Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Black Limo

In celebration of mothers' day, here is a memory by my Mom: 
Despite my dad’s nagging fear that he couldn’t afford all of us, my mom coaxed him into fathering eight children. One dilemma was how to fit us all into a car. Later on you could buy station wagons and later still, SUVs, but in 1950 you could buy a sedan with two bench seats and that was the only choice.
Dad solved our crowded travel problem by buying a used but still elegant 1949 black Packard limousine from a funeral home. It hauled all of us and often the neighbors as well. The record was 21 kids and 2 dogs.
Mom was a world-class scenery lover and Dad loved making her happy. He would pile us all in the limo and take us driving in the Wasatch Mountains on Sunday afternoons. Mom was in ecstasy, ooing and aahing about the light and the purple shadows and the blue distances as we drove in the mountains.

The kids didn’t appreciate the blue distances quite the way Mom did, and some of us were genuine neurotics so Dad tried to distract us from worrying about him driving off cliffs by telling us, “Keep your eyes peeled. We are in rabbit territory!” We all loved stopping to play in the trees and hike up the mountain streams.

Nothing ever tasted as good as boiled eggs and Vienna sausage sandwiches eaten in a grove of shimmering silver aspen trees in the mountains. It took a while but we all became scenery lovers.
Our yearly trip to Bear Lake was our favorite vacation in the black Packard. The first glimpse of the lake was as exciting as Christmas. Mom was convinced nothing could equal the view of the sun sparkling on the changing turquoise or baby blue or navy blue water, always a color she could hardly believe could be so beautiful.
We preferred the side of the lake near the power plant because the beach was such fine sand and almost no one else was there. Sunscreen had not been invented yet. Dad, a redhead, who gave us all the light skin gene, always wore a hat and long sleeves and long pants and made a sunshade with a bed sheet and poles he brought from home. But the rest of us spent the whole day baking in the sun. I almost always caught a frog or tadpoles to carry home in an empty jar.
By night time, the kids were all sunburned and miserable for the long drive home. But the next year, none of us wanted to follow Dad’s example and wear a hat and long sleeves like he did, so every year the Bear Lake vacation ended in painful sunburns.
Mom didn’t learn to drive until she was 45. It was a time in America when dads could earn enough to support a family so dads went to work and moms stayed home. Since Dad bought the groceries, he didn’t think Mom needed a car and he didn’t want her to drive. He didn’t believe she could learn how. But Mom convinced Uncle Max, her brother-in-law, to teach her to drive.
The downside to the big black limo was that it was very long and very heavy and there was no power steering. Mom was barely five feet tall and she really couldn’t quite reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel or see behind the car or even turn the corner without great effort.
But she somehow passed the driving test and became our chauffeur. She always left late and drove too fast and was never a safe driver but she was willing. Her driving was only slightly better when she finally got a smaller car and could see out and reach the pedals.
I drove many carpools to Olympus High School in the limo and to many innocent parties. Almost none of us paired off. We were one big group of really good kids. Since I could carry so many passengers, I usually drove unless the party was at my house, which it often was because inviting over 50 kids didn’t bother my mom at all.
Dad loaned me the black Packard when I got married and my husband drove it to the U for a couple of years. My brother Brian drove it when he was president of Olympus High. He also drove it to his Junior Prom, first to deliver the decorations – Mom made the decorations for many Olympus High dances -- and then to the dance. Since the limo had folding jump seats as the center row, there was room to set up a card table right in the car for the pre-dance dinner. Malin even drove the limo filled with Olympus High nerds dragging State Street one night.
The limo also carried the kids and Mom’s paper mache masks and costumes or big illustrations to Channel 4 TV for Olive Milner’s Junior Council, a Saturday morning TV show where we performed my mom’s original stories, always with a simple moral.
The black limo served us well for almost 20 years and Dad finally sold it to someone who planned to restore it. I hope it was restored. It took us on countless memorable rides.

#Family #Auto #Nelda #RoadTrip


Rachel said...

i love this post! wonderful stories and memories!! priceless!

March Matron said...