In June of 1962, I graduated from the University of Georgia with a teaching degree. I was hired to teach fourth grade at a fairly new facility, Sylvester Road Elementary School in my home town. My jubilation soared. My salary reached the great level of around 3200 dollars, I believe.
I was finally an adult earning my own money. The first thing I did was buy myself a car. Having no idea how to go about it, I asked my brother, Hal, to help me. He knew all the car dealers in town. With his help, the car of my dreams was located in a nearby town. I signed the papers for a short little salesman named Mac who worked for the Oldsmobile dealer. Mac drove my sister, Gay, and me to Moultrie, Georgia where we picked up my brand new Cutlass Convertible.
I have never seen a prettier car in all my life. The pure white paint gleamed in the summer sun, and the plush front bucket seats covered in wine-colored fabric were fit for royalty. I’ll always remember that new car smell that lingered for many months. The same wine color set off the top of the car like a crown.
The first thing Mac showed me, before we drove out of the parking lot, was how to put the top back. Gay and I snapped the tonow cover on and could hardly contain our excitement as we pulled out into the street.
Smiles plastered across our faces, our long black hair gleaming like ravens’ wings, we must have made a pretty good looking site. Many glances, mostly from men, turned our way.
Looking back, I’m sure that was the penultimate moment of my life. Having always felt unworthy in my family, somehow owning a brand new hot convertible shot my self-image skyward. And by association, Gay got to enjoy the same thrill.
We had only traveled about ten miles when a typical South Georgia shower came up. We pulled over and ran around to unsnap the cover so I could let up the top. A few miles down the road, we ran out of the rain. I pulled over to the side of the road again, let the top down and we jumped out and ran around snapping the cover on. The image had to be perfect and we would not think of driving around with the top down with no cover.
No one saw us acting so silly but we were embarrassed and giggled at our behavior. We had no intention of depriving ourselves of one minute of convertible riding with the top down.
Everyone’s first car is memorable, but this car was completely out of character for me. No one who knew the timid, self-conscious young woman who walked around in my skin would ever imagine me driving a convertible.
When I met Barry Beall, he also sported a new convertible. Doesn’t that seem to say we were meant for each other? Or does it say that we were both trying to impress the world with our false confidence?
Having come to town to visit his brother, Barry decided to make it his home while he decided what he wanted to do with his life. The Chevy II ragtop enhanced his image with the girls. He came to meet me in this car, top down, on July 4, 1963. He impressed me with his car, but not his attention until much later that night.
We fell for each other and married, both paying on brand new cars. I would not consider giving up my beloved automobile, so Barry had to sell his car. He bought a used sports car, convertible, that he enjoyed just as much.
We kept my Cutlass for about six years before we sold it. By then my horse had bitten a hole in the top, the rain had begun to slip in at times, and the newness had faded. But it broke my heart when I saw some young teenage boys driving it around town flashing a distasteful sticker on the rear bumper.
By Glenda Beall
In her prime she was as classy as Princess Grace,
young, sleek, flirtatious. With her top off
she created quite a stir ― red wine, warm and inviting.
I felt like a beauty queen driving her around.
Heads turned and people smiled. How sad to see
what she became six years later
with a young man behind the wheel,
a sticker on her bumper that read
From, Now Might As Well Be Then, Finishing Line Press, 2009
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