I tend to remember my first experiences as either better than they were or worse than they were, but (over time) never as they were. Perhaps this is just human nature.
Most men universally cherish their first baseball gloves and their first new cars. I am no different.
My Dad bought my first glove in the mid 1950’s. This was before I hit ten and was eligible for Little League. Still, I cherished it and never let it out of my sight. I dubbed it “Old Faithful” and truly believed that I could never miss with it.
If memory serves me right I never did.
My brother was a lefty. In those days they stereotyped. Left-handed players were consigned to first base or maybe centerfield, but never ever were they positioned as catchers. It had to do with the southpaw’s longer throw to first. So Hal had this big Japanese first-baseman’s glove which I swear was a foot long. He could barely keep in on his hand.
The guys at the schoolyard taught us the requisite care for the glove as well. You would rub it with saddle soap to protect the leather. At bedtime you would put a ball in its pocket, wrap the mitt with a rubber band, and place the entire thing under your mattress. A daily ritual.
In the years that followed I surely had more expensive gloves. None of them got a nickname.
My first new car was also special.
It was the 1969, and the blue/green Plymouth Valiant inherited from my father had 150,000 plus miles on it. It bounded through the alleys of Ohio State’s campus squeaking, squealing, and begging to be retired.
That April, with summer approaching, my Dad had a novel idea. He suggested that if I sold magazines for his company and worked hard from June through August, that I could pay cash for a brand new car…that I was capable of accomplishing this feat by the time OSU reconvened for fall quarter. All it required, he assured me, was that I spend some time out of Cleveland, not get lazy, and just give it eight solid weeks.
I signed on to the venture.
By mid-summer I’d accumulated almost $1,700.00—about half what we figured we’d need. Still, I reasoned (and convinced my Dad) it was time to go car shopping.
My father’s allegiance was to Chrysler products. Always. I’m not certain why, but it probably had something to do with the fact that Byers Chrysler-Plymouth sponsored the Buckeye Bandwagon Saturday mornings before the football games. And so it was that he insisted on a white ’68 Dodge Challenger.
The next logical step, he told me, was to have our personal car expert Dick Lomaz examine the vehicle.
Dick came over and looked under the hood.  We had absolutely no idea what he was studying.
“Al,” he asserted, “The car’s got 5,000 miles on it. I guaranty you they turned back the odometer.”
(Dick was the only one of my friends that called him by his first name, but it mattered not. My father had his heroes, and when it came to cars it was “Dickie Lomaz.”
The Challenger was dead.
Two weeks later we found a 1969 blue Mustang convertible at Worthington Ford. It was $3,500 out the door.
And so was my summer’s work. My dad fronted me the extra couple thousand dollars, and told me he was proud of me, and to just enjoy the month that was left.
The very night I got the car I drove downtown to the Sheraton where Dick Baskin was staying; he was in for his OSU orientation.
The next day I traveled top down to Cincinnati to see a girl for another predictably platonic date and stayed at the Carousel Motor Inn (alone), parking outside room’s window. Sleeping with one eye open I’d peek through the window if ever I’d hear a car door open. Didn’t want it stolen, you know.
Bad news. This saga ends tragically. The Mustang never saw another summer!  Speeding to a card game at the SAM house just months later, I turned left into another vehicle at Indianola and Iuka totaling my gem.
Insurance would replace the car, but by then I developed a girlfriend. She was cooler than me, better looking than me, and had shoulder-length hair. She told me that a convertible would mess with her mane. I was young and in love, so I agreed. I’d get another convertible later.
Truth is that I’ve had many new cars over the years, and better cars.
But they were just transportation.
And the harsher truth is that in the forty years since, I’ve never driven another convertible.
So the bad news is that, in my fifties now, I have neither the glove nor the car, nor (for that matter) the girl. The good news is I suppose, that I not only have my memories, but also— not all my dates are platonic.

Leave a Reply