When I finished the course work for my M. A. in English at Peabody in Nashville in early January of 1963, I accepted a position to fill a mid academic year teaching vacancy at Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, Louisiana. I was due to report for work at the beginning of the spring semester, about the second week of January.
Using what were called federal "defense" loans in those days (paid back in full in the '70s) and some part time work by Joyce and myself, I had made it through college and the first year of graduate school by the skin of my financial teeth. Our funds were depleted and we were in debt. But we didn't care. Before I only had prospects, but now I had a real job in my chosen profession. The salary I would receive at Southeastern for one semester of full time teaching ($2400) sounds paltry by today's terms but to us it was a fortune.
Joyce and I knew we had to have a newer car to even get to the job. As a student, the bank wouldn't talk to me about a car loan, but as a graduate with a job they were more than happy to help me.
There were three of us by then--Barry was 1 year and five months old. We didn't have much in the way of material possessions but we had accumulated some "stuff" over our 2 1/2 years of marriage.
We were driving (sometimes pushing) a nine year old '54 Dodge Royal (formerly my parents') that by that time was smoking heavily and looked pretty beatup as a result of a rear end side swipe my Mom had experienced several years earlier. It frequently wouldn't start or would fail to complete the three mile trip from our apartment to Peabody; setting out to Louisiana in it was out of the question.
We needed a car that was big enough to load up our meager belongings and dependable enough to make the trip to Louisiana without difficulty. We found the perfect vehicle at Hippodrome Ford on Broad Street one gray, cold day in January. It was a yellow and cream four door, 1957 Ford Country Sedan. The picture below is not the actual car; I have pictures of it somewhere in our attic storage space which I've been promising to dig out for a couple of years now. but this one looked just like it.
The big wagon was already six years old but in really good shape. As for the engine, it was an OHV Ford V8. Wiki says,
The  V8 lineup included a 272 CID (4.5 L) Y-block making 190 hp (142 kW), [and] a 292 CID (4.8 L) Thunderbird version making 212 hp (158 kW).
I'm not sure now after all these years, but I'm pretty sure ours was the base 6 passenger model which had the 190 hp, two barrel carb version of the engine. Whatever it was, it would go pretty good for such a docile and practical looking vehicle.
We laid down the back seat and filled up all that storage space with pots, pans, Barry's baby bed, clothes, our small 17 inch white Motorola TV, more clothes, and linen; in short, everything we owned we carried in the back of that Ford wagon. The picture below shows a green interior, ours was brown. The picture shows the rear seat up, while we had it down flat to provide more space for our "stuff" when we made the trip. The picture also shows the space empty; when we made the trip to Louisiana, our wagon's space was completely full from top to bottom. I could only see the rear through my side mirrors.
Barry rode up front with us on the front seat. He had a little flimsy traveling bed that would change into a sitting position which he slept or sat in some, but most of the time he sat in Joyce's lap or stood (horrors) on the big bench seat between us.
The Ford did great on the trip which was pretty uneventful. About the only thing I remember is that we had our first Po Boy barbeque beef sandwich at some drive in restaurant in McComb, Mississippi. It was pretty danged good.
Our time in Louisiana was short and for awhile we had a rough time. It was my first teaching assignment and I was trying to learn the ropes. But much worse than that, Joyce had a miscarriage. She became anemic and took several weeks to recover. But we nade some good memories too. We learned the real meaning of Southern Hospitality. Colleagues, friends, even our landlord, went out of their way to help us during our troubles.
I was offered a full time job at Southeastern for the coming academic year at an annual salary of $4800, but I had been looking around for other possibilities. Eastern Kentucky offered me $5600 (an $800 raise) and after our difficulties, Kentucky sounded a little bit better to us than Louisiana.
During this time, the Ford served us well. It started every time and required nothing other than normal maintenance. It continued to serve us for another year in Kentucky until we traded it in on our first new car, a 1964 Dodge Coronet. But that's another story.
Here's one last look at that great old Country Sedan. Ford's slogan used to be, "There's a Ford in your future." There may be. But there is definitely one in our past. No wait. There are two in our past. This one and that 1971 Pinto. But that's another story too.
UPDATE: With his comment about a trip he remembers from his childhood, reader Buck reminded me of another part of our journey to Louisiana. Here's my response to his comment, complete with a Wiki link if you want to read a little more about the Natchez Trace Parkway (a most interesting roadway):
Buck, Thanks for helping fill out my memory of that trip a bit. As you point out, the roads 50 years ago were different, very different. I remember we drove to Columbia, TN and then made it over to the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a two lane limited access road first begun under FDR that follows and commemorates the original trail used by early settlers in the South. The trail itself still remains visible at some points on the parkway; you can see the deep ruts of wagons from long ago. We took the Trace down to Jackson, MS, and then went further south toward Hammond on a blue highway, the number of which I can't remember now. But I do know it passed through McComb.
...in short, everything we owned we carried in the back of that Ford wagon.ReplyDelete
Try that TODAY! ;-)
This post reminded me of the time my father retired from the USAF in 1960... when the family set out from suburban Wash, DeeSee to San Jose, CA in a 1959 Plymouth station wagon. The trip was quite an adventure back then, given the interstates were only about 25% complete. My father swung south to get to California as it was winter and the things I remember most were the long desolate stretches of the old two-lane Route 66 through NM, Arizona, and eastern CA.
Buck, Thanks for helping fill out my memory of that trip a bit. As you point out, the roads 50 years ago were different, very different. I remember we drove to Columbia, TN and then made it over to the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a two lane limited access road first begun under FDR that follows and commemorates the original trail used by early settlers in the South. The trail itself still remains visible at some points on the parkway; you can see the deep ruts of wagons from long ago. We took the Trace down to Jackson, MS, and then went further south toward Hammond on a blue highway, the number of which I can't remember now. But I do know it passed through McComb.ReplyDelete
I don't have any really long-range travel stories from my youth. Though the station wagon was the mini-van of my early days. My kids could tell some stories though, such as the move from Colorado to Mississippi where we had me, the Missus, the three kids and everything we'd need for a three-month stay in Biloxi, including the vacuum-cleaner strapped to the roof rack, all packed into a 1982 VW Jetta. Good times!ReplyDelete
Sarge, My son was in the USAF and was at Biloxi in the early '80s for a part of his training for awhile. Were you there for a bit of AF school too?ReplyDelete
Indeed I was. Three month course in the dead of summer. Not exactly when I'd choose to be on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, because like they say, "It ain't the heat, it's the humidity". Oh yeah, it was humid.Delete
Awesome that your son is a fellow Airman.
From humble beginnings often comes great things!ReplyDelete
Those earlier days were rough at the time, but look at the great memories they made. (Sometimes!)
You're right Scooney. The times were rough but we had much fun.ReplyDelete
When speaking of dependability, station wagons would probably be the go to vehicle. This kind of car typically provides generous space for luggage and people. We’ve always been a station wagon family, and we’ve never had any problems with it. :)ReplyDelete
Hello, Dan! Seems like cars are faithful witnesses to your and your wife’s love story! How romantic! =) The classic style of your car depicts it! Do you have any picture of how it looks now? I bet it could still look good as new if you preserve its vintage look. But in case your children would want a newer model in the future, I believe there are companies who accept swapping.ReplyDelete
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Lovely! Your post sounds like everyday could be Valentines Day. ;) Your 1957 Ford Country Sedan seemed to have served as a trophy for your hard work. I agree with Stelle. I bet it could've been a good form of inheritance to your kids. Sad that you had to trade it, but at least, you got a new car for it! So, what model do you drive now? And you seem to have lots of car stories! I'll be sure to check your blog for updates. :D-Ava HarnessReplyDelete
What an adventure. I wish I could be there as well. I want to see these cars personally. My highest paying gold buyers would like to thank you for bringing this to us. Have a nice day!ReplyDelete
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i don't think so that its very ugly..i think it just need a little bit of remodeling and i think it would look good.ReplyDelete