Fond memories of a ’55 Chevy

An important anniversary (in my life) is being observed (by me) this month. January marks the 59th anniversary of the purchase of my first car.

As with most teenage boys, I had dreamed of owning my own car since the day I got my learner’s permit. After getting my driver’s license the intensity of my desire for my own wheels heightened.

Financial limitations led my search for a car to my uncle’s junk yard. Uncle Dick owned what had to be the largest auto salvage yard in Grundy County. Occasionally he would get in something a little better than junk.

I had kept my eyes on his inventory for several months. There was an old Studebaker that had promise and a ’53 Ford. Then, one day in early January, I spotted it — a green and white 1955 Chevy. It had over 96,000 miles on the odometer, rust over the headlights, ripped seat covers and no radio.

It was gorgeous!

Uncle Dick and I negotiated a price but he asked for a few days to go over to be sure it was roadworthy. Those few days stretched into three of the longest weeks of my life. Finally, in the last week of January, Aunt Jeannie called and said the car would be ready by the end of the week.

Gelder Auto Salvage was located nearly 50 miles from our home so we waited until Saturday, January 30, when my parents could drive me to Uncle Dick’s.

To my surprise and delight, Uncle Dick had cleaned it up, did a tune-up, installed a new exhaust system, purchased license plates and installed a radio. A new T-Bird or Corvette would not have made me any happier.

Well, not much happier.

My family stayed for supper but I took off for home right away. Alone. For 50 miles it was just me and my Chevy rolling through the countryside. With KAAY rock and roll music on the radio I drove through the dark to our little town.

It was a cold Saturday night and when I drove into our town there was no one to whom I could show off my new wheels. I couldn’t go home without showing it off to someone, so I pulled into Tracy Jaycox’s Standard station and topped off the gas tank. About a dollar’s worth, as I remember — a small price to pay for Tracy’s admiring observations.

Since the only businesses open on a Saturday night in Kamrar, Iowa, were Tracy’s gas station and Woody and Ethel’s tavern (and I wasn’t supposed to hang out there) I drove around town several times before heading home.

That took about five minutes.

Some improvements were made in the next few weeks. I picked up a set of white wall “falsies” at Western Auto in Webster City. Installing these and popping off the puny hubcaps gave the car a “hotter” look. It was all show, however, since the gutless wonder could not exceed 86 miles per hour.

The guys at school said that women were turned on by subdued, colored lighting in cars so I invested in a bottle of bulb dye. It burned off quickly so I finally put a green cupcake paper inside the dome light lens. That worked but the colored lighting failed to produce results.

I wish I had a dollar for each time I washed that car. When the weather allowed, car washing was a weekly ritual. I only waxed it when it needed it — once a month or so.

To be truly “cool” a car needed an air freshener. Some of the guys had air fresheners on which were imprinted photographs of lovely ladies but since my little sisters rode in the car occasionally I stuck with the nice green pine tree.

During the next two years my ’55 Chevy and I covered a lot of ground. Today I wouldn’t trust the car to get me across the county but back then it took me to St. Paul, Waterloo, Des Moines, Fort Dodge and countless trips to communities in between.

After leaving me stranded several times, I traded the old buggy for a sharp little Corvair which, despite its critics, was a great car. I recall getting $120 in trade for the Chevy. I’ve kicked myself since for not putting it in storage for a few years and cash in later.

Many cars have come and gone since that first car but none have given me as many fond memories as my ’55 Chevy.

Arvid Huisman can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com. ©2024 by Huisman Communications.


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