My Daddy Didn’t Take the T-Bird Away
by Brenda K Oswalt
Back in the 60s, cars were the cornerstone of every teenager’s life. We wrapped our minds around “songs about cars” like the ones the Beach Boys sang, and we longed for that special, cool car to call our very own.
And, this is a true story about how I got my very own T-Bird.
Scarlet Fever and the Ford Contest
In 1954, I was 6 years old and had Scarlet Fever, the German Measles and Strep Throat, all at the same time. I only attended two weeks of first grade and had nothing to do all day except write and draw. Luckily, I could draw well, and I didn’t die. In fact, I even submitted a jingle and a cartoon to the local Ford dealer who was having a contest, and I won a beautiful little scale-model Ford Thunderbird convertible. It was powder blue and, gosh, how I adored it. And, I was determined to get a real T-Bird one day.
My First Real Job
Nine years later, I was in high school, and I’d just lied about my age to get a carhop job at Circle In, the local burger joint on Route 42, just outside Mansfield, Ohio. Girls made good tips there, and they had great burgers and onion rings. Circle In was also the first big-name fried chicken eatery in town.
I had been working off and on, doing odd jobs, but this job was a keeper. Heck, I had just turned 15, and I was anxiously awaiting the high point of every teenager’s life. Sweet sixteen was the magic number when I would be able to get my driver’s license. (That’s why I’d lied about my age. You weren’t supposed to work at a real job until you were 16.)
My 1960s Carhop Job
I was sitting in my chair, which was propped against the brick wall of the burger joint, as a car as long as a city block, a big white limousine, stopped right in front of me. I scrambled to straighten my hair and tuck in my shirt, and I jumped up and ran over to the driver’s window, order pad and pen in hand.
However, the driver waved me back as I stepped up to the window. He got out and, with one hand behind him, skillfully opened the rear passenger door.
Who Was That Mustached Man?
Out popped a gold-tipped cane, followed by a natty old gentleman, with a large mustache and a shock of white hair that matched his very white suit. He even had white buck shoes on. Hey, I was so stunned that I just stood stock-still.
The gentleman walked right past me, without so much as one word, and entered the building. So, I went on to take several other car orders before, once again, returning to the propped-up chair position by the door. All I could think about was that beautiful white limo, quietly purring like some expensive white cat, patiently awaiting its master’s return.
Suddenly, I heard the word, “Boo,” whispered into my ear. I jumped straight up, and the chair crashed to the cement.
“I’m so sorry,” I stuttered, looking into the bright blue eyes of the gentleman, as I bent down to retrieve the fallen chair. The old many laughed a hearty laugh and said, “I understand you love the chicken here at the Circle Inn?”
“Yes…” I tried to compose myself and primly said, “Yes, sir. I certainly do. I try to eat it every chance I get…when it’s dinner time…I mean. We’re allowed to have chicken to eat, you know.”
Then, Cane Man said, “And, I also understand you are a great carhop and always recommend the four-piece chicken meal, even without being asked.” Well, I didn’t know what to say, so I just bobbed my head up and down like a stupid rubber chicken.
It Was My Lucky Day
With that, the handsome old gentleman peeled several bills off a big wad and stuck them into my shirt pocket. “Keep up the good work darlin’…cause mama always needs a new pair of shoes.” Then, he deposited himself once again in the back seat of the limo and tapped his cane on the glass that separated the passenger from the driver. The vehicle pulled smoothly away, leaving me alone to stare down at the largest bills I had ever seen in my life.
Life is Cool and Powder Blue
I found out shortly thereafter that the rich man in the white suit was Colonel Sanders, the inventor of Kentucky Fried Chicken. What a year! I had lied my way into my first real job at the only KFC franchise restaurant in Mansfield. I bought a beautiful powder blue Thunderbird Convertible and paid cash for it.
That’s why this chick had fun, fun, fun and my daddy didn’t take the T-bird away.
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