Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sixteen Again

I’m in love!

No, no, not that! I’m happily married, lo, these past twenty-nine years. I’m talking about old classic automobiles, and, especially “hot rods.”

Growing up in the 50s, I used to attend car shows with my dad. They would display all the latest proto-type cars, many of which were extremely futuristic. But I always wandered over to the hot rods with their white wall tires, chopped bodies, and flames down the side. We’re talking “American Graffiti” here!

This past Saturday, Ripon held its annual “Main Street Days.” This is a slice of Americana not to be missed. The last four years has seen the addition of a car show to the event, and I’ll admit, it is my favorite part. Just walking down the middle of Main Street, from Ripon Elementary to Deegan’s Funeral Home, is a walk down memory lane. I overheard one lady comment that she remembers riding in some of those cars when they were new.

I missed the first two years they had the car show because of my being activated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom I & II. Last year was my first chance to experience this renewed love affair with the oldies. I’m talking about 1920s T-Buckets, ’32 Deuce Coupes (my personal favorite), all the way to the ’55, ’56, and especially the ’57 Chevy classic. Lots of chrome; white wall tires; unbelievable paint jobs; huge power plants (hemi engines); loud pipes; did I mention flames?; and fuzzy dice. No, it’s not Heaven, but you can see it from there!

The Chamber of Commerce asked me to be one of the judges for the car show, plus picking out the car to receive the plaque from the Ripon Ministerial Association. As president of the Association I had the following phrase put on the Ministerial plaque: “This car is truly divine.” So, Rev. Glen Shirk, pastor of Ripon Grace and treasurer for the Association, joined me for the walk among the cars. So many beautiful machines! I knew we were going to have a hard time picking a car for our Ministerial plaque because so many cars would be worthy recipients. Then we saw Rick Van Unen’s ’32 hot rod and it was all over. We looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Rick’s car would be our choice.

Rick was standing nearby, not knowing I was one of the judges. He yelled over to me, “Hey Chuck! They say you can’t ever be sixteen again. But after you’ve ridden in this baby, you’ll feel like you’re sixteen again.”

Sounded like both a challenge and an invitation to me. I called Rick on Sunday morning to see if he was available after church to take me for a ride in his hot rod. We met that afternoon and drove all over Ripon, the wind blowing in my hair! To use a more modern phrase today, “It was a rush!”

Rick and I share being former Marines and Vietnam vets. As a tribute to his time in the Corps, Rick had a vanity plate put on his hot rod: NAM 1966.

I have never owned a hot rod. But if I were ever to get one, I’d be looking for something like Rick’s ’32 Deuce.

Did I feel sixteen again after riding in Rick’s car? Oh, yeah! It was truly divine.

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