to a dramatic degree, that instantly defined what brand and model they represented. These were not just the upscale Rolls Royce and Daimler chariots we are talking about, but rather the so-called everyday cars that the common folk might own. True, not all so-called common folk could own a Cadillac or the like, but then again there were a profusion of less expensive vehicles that were more accessible to the masses. Furthermore, these times might be considered as being the pre-Japanese period, and when the so-called Big Three of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler ruled the roost as automobile manufacturers and purveyors of same to most of the world.

Style and beauty of course are things that as in art, lie in the eye of the beholder. When looking back to the 1950's and 1960's in terms of today's perhaps more critical and environmentally conscious society, the automobile styles of that period are more likely to produce exclamations of ridicule and disdain rather than nostalgic and positive reminiscences. But dash and flair and colour and shape all played as important a role then in the making of a car as did its performance and driving features. Car advertising in those days centred on the family and how great and beautiful the car being advertised would look parked in one's driveway for all the world to enviously view. Today's car ads are all about speed and fuel efficiency. In truth, while there may be considerable justification in turning one's back on the gas-guzzling behemoths of those days, in terms of distinguishing one make or model of a car from another, the generic automobile designs of the present day can present a major challenge for the eye in that regard. "Boring" comes to mind, even for the high end brands.

Today, a person or family is likely to be measured merely by the brand of car that is owned and driven. Like other aspects of status, brands and styles come and go in fashion. There was a time during my life in the investment business in the 1980's when the British Jaguar car was deemed to define the height of business and social achievement. I recall none being owned by lowly investment analysts like me, but for successful stock brokers, they were in abundance. While subjectively, I view the classic Jaguar car as one of the most beautiful ever designed, they were about as reliable as a political promise. It was with much, if discretely restrained amusement that, of the Jaguars owned, half of them would be in the garage and under repair at any one time. The days of the Jaguar as the nearly penultimate sign of success are long gone but they may have represented the first occasion when brand name marked the owner, the model of the brand being of lesser importance.

Returning to the post-war period of which I speak however, it was both brand and model that helped define a social level. In that regard the reality, quality aside, of my family's social level was not very lofty. Born to an Scottish immigrant father of limited education but a strong work ethic, and who had started his Canadian life as a janitor and worked his way up to a modest corporate administrative position; and an equally educationally-limited mother who became a stay-at-home when I arrived on the scene, our family never even owned a car until I was a teenager, and furthermore, as eventual owners, never possessed a new car. It was hand-me-down horse power all the way.

The ritual of our family's car ownership was defined by its first car and was to be continued through to its last. My father's boss was in the habit of buying a new car at certain pre-defined intervals. Rather than trade in his previous car, he was good enough to allow my father the option of buying his old one for a price my father could afford, roughly approximating the trade-in value. Notwithstanding that, it was not to be until near the end of my father's employment life that he had accumulated enough savings to even own a second hand automobile. When I recall my eating habits as a teenager, the three full helpings at just about every meal might help explain our family's lack of material savings accumulation. It was perhaps no small coincidence that the purchase of the family's first car came at about the same time I was striking out on my own.

to be continued

Copyright � 2014 Ian de W. Semple

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