Monday, April 28, 2008


Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Peter De Vries

The 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. I had one just like the one in the photograph. I bought it new in 1968. My wife and I got married that year and her father (knowing our meager circumstances) offered to give us a 1963 Chevrolet Impala. I did not want to start my marriage obligatied to any man, so I bought the VW. It cost us $1500.00. Our combined incomes at the time brought us in the neighborhood of $300.00 monthly, and $100.00 of that went for the VW payment. We drove it for many years and sold it for nearly what we paid for it. I had driven a Volkswagen van during the summer of 1966 while working in Ceiba, Puerto Rico and had learned how reliable they were.

I have talked to many since who started their own collection of family autos with the purchase of a Volkswagen. The engines were located at the rear of the vehicle and gave rise to many jokes about folks who pulled into country gas stations only to be told by the attendant, looking under what would have been the hood on any other vehicle, that their engine was missing. I remember pulling the VW van into the front of a building on Hwy PR 1 (I think the only highway on the Island of Puerto Rico at the time) that was very close to the roadway. The shallow parking area slanted away from the road grade and left almost no room to turn around. The little engine in the VW was not strong enough to pull the van back onto the highway, so I put the oldest unlicensed driver available behind the wheel. I instructed the young teen in basics of getting the van to move and placed my back to the front wall of the building and my hands on the front of the van. My intention was to push on the van as my young assistant backed out. When she pushed in on the clutch, the heavy little van pinned me to the front wall. Before my arms gave way completely, she managed to release the clutch and free me. We were very proud of our little VW and it served us well. The gasoline tank held eight gallons and at the time could be filled up for around two dollars. Oh, for the good old days.

Later, I think around 1977, I bought an Orange 1974 VW Karmann Ghia like the one pictured above. I was teaching college at the time and trying to economize all I could. My first VW had one add on feature, a radio. My previously owned Ghia had been retro-fitted with an eight track tape player, and I had a collection of about four tapes. I played them until eight tracks disappeared from the scene. The Ghia also had an add on air conditioner. I kept the Ghia until my girls were old enough to drive hoping they would want to drive it. However, they said it made them smell like motor oil when they rode in it. I sold it in 1996. I'm sure it's still putting along the road somewhere in the great Lone Star State. I think you can get a new VW bug for around $30,000.00 these days. The old rear engine variety continued to be manufactured in Mexico after they were banned in the U.S. for failing to meet emission standards. I don't think they make them there anymore either. I still see one on occasion and it brings back pleasant memories of simpler times.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. George Bernard Shaw.