The Old Coot’s first car was a beauty 

I bought my first car in May of 1962 from Jack Tyler, a classmate in the Electrical Technology class at Broome Tech (now SUNY Broome). The campus consisted of four classroom buildings and a combination cafeteria – gymnasium (hang-out) area and a quad.  

The car was a 1953 Ford convertible. Jack couldn’t get it started and left it in the parking lot at Cloverdale Dairy on Conklin Avenue, one block to the east of Telegraph Street. It sat there all winter, buried under a pile of snow. Jack couldn’t get any takers so he let me have it for $60; taking a loss from the $350 he’d paid for it a year earlier. 

My friend, Jimmy Wilson and I, dug it out, jumped it from his car, and then twisted the ignition wires together in the Ford since there were no keys to this beauty. It didn’t start. Out of gas? No, the gauge read half full. 

We had a brainstorm, try some dry gas. It did the trick; the car started right up; I backed it out onto Conklin Avenue and it quit. I added another can of dry gas and I drove one block to the gas station at the bottom of Telegraph Street, pulled to the pump and added 10 gallons to the tank. 

At 26 cents a gallon it nearly emptied my wallet of the three dollars I had left after buying the dry gas. The gauge still read half full, yet another of the imperfections of this, my greatest treasure, 1953 Ford convertible. No Keys to the ignition or the trunk, a non-functioning gas gauge, a heater that didn’t work, and the motor to lift the convertible top was missing. 

“Why,” you ask? “Would you buy such a beast?” Did I mention it was a convertible? 

I solved the trunk key problem by taking out the back seat, crawling into the trunk and fastening a cord to the lock so I could open it from inside the car. The Ford had one other problem – a bad spot in the starter motor. If it landed on that spot when I turned it off, it wouldn’t start. I had to get a push, or if I’d parked on a hill, pop the clutch and get it going. 

That car took me through the summer of 1962, many trips to Quaker Lake with the top down and the wind rushing over me, to my first real job at Compton Industries on the Vestal Parkway and into marriage in January of 1963. It was parked on the hill outside my parent’s house, waiting for us in six inches of snow when we came out the door after a small in-house reception. 

Off we went on our honeymoon, only $50 to our name, a car with no heat, no keys, a top that had to be yanked up by hand, and a bad starter. But for us, at that age, it was no problem! We were living the dream. 

I sold it in the fall for $100 and bought my first of five VW Beetles, brand new with a $37 monthly payment. It seemed the mature thing to do since we were expecting our first child in December and needed to become real grown-ups. 

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