By Ronald Bornick
Clinton, New York
MY FIRST CAR was a 1948 Crosley sedan. I was 17 and purchased it, in 1952, from a used-car dealer in Madison, Wisconsin.
The dealer was about 35 miles from my home in Portage. On my way home, I stopped for gas. After I filled the tank, the car would not start. Assuming a dead battery was the problem, I pushed the car to start it.
The next day, I determined the reason for the dead battery was a defective generator. I couldn't afford a new generator, so I bought a battery charger. By charging the battery all night, I could usually operate the starter for the entire day.
If the charge didn't last all day, I would push the car by myself to start it. Since the car didn't weigh much, I could do this.
First, I'd turn on the ignition and place the transmission in neutral. With the driver's door open, I'd get out and push the door frame until I was trotting at a fairly good pace. Then I'd jump into the car, push in the clutch, put the transmission in high gear and let out the clutch, and the engine would roar to life.
The car's light weight was not always an advantage. One evening, after I attended a movie, my car was not where I parked it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it on the porch of the county courthouse, about a dozen steps above ground level.
Several of my "friends" had lifted the car and carried it up there. Driving down the steps was a bumpy ride!
Someone may have been out to do harm to the car's previous owner. One evening there were five of us in the car. Yes, we could squeeze in five with some difficulty. One of the guys said he had forgotten his wallet and wanted to go back home to get it.
The Crosley could do a U-turn within the the width of the street, so I turned the steering wheel toward the left, expecting to complete my turn. Instead, I found myself heading toward curbing, so I stopped, turned the steering wheel in the opposite direction and backed up - in the same arc in which I had just driven forward.
I had no sttering control! To get back home, I drove slowly, while two of my passengers provided steering, each one walking abreat of a front wheel and kicking the tire in the direction that was needed for the car to maintain straight travel and turn the corners.
The next day, the mechanic to whom I had taken the car called and asked if anyone I knew wanted to kill me. I said "No; why do you ask?"
He said the steering wheel had been tampered with and wondered if the previous owner had not been on good terms with someone.
One evening, four of us were cruising around town in the Crosley when I noticed we were being followed by a police car. I kept driving at 25 mph and observing all the traffic laws, but an officer kept following me at a distance of about two blocks.
I had the kind of brilliant idea that only a kid would get. I turned into an alley behind the neighborhood grocery store, where I had a part-time job, and drove the car under the branches of a large lilac bush at the rear of the store.
My ruse worked like a charm. The cop also turned into the alley, but he didn't notice us in our hiding place. He drove right past us, and we had a good laugh.
When I bought the car, the body was yellow and the roof was black. My mother said she didn't want a yellow car parked in her driveway.
Returning home from school one day, I found a blue Crosley parked in our driveway. My mother had purchased a quart of blue enamel paint and a paintbrush and painted my car.
I probably should have been angry that she did this, but I don't recall being the last bit upset.
My little Crosley now had a brand-new paint job, complete with brush marks!