First Car Escapades

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Finally when I was seventeen, I bought a ’47 Monarch Coupe for the princely sum of 75 bucks. It was a wonderful car. Granted, it was a little tough on gas, burned enough oil to keep Kuwait in spending money for years, had no shocks, minimal brakes, bald tires, and had somehow picked up the annoying habit of dying in the middle of the road for no particular reason.  Well it had a reason, or so I was told, the experts called it a vapour lock, whatever the hell that is.

One afternoon it died in the middle of Jarvis Street, minutes before Queen Elizabeth and her entourage were scheduled to drive by on their way to the park. But aside from these minor inconveniences, it was a fine car.

I loved that Monarch. I washed it, polished it and treated it like one of the Queen’s Bentleys. The seats were massive. I’m not exactly Michael Jordan. I could almost stretch out right across the back seat.

The trunk was slightly larger than the Air Canada Centre and could hold a warehouse of beer, the Red Army, tanks and all, and a bald-headed spare tire. As a bonus it was great for sleeping.

One Saturday night we held a stag for a friend who was taking the dreaded step of matrimony and the celebration took place on the edge of a stone quarry. One of the ushers had a bad reaction to the Pepsi in his rum and began raving about some past injustice and was thrashing around in the wet grass. Rather than let him wander about in the dark and possibly fall to his death on the rocks below, we pitched him into the trunk and locked it. In the morning he was the only one who wasn’t wet and half-frozen; although he was never quite the same after waking up in the morning and finding himself locked in a trunk. To this day he is so claustrophobic that he can’t pull a sweater over his head without taking medication.

As I remember the brakes on the Monarch were a little spongy. There’s a little lake just outside Orillia called Bass Lake. (Lakes shouldn’t have names. They should be numbered. There are 500 Bass Lakes in Ontario alone.) The beach runs right along the road. I wheeled in one afternoon and the brake pedal went right to the floor. We ended up in amongst the fleeing bathers.

Cars don’t float. Actually I knew that. A friend of mine tried to drive his ’37 Dodge out onto Lake Couchiching. It wasn’t a well thought-out plan now that I think about it. It was late December and the lake had been frozen for about an hour and a half. By the time the car stalled, we were up to the front window. I don’t remember much about the trip – except that whenever ice water hits your crotch, your eyes cross.

Cars played a key role in your inter-personal sexual relationships. As a means of getting from one place to another they certainly beat walking, but their true value was as a mobile couch where a young couple could be alone. It was the perfect place to get to know a girl without worrying about meddling parents or overly curious brothers and sisters.

My heart bleeds for the modern teenager. As the cities and towns grew, their expansion wiped out miles and miles of scenic little side roads and country lanes that were ideal for bra practice and lovemaking. Where the apprenticed lovers go today, I have no idea. Maybe they don’t do that anymore. I mean why hold on to each other when you have a cell phone.

Subdivisions have ruined the lives of a whole generation of kids. No developer should ever be allowed to dig the first hole without first submitting a detailed plan showing streets, the proposed location of sewers, liquor stores, and more important, side roads.

In the ’50s we were never more than five minutes away from a country lane parking spot. Sometimes though, you had to drive for hours to find one that wasn’t booked. On any given night, half the teenage population of Orillia was parked on the side of a road. The rest were driving around looking for vacancies. If the townships had been smart they would have installed parking meters.

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