1939 Buick Roadster
My poverty level parents lived the first fifteen years of their marriage without an automobile. Both were second generation Polish-Americans born and raised in Flint, Michigan. Mom told me that she spent only $27 for her entire wedding ensemble including flowers. They started grade school not knowing a word of English – only Polish. The Sisters of St. Joseph took care of that problem quickly.
I shall always remember the day dad drove a huge black car into our earthen driveway – it looked like a funeral hearse to me. I was an excited lad of fourteen years who was beginning to believe we’d be the only family on the block without a car. After all it was now the year of the Lord 1953. I thought, “It’s about time.”
“How much did it cost dad?” I asked with a lift in my voice.
“I paid Brussario a $100 for it.”
Dad beamed with pride that must have lit up the entire house. He looked like the characters I’d seen in the movie theaters whose vest buttons popped off whenever something exciting happened. It was a celebration in our home, that’s for sure.
“Hey, Emily!” dad shouted to mom who was baking an apple pie at the time. “Do you want to see our new car?” he asked. I thought, of course she’d want to see the car. What, are you crazy or something?
“Wait! Wait!” mom replied, but in Polish it sounds like “Check eye! Check eye!” They used some Polish phrases in unique and special circumstances and this surely fit the bill.
“I’ll get Bobby and Bernard and we’ll all meet you outside, OK?” dad said to mom while he was looking for my baby brother.
The Sadowski family stood arm-in-arm staring at the behemoth black car. No one spoke for a minute. We were awestruck.
Mom broke the silence. “It looks nice, Sod.” Sod was a term of endearment - a diminutive of our surname. “Is it easy to drive?” “Why of course it is,” answered dad. “Come on, I drive us around the block. And, not to worry about dinner, we’ll be right back in a jiffy.”
Dad opened the large doors – four of them. Bobby and I got into the back seat while mom scooted into the passenger seat. Dad shut three doors and walked around the front of car, his face sporting the widest grin of achievement I’ve ever seen, and eased his six-foot-one lanky frame into the driver’s seat.
Dad explained all the things he was doing to start the car: ignition was a complex operation that involved using his right foot to simultaneously push on a device adjacent to the gas pedal and a starter button next to it. The car had to be in neutral to start. I learned that the big stick next to him was called the gear stick. All the cars I’d been in previously had a little stick in the steering column. This Buick had a floor shift. It was cool to show off to my buddies the next day.
The entire next week was spent with me giving “guided tours” of the Buick. One or two pals per visit. We’d sit in all the seats and test the windows. The wing windows for the front seat were the air conditioners of the forties' cars. This Buick had a soft fabric front seat that held three adults comfortably. Three adults or four kids easily sat in the back. We would open the hood - from both sides.
We’d marvel at the gigantic size of the straight-eight engine. And, those shiny chrome bumpers…and I loved the wide white-walled tires.
When I turned of legal age for a license, I took my driving road test in a Chevy. Dad had sold the 1939 Buick to a shop buddy for fifty dollars. I miss that Buick till this day.