My granddad, dad, and uncle were partners in a very small Pontiac store on Missouri Street a couple of blocks north of the main drag.
It’s hard for us today to even imagine the excitement each fall when the new model cars came out back in the fifties and sixties. It was the time of planned obsolescence and the appearance of the cars changed greatly each year just to make the past year’s car look dated so people would want to trade for a new one.
There was a great deal of ceremony and hubbub. It was required that the cars be kept covered and out of sight until its announcement date. Peeking was strongly discouraged. Many years, the showroom windows were covered over to make the announcement private and there was always a preview showing by invitation only.
The 1959 model year was an especially big change. The 1958 cars had been uninspiring and didn’t sell well. All manufacturers, but especially General Motors, rolled the dice. 1959 was the year of the wide track Pontiac, the gull wing/cat eyed Impala, and the absolutely huge Cadillac tailfins. Every car was longer, lower, and wider. By today’s standards, they were ridiculously long, low, and wide.
The preview show for us was on Wednesday night, with Thursday being the big day. On the Saturday night before, my dad went to the warehouse in Oklahoma City and drove our show car home by cover of night.
Early on Sunday, way before Sunday School, my granddad showed up at our house. George Melton was possibly the only person in Claremore more car crazy than I was. We sneaked off to the store (he was retired but still had a key). Next door at our “little shop” was the biggest, most glorious car I’d ever seen: the 1959 Pontiac Star Chief Vista in the Sunset Glow Magic Mirror finish.
We couldn’t help ourselves. We pulled it outside for a look. We sat inside and it smelled so good! We just had to go for a ride.
And so it was, that the granddad and grandson dragged Main in this honker on Sunday morning before church. It was the most glorious time of our lives!
My dad, Lloyd, was a very coolheaded fellow. I only saw him mad two or three times in my whole raising. This was one of them. He was furious! We had broken the code of the west; we had driven a show car down Main Street four days early!
Dad fairly snarled at his dad, “I don’t know which one of you is the biggest kid.”
As I recall, the world didn’t come off its rails. The sun came up next morning after all, but two boys, one nine, one sixty-nine, had the time of their lives.