What was I thinking!

My grandson Max following his scientific discovery

I like to take my six-year-old grandson Max with me when I run errands. I enjoy hearing things from his perspective. He likes to work me for ice cream and other goodies.

Win – Win

This afternoon we headed to the store to fill my wife’s shopping list. As we entered the store, Max inquired “Could we get a box of popsicles to take home?” Though I rarely say “no”, this was the first of several stops. Frozen treats to-go were not an option.

While Max was scanning our groceries at self check-out, I glanced at the snack bar. No long line. “How about getting an icee and drinking it here?” I asked.

Problem solved.

Icee’s in hand, we took a seat at a small table between automotive and the check-out lines. As I was engaging in people-watching, a favorite pastime of mine, I heard a noise of surprise from Max. His icee was undergoing a mini-volcanic eruption.

“I was just trying to make some bubbles” he explained. Splashes of icee lava covered the small table.

After expending a handful of napkins to clean up the icee eruption, he shared what his “What was I thinking?” moment had taught him:

NEVER BLOW INTO A ICEE!

I then shared a story from my checkered childhood that took place when I was about his age.

The year was 1954. Our family had just moved from a trailer park in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park back to Springfield, Mo. so I could start the first grade at Tom Watkins Elementary school. We had towed our 25-foot mobile home right along with us and parked it in back of my grandparent’s home on North Broadway. To supply water, a hose was run from an outdoor faucet at my grandparents home to our compact, metal homestead.

Like a lot of things in my younger (and older) days, I am not sure what I was thinking. But for some inexplicable reason, I thought it would be a neat idea to poke a very small hole in the hose supplying our home with water with my pocket knife. “A six-year-old with a knife?” you may be asking. Remember, it was 1954. And we had just moved from a trailer park in Chicago.

It was harder than I expected to puncture that hose, but when I did, it didn’t just dribble as I expected. It shot out like a fire hose – right into the screened, open window above the kitchen sink where my Mom was standing washing dishes. I can still recall her shriek of surpise as the powerful stream of water doused her

My little experiment was a secret no more.

One new hose later, things were back to normal. I don’t recall if I got a spanking, but remember: it was 1954 when, unlike today, spanking was still considered a useful tool in the parental toolbox.

A very innocent looking and congenial me before the “hose incident”

Two generations later, my “Never poke a hole in a garden hose!” became my grandson’s “Never blow into a icee!”

Everybody makes mistakes. My goal is to avoid making the same mistake twice and to learn from other people’s mistakes. And to impart that wisdom to my grandson.

I seriously doubt Max will ever blow into an icee again. Or puncture a garden hose. Though he might try to talk some other unsuspecting kid into blowing into an icee. And he now loves to tell my garden hose story.

As Will Rogers observed, “Everything is funny, as long as it is happening to someone else.”

Note this picture of Will and compare it with my kid picture above. I may not be a great judge of what is and what is DEFINITELY NOT funny, but at least I kinda, sorta LOOKED like a great humorist when I was puncturing hoses at age 6.

Will Rogers, who was born just up the road from where I was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, died in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska in 1935. That was thirteen years before I was born. His pilot was one-eyed Wiley Post, who also died in the crash. Will’s last words were rumored to be “Wiley, I think you have that patch on the wrong eye!!”

On the Road Again – Day 4

Fifty-Four Years of Entertaining the World (and each other)

Presley’s Country Music Jubilee in Branson, Missouri celebrates its 54th Anniversary next month. My wife and I rarely miss an opportunity to see the Presley’s Show. In 1967, I attended the show with my parents. Later with my wife, and then my wife and son, and later with my wife, my son, his wife and our grandkids. On this visit, my wife and I attended with our neighbors, Tom & Linda Block.

I think that qualifies as a family tradition.

My Favorite Visit to the Presley’s Country Jubilee

2017 marked the Golden Anniversary for Presley’s Country Jubilee. It was also Gary & Patty’s 50th wedding anniversary.

As they said in their advertising that year, “Now that’s a pretty good start!”

Gary and Pat also received a very special honor in 2017. They became the first husband and wife to be inducted into the Springfield, Mo. Public Schools Hall of Fame. I had the distinct honor of introducing them at that ceremony.

Here is a synopsis of what was said about them in the program and a short video featuring fellow Hillcrest students and celebrities alike

Branson’s first music theater opened 50 years ago and with it Gary and Patricia Presley launched a business and a partnership that would establish their family as a cornerstone of Branson’s entertainment and tourism industry.

Although Presleys’ Country Jubilee opened its doors in 1967 to entertain guests with a mix of comedy, bluegrass and gospel performances, Gary Presley, better known as the comedic Herkimer on stage, says it might never have happened had it not been for one fateful fire drill at Hillcrest High School where he ended up standing next to Patricia Adams.

The couple married a few months before the Presley family opened their theater along Highway 76—the glittering strip now crowded with theaters, restaurants and arenas. It was nothing more than a big metal box with folding chairs for 360 people. The show eventually gained national attention from television shows like “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America” and today the theater seats 1,600 people and features three generations of Presleys. Gary and his brother Steve, who joined the show when he was 10, are the only original members still in the show. Patricia runs the front of house, managing anything and everything from customer inquiries to securing new costumes, which for the past 30 years have been made in Hollywood. 

The Presleys put on 230 live shows a year at the theatre plus 26 TV shows broadcast on RFD-TV to a weekly audience of 400,000 nationwide. 

I am proud to have been a friend and admirer of the Presley’s since they started this amazing journey. What they have accomplished is mind-boggling.

On this trip I got to visit the theater twice.

First to enjoy the show, and then the next day to attend worship services of the Freedom Fellowship Church which are held in the Presley’s Theater at 10 am every Sunday morning. Pastor Scott Presley delivered the inspiring sermon. I have never heard a better sermon while sitting in a more comfortable seat.

Congratulations to the Presley family on their astonishing accomplishments over the past 54 years and thanks for always, as Tim McGraw might say, staying humble & kind.

And now, in closing, here are some pictures of Patty & Gary from their years at Hillcrest High School in Springfield.

Patty, left, and best friend Wanda
Patty’s Senior Pic – Class of ’66
This is a picture of Gary with Ron Cordry. The caption states “Mr Ron Cordry, Freshman-Senior Counselor, seeks further information to advise Gary Presley on future plans.”
I wonder if Mr. Cordry advised him to open a music theater in Branson?
Gary in Action

On the Road Again – Day 3

Revisiting Famous Inlaws Who May Have Been Outlaws

Though my wife and I and our son and his family now live west of Jefferson City, Mo., we grew up in and around Springfield. Most of our relatives are buried in southwest Missouri – including a couple who achieved great notoriety during their lives.

On Day 3 of our trip we decided to visit the graves of our best known kinfolk.

A distant relative by marriage of my wife’s family was recently portrayed in a new movie produced by Branson resident Michael Johnson. It was released in 2019 and titled Baldknobber. Nathaniel Kinney, known as “Captain Kinney” by his fellow Baldknobbers, was featured prominently.

After the Civil War ended, southwest Missouri was a dangerous, lawless place.  Forsyth, Mo., not far from Branson, was one of the most dangerous.  According to the Missouri State Historical Society, The Chariton Courier reported in 1892 that “the town of Forsyth is 50 years old, but does not contain a single church and never did.”  According to Google, there are 18 churches in Forsyth today so there has been progress.

After the formation of the Baldknobbers, which were predominantly in favor of the Union, another group was formed known as the “Anti-Baldknobbers”. They were predominantly Confederate supporters according to a Doctoral dissertation by Matthew James Hernando titled “The Baldknobbers of Southwest Missouri, 1885-1889: A Study of Vigilante Justice in the Ozarks.”

 At the height of the vigilante justice, Nate Kinney was gunned down in his own store in Forysth, Mo. He is buried in the Forsyth Cemetery, which was our first stop of the day.

Captain Nathaniel Kinney’s (1843-1888) Final Resting Place

We had only minor difficulty finding Mr. Kinney’s grave.  His wife Maggie is buried beside him in a small, peaceful cemetery on the outskirts of Forsyth.  My wife’s family used to vacation in nearby Rockaway Beach with distant relatives of Capt. Kinney when my wife was a kid.  That was in the days when the water in Lake Taneycomo was still warm enough to swim in before the Table Rock dam was constructed. 

If you would like to see a movie that shows the good side and the bad side of the Baldknobbers,  the movie Baldknobber is available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime at the following link:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2919200/

As I often do, I wandered among the other graves to see what else I could find.  Off by itself, I found the large, moss covered crypt of Ernest Crist.  Ernest died January 8, 1923 at the age of 14. I did some research but was unable to find a cause of death or any other information about Ernest, but his crypt was unique so I suspect his family was well-to-do.

Ernest Crist’s (1908-1923) Moss-covered Crypt

Near the entrance to the cemetery I found the headstone for James C. Johnson, MD, who died in 1906 at the age of 66.  Buried next to him was his wife, Sarah E. Johnson, Nurse, who died in 1934 at the age of 93.  It is very possible that James and Sarah treated many of the Baldknobbers and their victims, possibly even Nate Kinney himself.

Remember Stranger as You Pass By, As You are now so once was I

What I found most interesting about the Johnson’s headstone was the inscription below the names and dates on the headstone.  It read:

Remember Stranger As You Pass by,

As You Are Now So Once Was I

As I Am Now Soon You Will Be

Prepare For Death And Follow Me

This is not the first time I have heard of this epitaph, but it is the first time I have actually witnessed it.  When I first heard about it, it was because someone had taped a note below it which read:

To Follow You I’m Not Content

Until I Know Which Way You Went

That is one of my favorite epitaphs, rivaled only by one I found in the Cemetery in Anutt, Mo.  It was on the grave of a girl who died young.  It read:

Here Lies Debbie

Who Didn’t Give a Doo-Dah

All Decked Out in Her Purple Baracuda

I would love to know the story behind that.

Our Day 3 cemetery tour ended at Bonniebrook, the home of one of my distant relatives by marriage, Rose O’Neill. Rose is best known as the creator of the kewpie doll, though she had many other achievements in her life, including some that were quite controversial for her day.  Bonniebrook is 10 miles north of Branson in the woods on Bear Creek.  When Rose O’Neill first moved there around the turn of the 20th century, it was a two-day wagon ride to get from Bonniebrook to Springfield.

I’ve read Rose’s autobiography.  At one time she was one of the richest women in America.  She got some of her artistic ideas from gazing into the forest around Bonniebrook where she used her imagination to conjure up the images of “sweet monsters” in the foilage of the densely wooded property.

Bonniebrook was closed when we visited, but the gate was open so we strolled the beautiful trail from the home and museum down to the small family cemetery in the woods just across a small bridge over Bear Creek.  Rose died of pneumonia on April 6, 1944 in the Springfield home of my grandfather’s sister and her husband, Rose O’Neill’s nephew.  She was 69.

Though there is no epitaph on her grave, in her autobiography Rose said her personal philosophy was “Do good deeds in a funny way.  The world needs to laugh or at least smile more than it does.”

On our way back to the car, we noticed a relatively large dog eyeing us suspiciously at the gated entrance we had breached. 

“Maybe that’s the guard  dog” I told my wife.

While I am not scared of dogs, I did get a little nervous when it came running toward us.  When it reached us, it laid down, rolled over, and put its feet up in the air. It wasn’t playing dead, though that would have been appropriate based on our days activity.

Turns out with the museum closed it was just looking for someone to rub it’s stomach.

Bobby Doug – Meet Bobby Dean

Barely over a week ago I received an email from a man I had never met – Bobby Dean Rennick – inquiring about a distant relative of mine I had never met, six-time Indy 500 driver Jimmy Reece.

In 2012 I wrote a blog about Jimmy Reece and his untimely death at a race at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds on September 28, 1958.  Bobby Dean Rennick was at that race with his girlfriend, Maryanne.  The death of Jimmy Reece, whose name Bobby Dean didn’t even know at the time, had always haunted him.  After 60+ years he began to do some internet research on the long ago death of Jimmy Reece.  That led him to my blog and, subsequently, to me.

I’m glad it did.

As we began to exchange emails, I found out quite a bit about Bobby Dean.  He is 86 years old and a Korean war vet.  He resides in Gastonia, N.C.  Last summer my wife and I unknowingly visited his stomping grounds on a drive from Damascus, Va. to Myrtle Beach, N.C.  He was once near our home when he attended a family reunion in Warrensburg, Mo., 78 miles west of our home on Highway 50.  He likes to write and recently had an article published in a magazine named Southern So & So.  He once visited Renick, Mo., pop. 190, fifty-eight miles north of our home.  This past week in the Jefferson City News Tribune, I read the obituary of a man from Jefferson City who was to be buried in Gastonia, N.C., and the obituary of a man from Renick, Mo.  And Jefferson City’s former Fire Chief was named Bob Rennick.

What are the odds?

I also learned what my name would be if I’d been born a little deeper in the south.  Since my actual name is Robert Douglas, I’d probably be known as Bobby Doug.

Bobby Doug, meet Bobby Dean, a remarkably fit 86-year-old who spends an hour in the pool at the Gastonia Y four times a week.  And who is quite an internet sleuth at any age, but especially for an octogenarian.  Assisted by my genealogical genius wife, Val, Bobby Dean even tracked down Jimmy Reece’s widow and talked to her on the phone.

Bob occasionally has short articles published in the Southern So & So magazine, as in “Southern owned and Southern Operated”.  It is a magazine of people reminiscing about fond memories of long ago.  Unfortunately, in the last issue Bobby Dean’s story “Little People in a Box” was edged out by a story about “The Goat Man” for the cover article.

Southern So & So
Southern So & So magazine 

If you are interested in subscribing (like I did), send a check for $22 for 6 issues to:

Southern So & So, Richard Burns, Editor                                                                                           1739 University Ave – #177                                                                                                                   Oxford, MS. 38655

Tell them Bobby Dean sent you!

One last note.  In my last blog, I invited Maryanne, Bobby Dean’s date at the New Jersey State Fair race where Jimmy Reece died, to contact me if by some chance she read the blog.  A picture of her taken in 1958 standing in front of a 1958 Chevrolet convertible and beside a 1957 Ford convertible was in the blog.

I have some sad news.  According to her obituary, (which Bobby Dean tracked down this week) she passed away on January 22, 2016, in Newark, DE.  And I have some more news.  Her name wasn’t Maryanne.  It was Betty Anne (Kiesel) Cox.  She left behind her husband of 56 years, Robert.

Another Bobby!

R.I.P., Betty Anne.

Bobby Dean – you may have found out a bunch of stuff on Jimmy Reece on the internet, but maybe, just maybe, Betty Anne has now gotten to meet him

Betty Anne (aka Maryanne) Kiesel Cox

 

 

It Certainly Doesn’t Look Safer – But It Is!

On February 17, 2019, I flipped on the TV to see the end of the Daytona 500.  The race  was down to the final 10 laps.  The contenders were tightly bunched together at near full speed when driver Paul Menard nudged the right rear bumper of Matt DeBenedetto, the driver just ahead of him.  Suddenly I was watching the worst racing accident I had ever witnessed.  After the metal stopped grinding, the sparks stopped flying and the wheels stopped spinning, 21 of the 40 cars in the race were unable to continue.

” . . . I feel bad about that” said Menard, who started the chaos by bumping DeBenedetto’s bumper.

Amazingly, though  21 cars were so badly damaged they could not continue the race, no one was seriously injured.

Compare that to the 1955 Indy 500.  Of the 33 drivers that started that race, 17 would eventually die in racing accidents.

One of them was my granddad’s cousin, Jimmy Reece.  He raced in six Indy 500’s in the 1950’s, finishing in the Top 10 three times.  In 1958, Jimmy survived a crash that killed Indy 500 race favorite Pat O’Connor.   But on September 28, 1958, Jimmy’s luck ran out.  He was battling for the lead on the last lap of the 1958 Champ Car race at Trenton Speedway at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds when his car suddenly veered out of control and went airborne.  He was thrown from the car and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  I had just turned 10 years old when he died and I never had the opportunity to meet him.

But last Monday – out of the blue – I got an email and a call from a stranger who was a spectator in the crowd that witnessed the last race of Jimmy Reece on September 28, 1958.

The eyewitness to the six decade old fatal accident of Jimmy Reece is Bob Rennick of Gastonia, N.C.  Bob is 86 years old and tracked me down based on a blog I wrote almost 7 years ago about Jimmy Reece that is still a couple of pages deep on Google.

Pretty nice job of sleuthing, Bob!  With Bob’s permission, here is his story of the events that led him to the Trenton Speedway on September 28, 1958, the night Jimmy Reece died:

In 1958 when I lived on Tausig street in Bladensburg, Md, I made a late summer trip to Wildwood, NJ, a popular beach destination.  Accompanying me were a couple of guys I was living with and two or three others.  We went as a group and rented a place near the shore.  Next door was a house being rented by a group of girls.  Being neighborly, we introduced ourselves to the girls.  I happened to meet and be struck by a cute girl by the name of Maryanne with whom I spent a lot of time.  She lived in Marcus Hook, PA.  Later on I went up there to spend weekends with her a few times.

On one of those trips we went to the New Jersey state fair in Trenton.  It was the last day of the fair and there was an open wheel car race which we attended.  I don’t think they were called Indy cars in those days.  It was a hundred miler on a track of a mile or maybe less.  We watched from one of those old wooden grandstands and had fun.

On the last lap of the race one of the cars went out of control and shot up the track, busted through a short fence, and then flew through the air like a rocket.  There was no doubt in my mind the driver was not going to survive the landing.  I said to Maryanne “let’s get out of here”.  I felt sick to my stomach and didn’t want to stay for any public address announcements or anything else.

Over the years I thought about that incident and wondered what the driver’s name was and did he really die in the crash?  

Shortly after I got my first computer I tried to find some information about the race through Google but never had any luck.  I tried again recently and must have used the right key words because this time I found an article from the Reading Pa. Eagle newspaper that described the incident exactly as I remembered.  The driver’s name was Jimmy Reece from Oklahoma.  He had raced in the Indy 500 six times but had never won it.  The United States Air Force had furloughed him so he could drive in the 1952 Indy 500 where he finished 7th.

This event has been in and out of my mind for the past 60 years.  As I said, I was sure the driver was killed.  I’m sorry I never knew his name and that it took so long for me to find out his name and find out for certain what happened.

It didn’t work out between Maryanne and I, and I never thought about or wondered about her nearly as much as I did that race car driver.

My first cousin (twice removed) Jimmy Reece and the Indy Car that carried him to the hereafter

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A Picture of Bob’s old girlfriend Maryanne from 1958.  She is beautiful, but at my age that 1958 Chevrolet in the background is what caught my eye first.

 I am grateful to Bob Rennick for tracking me down and sharing his story.  I hope to one day meet him and thank him in person.  As a further testimony to Bob’s sleuthing ability, he and my wife managed to track down Jimmy Reece’s widow.  Like me, she was very interested in speaking to an eyewitness of the accident that claimed Jimmy’s life.  Sadly, both children of her marriage with Jimmy are deceased.

And finally, Maryanne from Marcus Hook,  PA – if you are reading this please contact me.  I’d like to feature you in my next blog.

(Hey, stranger things have happened!)

 

“From Turn Three to Eternity” Revisited

Note:  I originally wrote this blog on May 27, 2012.  It has been floating around in cyberspace since then.  Earlier this week I got an email regarding the original blog with a very interesting development.  Here is the original blog.  I will continue this story with a fascinating update very soon.

First, the original blog:

Jimmy Reece pic
Jimmy Reece

Sunday, May 27, 2012 will be a big day for racing fans.  The Indy 500 kicks off at 11 AM in Indianapolis, followed by the Coca Cola 600 at 6 PM in Charlotte.  Though I have never been a huge racing fan, my wife uncovered some family history tied to the Indy 500.  One of my grandfather’s cousins was a race car driver back in the 1950’s.  Here is what she found:

“Jimmy Reece was a 6 time veteran of the Indianapolis 500, with Top Ten finishes in 1952, 1956 and 1958. While operating a home video camera, Reece captured 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner Bob Sweikert’s fatal accident at the Salem (IN) Speedway on June 17. 1956. During a multi-car accident in turn three on the first lap of the 1958 500-mile classic, Reece was struck by Bob Veith, causing his car to spin in front of popular Pat O’Connor, who catapulted over Reece, flipped and was killed. Jimmy Reece reportedly held himself responsible for O’Connor’s death due to his braking maneuver during the accident. This may have played a role in his death later that year during a championship car race at the Trenton (NJ) Speedway. Reece was dueling Johnny Thomson for second place on the last lap and got into an awkward position in a turn. Some feel that rather than braking and possibly putting Thomson at risk, Reece did not hit his brakes hard enough, if at all.  As a result, he plowed through a barrier and flew through the air to his death, landing over 50 feet from his badly damaged car.”

He was 29.

Based on the picture above, it’s not hard to see how a driver could die in an accident driving 145 mph in an “open wheel” car with virtually no safety devices.  In fact, of the 33 drivers in the 1955 Indy 500, 17 subsequently died behind the wheel of a race car.  Jimmy Reece was among that number.

I found it interesting that Jimmy Reece had a movie camera back in the 50’s.  And that he operated it behind the wheel of his race car.  I can only imagine what his race movies must be like, filming cars traveling 145 miles per hour from behind the wheel of a car going 145 mph.  As proficient as my wife is becoming at genealogical detective work, I expect to be seeing those movies before too long.

I wonder if Dramamine comes in Industrial strength?

TO BE CONTINUED:

Jimmy Reece gravesite
Jimmy Reece gravesite in Oklahoma City

There Go the Beetles

IMG_0909
VW Beetle that has seen better days near Hermann, Mo.

Before there were Honda’s and Toyota’s and  Datsun’s (known today as “Nissan’s”), there were VW Beetles roaming the streets of Springfield, Mo. where I grew up.

Or, at least, where I grew older.  The jury is still out on whether I ever grew up.

I had a family tie to the proliferation of Beetles.  My Dad helped populate the streets of Springfield with VW Beetles and VW busses and VW Karmann Ghias.  He was a salesman for McAllister VW in Springfield in the 60’s when VW beetles were a novelty, sometimes referred to as “pregnant roller skates”.

But they still sold like hotcakes.

Rather than the Beetles arriving at the dealership on an 18-wheel car hauler, salesmen from McAllister VW carpooled from Springfield to New Orleans.  There they would pick up a VW straight off the boat from Germany and drive it back to Springfield where it was cleaned up and sold.  Here is a postcard my Dad sent from New Orleans on such a trip.  It is postmarked June 19, 1962:

IMG_0964

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My Dad never got rich selling VW’s, but our family always enjoyed the “Demo” vehicle he was furnished as a perk.  In the summer of 1962,  maybe ’63, we went on the only 2 week vacation our family ever took.  We rode in style in a brand-new VW Bus.  My brother and I each had our own row.  Along with two other families, we visited Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Mt. Rushmore, camping out 12 of 14 nights along the way.

After graduating from high school in 1966 and getting a job while deciding between Vietnam & college, I became the proud owner of a 1964 VW Karmann Ghia.  It already had 35,000 miles on it and cost me $1300.  Though it ended up being a great car, the engine went out the first weekend I owned it.  The dealership stood behind it and replaced it with a rebuilt engine.  It was a fun, stylish car with 2 bucket seats up front and an “emergency” back seat suitable only for small children, contortionists, or luggage.

IMG_0963
A faded Picture of my 1964 VW Karmann Ghia taken in the Smoky Mountains Jan. 3, 1967

Karmann Ghia’s weren’t all that plentiful or well-known, but I loved mine.  The engine – which featured a whopping 1.2 liters, 40-horsepower, & four-cylinders – was in the rear.  Maximum speed was around 80 mph.  To fill the gas tank required raising the hood.  In 1967, somewhere in the deep South, I pulled into a gas station, popped the hood, and waited for the attendant. In those days I could fill up the Ghia’s 10-gallon gas tank and get my windshield washed for  under three bucks.  Standing back to take a puzzled look at my car, the attendant asked “What the heck kind of car is this?  A Studebaker?”

IMG_0971

IMG_0970
In the days before email I kept in touch with home via postcards & a 4 cent stamp. This postmark on this card is January 3, 1967

I explored 15 states in the 2 years I owned that Karmann Ghia.   It got 30 mpg and had AM radio.  It had no air conditioning and the worst heater of any car I’ve ever owned.  On an 11-state roadtrip I took in January of 1967, I drove 3000 miles and spent $32 on gas.  I could drive a hundred miles for about a buck.  What more could an 18-year old ask?

I sold mine and bought a Ford Mustang in 1968.  VW stopped making Karmann Ghia’s after 1974.  They were discontinued to make VW Sirocco’s.  Scirocco’s were discontinued in October, 2017.  And now VW has announced that the iconic VW Beetle will be discontinued after the 2019 model year.

vw think small
This 1959 VW ad was once recognized by Advertising Age as being the greatest ad of all time

In 1968 I heard the siren song of the Ford Mustang and said goodbye to my Karmann Ghia.  I replaced it with a blue-gray 1965 Ford Mustang with wheel covers modeled after the wheels on the Roman chariots in the movie Ben Hur.

mustang
LOOK AT THOSE WHEELS!

Though the last VW I owned was during the Nixon Administration, I am sorry to see the Beetle go the way of the Studebaker.  The only good thing about that news for me is that it reduces the odds of me hearing the words “SLUG BUG!” followed by a whack on the arm.

Maybe they’ll be back.  There are lot’s of new cars on the road today that have been resurrected from the 1960’s.  Think Challenger and Charger and Camaro.  When asked if there was a chance that VW might one day produce Beetles again, a spokesperson replied “Never say never!”

As someone who grew up with Beetle’s in the 60’s, I’ll paraphrase Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart:  “They may take our Beetles, but they’ll never take our memories!”