THE FAMILY CAR
I was nine
years old when Dad decided it was time to buy our first family
car. I cannot recall that I was ever asked for my opinion but I do remember
the excitement of visiting the few dealerships that existed in our small town
and viewing the very limited selection of new cars for the 1950 model year.
I particularly remember the studebaker Commander that looked like it was
moving forward from either end. Dad, I believe, gave serious thought to this
car but the agreement he finally reached was with Ford Motors for one of
their new "Deluxe" models. I also know that Dad paid extra for several
options including a push button radio, two-tone paint and automatic turn
signals which, I believe, were installed by the local dealer.
Ford was used regularly until late 1956 when Dad decided that it was
time to trade the car in. We had moved to a much larger city by this time and
the selection of new cars on this occassion was enhanced tremendously from
what it had been in 1949. I was now sixteen and in a much better position to
influence his decision making. I could also tell that Dad was having a much
tougher time with reaching a decision when he asked me if it should be a '57
Chev Bel Air or a '57 Plymouth Belvedere? The decision for me was easy.
It was Chevrolet all the way, providing of course that it was a matador red
convertible. Dad finally agreed on the Bel Air and accepted what he believed
was a fair trade-in offer.
enjoyed his new Chevy until 1961 when he suffered a serious heart
attack and passed away just several days before Christmas. My life was
changing rapidly and within a few months I was married on my way to a new
job in a different city. My mother, who was now living on her own, did not
feel comfortable with driving and so for the next several years the '57 sat idle
in her garage.
during the Fall of 1964 that Mother decided very suddenly to sell what
I've always referred to as Dad's car or "Ole Red". My wife and I were still
living in another city and so my sister was left with the responsibility of
helping Mother sell the car. A "For Sale" ad was placed in the local
newspaper and by the following weekend the car was sold. Mother seemed
pleased that the car was going to such a nice gentleman (a retired doctor) and I
can vaguely recall her telling me that his name was Forset or Forsythe or
something that sounded like forceps. His name, of course, did not seem
important at the time.
career took on a rather hectic pace for the next few years and it was
not until 1975 that I was granted the opportunity to accept another promotion
and transfer back home. We quickly settled into our new environment but it
was several months before we completedd the unpacking of our more
personal items. Suddenly photograph albums that we had not looked at for
many years were providing us with memories of some wonderful but almost
forgotten times. There was the one of my bride-to-be standing with Dad
beside his '57 convertible and one of myself sitting so proudly in the drivers
seat. Both pictures were taken shortly before his passing in 1961.
I was always
grateful that Dad allowed me to drive his car and as I looked at
the various pictures I started thinking about all of the good memories that
were associated with his Chevy. This was the classiest car I had ever seen
and I felt like a King whenever I was behind the wheel. Cruising Broadway
on a Friday night and parking for hours at our favourite Drive-in were just a
few of those memories.
to the past was suddenly interrupted when my wife, who recalls
taking "Ole Red" to our High School Prom, turned to me and said "Why don't
you try to buy the old car back?" It was a wonderful thought but I realized
immediately that it would be a near impossible task. My mother was
deceased and I had no idea of who the new owner was or where the car was
liked the idea of finding "Ole Red" so when my wife reminded me
later that it was my sister who had handled the sale of Dad's car I telephoned
her immediately. Our discussion led from one story to another but we were
unable to come up with any thoughts concerning a name. Then suddenly my
sister commented on how much our mother liked the doctor who had
purchased her car and I immediately remembered my earlier reference to the
word "forceps". At almost the same moment my sister experienced total
recall and said, "His name was Dr. Forseth."'
no telephone listing for Dr. Forseth in our local directory so I
started calling each Forseth party and enquiring as to his possible
whereabouts. I finally reached a very pleasant woman who informed me that
she was the daughter of the late Dr. Forseth and she explained that her father
had passed away several years earlier. She also explained that her mother had
an unlisted telephone number and that she was not prepared to let me have it.
I explained why I was calling and asked her if she knew what had become of
the '57 Chev. She willingly told me that this car had become her father's
pride and joy and that it was still sitting in their family garage. She then very
kindly offered to take my name and telephone number and said that she
would pass the information along to her mother.
I was very
surprised when just a few days later Mrs. Forseth Sr. called and
identified herself. She apologized for the difficulty I had in reaching her and
explained that because of a severe handicap she chose to have an unlisted
telephone number. She said that her husband had passed away 3 years earlier
and that the '57 Chev was still in her possession. She suggested that I might
like to see it and agreed to meet with me the following evening.
I had learned
long ago that a persons interpretation of good condition can vary
tremendously and so I was not engulfed with false hope as we approached the
winding driveway that lead to the executive style home. We were greeted at
the door by a gentleman who took us to a wonderful solarium area where
Mrs. Forseth was sitting in her wheel chair. She was exceptionally charming
and immediately put us at ease.
lengthy discussion over tea and biscuits Mrs. Forseth suddenly
changed the subject and said, "Well, I know you came to see the car and not
me so I'll ask Arthur (her butler) to take you to the garage. She excused
herself for not comming and explained that moving around was too difficult.
As we entered
the large four car garage Arthur apologized for not having
removed the dust cover and explained that it had been on the car ever since
Dr. Forseth acquired it. It took but a few seconds and suddenly the moment
I had waited so anxiously for had arrived. I was speechless yet at the same
time I had what seemed a thousand questions. Arthur patiently answered
them all and verified that the car still had it's original paint, top and tires. He
then explained that the doctor had added the wonderbar radio and, he
believed, the plastic seat covers. He also commented on the fact that Dr.
Forseth had only driven the car on special occassions and suggested that the
mileage was very low for what was now an 18 year old car. A quick glance
at the car's odometer revealed that it had only been driven 19, 658 miles.
not believe the experience I was having and as I took several more
photographs, I reminded myself of just how much I wanted this car. My
sister had recalled mother selling the car for $3,500 but that was 11 years ago
and things had changed dramatically since then. The mid 50's Chevrolets
were increasing in popularity and so were their prices. Arthur then alerted us
to the fact that Mrs. Forseth was waiting to see us and invited us to rejoin her
in the solarium.
listened with great interest as I explained how thrilled I was to
see the car. Then with an air of urgency she drew my attention to a white
envelope that lay sitting on her lap. She withdrew several photographs that
had been taken by her husband when he purchased the car in 1964 and
several more that showed her husband standing beside the car shortly before
he died. She then reached in the envelope again and withdrew the original bill
of sale that my mother had given to her husband and the second bill of sale
that verified the transaction between my mother and her husband. I learned
then that Dr. Forseth had paid $3,200 for the car.
I was extremely
anxious to enquire as to the possibility of her selling the car
but Mrs. Forseth was enjoying her recollection of days gone by and I decided
to wait. She told me that her husband had enjoyed the '57 convertible more
than any of his collector cars or toys as she put it. She also told me that her
husband had developed a great respect for my mother and because of this she
would like to turn the car back to me. But only if I was interested. She was
prepared to do this for the same price that her husband had paid my mother.
I had never
before and probably never will again experience a feeling quite
like the one I had at that particular moment. We talked a while longer but I
could see she was tiring so I suggested that we meet again at her
convenience. We said our good-byes and Arthur saw us back to our car.
heard from Mrs. Forseth again and I never acquired that beautiful
original unrestored Chevy convertible. You see, my story is a true story up
until the time, when in 1956, my father looked at me and said, "The choice is
yours. It's either a '57 Chev Bel Air or a '57 Plymouth Belvedere." I chose
the Plymouth and the rest of my story is but a dream.
Copyright - 1998
story has appeared in several publications including "Just Around
The Bend" (A book of car related stories and tales from the past) as well as
the November, 1998 issue of "Classic Chevy World".
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