When I was sixteen I was incredibly spoiled. My parents gave me my grandfather's old car. She was a tan-ish '66 Ford Galaxy 500 - square tail lights - with a white top, four doors, an AM Philco, and 352 under the hood. I don't know what that last bit means, but someone told me that, and when other cool kids asked, "So, what's she got inner?" I'd say "352," and nod knowingly. Her name was Honey and I and 5 of my closest friends could ride around in her all night. All night meant till possibly midnight on a weekend.
Riding around was the main activity in the early '70s in Carthage Illinois. We'd do the square and then do the lake, and maybe even do the college, then back to the square. I don't know how we did it, but we could recognize a friend's car's head or tail lights. Just practice, I guess. It's a very good thing gas was cheap because Honey probably didn't get more than 10 mpg.
It's not that riding around was all we did. Sometimes I'd get a wild hair and I'd drag race Honey on the red bridge road. I could take anyone in ten telephone poles. Couldn't take anyone in five. Honey took a bit to get going, but once she got there, she just took off. Fifteen years ago, when my father was dying and couldn't get out of a wheelchair, I told him about racing Honey. He gave me The Look, which had actually stopped having the desired effect on me a few decades earlier, and said, "You raced that car!" I said, "Not only did I race her, but I also dragged in your Cougar." He asked, "Did you win?" I said "Always." He said, "That's good." It's a good thing Mom wasn't present or I'd still be grounded.
Sometimes there would be a party at the lake. We'd all pile in Honey and ride around until we got up enough nerve and then we'd join a bunch of others at the lower circle or the spillway and try to act cool, while not actually drinking any of the Boones Farm. However, once one of the Dion boys taught me how to inhale a cigarette and blow smoke through my nose. Those Dion boys! Sure they looked innocent enough, but you really had to watch them. In fact, dating a Dion or two was sort of a right of passage back then in Carthage.
Sometimes, my friend Jacque and I, budding wannabe hippy folk singers that we were, would actually take our guitars and sit and play and sing on the court house steps - right in the middle of the square. Talk about bold. Oh, we were out there! And Nichols and I. . . .well, we had "urinary incidents" allllll over that town. We'd get to laughing and it was all over. Yep. We were cool. Sometimes we'd even go riding around after a the lot of us got together and made and ate spaghetti at one or an other's house.
We'd keep track of all the big news. Who was goin' with whom. Who was sitting close to whom in the car (pre-bucket seats). Possibly even who had gone all the way. Though certainly none of my girlfriends did that at sixteen! My girls and I were especially nerdy, even for Carthage in the early '70s. I'm not sure we knew what second base was. Just ask any Dion.
Honey saw it all and heard it all. She was a great car. A tank of a car. A boat of a car. Several people could and did fit in her trunk in cases of drive-in economics or dumping freshmen (catch a freshman, stick him in the trunk and then drop him off in the country somewhere).
Honey was simple and friendly, just the right things for the time and the place. The engine made sense. You could see the parts. If she got flooded, I'd take off the air filter and hold down the butterfly valve while someone else started her. Easy-peasy.
Now I'm all concerned about fuel-savings and XM radios with ten gazillion stations and I just expect things like air bags and GPS and all sorts of gadgets to break and go wrong. The cars I'm looking at now would nearly fit in Honey's trunk. If I could have that car back for a weekend in 1972 - just one weekend would be enough, mind you - I'd fit the whole spaghetti group in her and we'd do that square and park out at the lower circle and we would look up at the millions of stars and we would know just how incredibly fortunate we were.