“HOTTHNG” (hot thing) was the statement. And I found myself wondering if the name referred to the car … a 1950s really long reddish Pontiac with the still visible flames painted on the sides ... or the driver … a 1950s former teenager with no visible tracings of any kind that I could see.
I honked my horn and gave the old guy a thumbs up as I passed him by. And I could tell he appreciated the gesture and knew exactly what I was referring to.
It was the thing to do in my generation.
Kids, mostly boys, would deck out whatever old car they could afford, and would name them ... something ominous. Names weren’t printed on license plates back then. But everyone knew the name of the car and who the driver was and respected them both.
The tradition reemerged in our own family when our kids started growing up and needed transportation.
Now you have to understand that it became a standard joke at our house, that “Dad” had a knack for finding the oldest, most embarrassing vehicles around… which he purchased, one at a time for whatever child was in need.
… The purchase was then followed by a naming ceremony, that included an inspection of the car in question, with all of us jotting down its most pathetic features. The process ended with a family vote on which name the car would be known by for the rest of its days.
Take our very big white Oldsmobile for example. It came to visit and stayed for years, much to the chagrin of our teenage sons.
The interior was indescribable except to say that no red velvet could have been left in inventory in any factory in the U.S. the year the Olds was manufactured.
Plush and bright, you nearly had to wear sunglasses to be able to sit inside.
… Its name?
“The Velvet Road Mama.”
A little later a bluish, sometimes working ancient Chevy frequently "sparked" conversation when the tailpipe would come loose and bounce up and down on the roadway. That, along with the sight of its mismatched wheel covers made “Lola Big Hubs,” the talk of the town at our kids’ high school.
As our children grew up and left home, some of those old cars went with them and continued to serve them through college, dating, marriage and even until, as they say, “the wheels fell off.”
True to tradition however, even though other vehicles have replaced those old friends, nowadays there's a “Loretta” parked at the home of our country girl daughter, a “Buck” a 4-wheel drive pickup that takes my "great white hunter" hubby to adventures in the hills of course, and a bright red minivan with a spoiler, of-all-things.
… That last one was recently christened “Electra,” soon after two adorable grandchildren forced our youngest daughter and her hubby to trade in their "we're a young, cool couple with a very sporty, black and beautiful, SUV known as 'The Black Pearl,' in favor of a ... “family car!”
… Hey. Could be worse. Our first "family car" was named “The Barf-mobile" ... for every obvious reason!
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