TALES FROM OUTSIDE THE UNDERBRUSH
“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.
THE BOSS’ CARS – Part 2
“Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”
“Ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts.”
“Beauty is the love that we devote to an object.”
“Offensive objects, at a proper distance, acquire even a degree of beauty.”
This first car was not just a Pontiac, which although not much more than a lower level Chevrolet with more horsepower, was nonetheless considered to be a premium car by that virtue. In addition it was the Parisienne model of the Pontiac, the most expensive and many-featured model of the car. Such was my father’s first car purchase, a mid-1950’s model Parisienne Pontiac in bullet grey-green with its distinctive five silver stripes running down the hood and trunk of the car. Equipped with automatic drive, then not as standard a feature as it is today, the car was a beauty but I hate to think of its fuel efficiency at today’s gasoline prices. Nonetheless, it served the family well until the Boss decided he needed another new car.
It is hard to call the automobile that succeeded the conservatively styled Pontiac as anything but outright, garish, gaudy flash. This second car was a Meteor of the 1960’s vintage, manufactured by Ford, and like the Pontiac Parisienne, considered to be a flashier and better-featured model than just an ordinary Ford. The features for many of the cars of that day appeared to reflect a subliminal desire on the part of the automobile manufacturers to turn out something that looked like a four-wheeled airplane. How other does one explain the fender fins that characterized many of the cars of that era? The Cadillac had gigantic vertical rear fender fins that rivalled those of the B-25 Mitchell bomber. Our “new” second-hand Meteor was chiefly characterized by the horizontal projections that swept back from the front fender to end up at the back of the car like the trailing edge of aircraft wings.
Another feature of cars of that era were the colour schemes, perhaps reflecting the psychedelic, magic mushroom, “let’s get high” theme of the 1960’s decade. Lime green was a common colour and our Meteor was a somewhat blinding two-toned sky blue-green and white with enough silver trim that as scrap might possibly have played a significant role in reducing the United States fiscal deficit. Notwithstanding the inherently conservative approach to all facets of life by my tradition-bound parents, I still vividly recall the pride with which my mother posed behind the wheel of a car that literally required sun glasses to drive even at night.
The third and last car that my parents were to own was a gigantic black, behemoth that I recall characterized many of the cars of the 1970’s. This time it was a return to the Pontiac Parisienne that by the ‘70’s had morphed into something that had absolutely no resemblance to the 1950’s model we had earlier owned. The principal difference lay in the size of the car. Two of the older era cars could have fitted into one of the newer. I have never driven a bigger car or one that felt more like a tank than a car. The width of the car was particularly outrageous and it is unlikely that it could be parked in today’s narrow parking spaces where, with a car on each side, requires a Weight Watchers diet to exit your vehicle through a restricted door opening. I recall the thickness of the Pontiac’s doors approaching twelve inches (thirty centimetres) of which between the inner and outer panels was nothing but air!
Such was the degree to which car ownership was valued by my parents that their use was to be strictly theirs and theirs only. My role never rose above passenger, even when I became old enough to drive.
Both my parents were to depart this mortal coil before did the black behemoth, but I was to keep it for a few years before being pushed out of Montreal in the late 1970’s by the Separatist nonsense. There is little to support the design excesses of those past years, and certainly not in view of what has subsequently happened to fuel prices since that time. Nevertheless, and this may be pure, nauseating nostalgia brought on by age and senility, there was something that was quaintly individualistic about the cars of the thirty year period that followed World War ll. Certainly more so than today, people remembered you for the car you drove, like it was if not a more important cue to who you were, then a more easily remembered one. You and your car became not just a uniquely identified team, but rather a unity that could be identified by either component of that which joined you.
These days one is identified by the anonymity and generically bland design of nearly every car on the road. At best one might be identified as driving a “Beamer” (BMW) or a “Merc” (Mercedes) but that’s about it. Not just coincidental may be the wide-eyed appreciation and exclamation that is elicited at the sight of a well preserved car of the vintage that characterized the Boss’ hand-me-down cars so proudly owned by my parents. It is also interesting that such cars can qualify for special vintage plates that reflect the glory of their past.
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.”
“It's a good thing that beauty is only skin deep, or I'd be rotten to the core.”
Copyright © 2014 Ian de W. Semple