A makeover for a 1950s Chevrolet

The big Chevrolet. How could I forget it? Dad painted it canary yellow with a big paint brush. We were told the paint had fallen off the back of his Hammond’s truck when we were kids, a time when everything seemed so much bigger. My father worked at Hammond’s Transport and used to drive a semi-trailer. That was the biggest thing I’d ever seen back then.  But full of paint? In Tasmania of all places? Maybe that was a big fib.

What about a station wagon?

The painting of Dad’s prized possession was going on around the same time we used to watch the TV series ‘My mother the car’. The series only lasted one season and received the accolade of the second worse show of all time.  As a nine-year-old in 1966, I wasn’t interested in ratings. I just loved the show.

The story was about a man who bought a 1928 Porter ‘fix r upper’ in a used car yard. Basically, it was a dilapidated, weather-beaten old bomb. The buyer was drawn to the car after he heard a woman’s voice calling his name. ‘David. It’s me David”. ‘Yes, Mum’ replied the buyer absent-mindedly. The car turned out to be the reincarnation of his deceased mother who communicated with him through the car radio. It was a great yarn and fitted right in with flying nuns, talking horses, suburban witches and LSD that were all popularised in the 1960s.

Naturally, David had no other option than to buy his mother, the car.  However, his wife, just a regular human being in case you’re wondering, was horrified when he returned home without a family station wagon. Rather than risk a divorce, David took his mother, the car, to the body shop for a full extreme makeover. She was dusted, cleaned, buffed, filed, primed and finally painted a bright shiny red. David’s family was still unimpressed but his mother, the car, loved her makeover.

Or a Ford Mustang?

There were some similarities between David’s mother, the car, and our family car, the Chev. When Dad drove it home for the first time, all I saw was a dilapidated, weather-beaten old bomb struggling to make it to the top of the dusty, pot-holed driveway. ‘Whatd’ya think of this old lady’? he drooled; his head turned towards Mum. Needless to say, Mum loved it. My big brother Bruce shrugged his shoulders, turned his lips down and went all sulky.  I ran into my bedroom howling because I thought we were getting a Ford Mustang.

“She’s ready for the road”

The original colour of the Chev was hard to decipher.  Dirty dull green, the colour of slime on a waterhole comes to mind. It was already a big car, but it doubled in size after Dad had slapped that yellow paint all over its body. Dad always used the pronouns ‘she’ or ‘her’ when he spoke about that heap of metal and rubber. ’She’s ready for the road,’ he announced whilst admiring his completed paint job. If that car had been human, I swear ‘she’ would’ve been a skag.

First family outing – Sorell Church of course!

The first family outing in the Chev was to go to church. A catholic mass was performed every Sunday in Sorell, a small country town about a fifteen-mile drive (about 24 kms) from our farm. That’s also where we went to school, sold pigs at the market and where Dad and my grandfather went into the pub for a refreshing ale while Mum and us five kids waited in the Chev. They were strange times. Only men were allowed in pubs in the 60s because women’s ears were too delicate for men’s conversations. 

In those days, everyone went to church. We went at every opportunity not just Sundays, Easter, and Christmas, but also on all the Holy Days of Obligation. I believe we were devout Catholics at the time and stopped going to mass when we had enough friends.

Heaps of kids from our school (Sorell Area School) seemed to be catholic too because surely no one would go to church just for fun. Most of them lived in Sorell so they walked to church with their families. Not my family though. We arrived in that big hideous bright yellow Chev.

We got sprung

As the car approached the church yard on the first outing, Bruce and I slid down out of sight behind the back seat. Dad was already blaspheming. ‘Jesus Christ, there’s nowhere to park.’ There was no other option than to park parallel to the pine trees close to the church. He hated parking there because ‘those bloody trees ruin cars’.  Bruce and I were happy though. We had a plan to slide silently out of the car on the pine trees side, hoping to God our school friends didn’t connect us to ‘that car’.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Our three younger siblings made such a racket getting out. To top it off, Dad shouted from the car as we were running to join our friends, ’Bruce, Annette, you left mud in the car’. Naturally, the growing congregation hovering outside the church turned to  look at Dad and the car. Then all eyes turned to my brother and I, as we wandered back sheepishly for a shoe sole inspection.  Within minutes of parking everyone knew that was our car.

Thanks Bobby Dare

The following Sunday was the day that marked the end of daylight savings. As usual, we went to church again. That was even worse than the first outing. It was the only year ever that Mum forgot to turn the clocks back an hour. We arrived at the church just as everyone was coming out. There was lots of guffawing going on amongst the adults about forgetting to turn the clocks back.  But no one seemed to be ridiculing our car. Then Bobby Dare, whom I admired greatly and was in my class at school wandered over with his Dad to check out our car. Bobby turned to me with his red face and said “I like your car”. That was the moment everything changed. “So do I”, I replied truthfully.

Featured image: L to R Me, Bruce and John with Nanny goat at front and Chev behind us taken with Mum’s Box Brownie.

Images below: Chev at the rear with the addition of Mum, Dad, Paul and Samuel (the baby) in the photos.



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