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For four years, it was usually a bus ride or getting a ride from a fellow student at the University of Pittsburgh to commute the 300 miles between Pittsburgh and the suburbs of Philadelphia. It sure seemed like a long way and at times especially when it snowed, it was.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend 1976, a couple of times I remember asking where Dad was and mom telling me he was busy in the garage with Uncle Jim, Dad’s brother and they were working on some project. Although I can’t remember now what the story was, I do remember that pop and Uncle Jim were working on something. Being a usual twenty year old, I didn’t think anymore about it.
That is, until I came back home for Christmas. Another long ride on the Pennsylvania turnpike. It wasn’t until xmas eve that pop asked me to go out to the garage to get bags of wrapped toys he and mom had hidden out in the garage. There weren’t any hidden toys; but there was a large green car parked out there.
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When I came back into the rec room, asking where the bags of gifts were they wanted me to bring in, and dad had that smile of his as he had while enjoying a private joke. I asked him whose car was parked in the garage and he kept smiling at me, and then asked me, “Aren’t you tired of taking the nine-hour bus-ride back to school?”
“Oh D.O.D.!” (DOD was my term of endearment for my dad – dear ole dad.), giving him a huge hug. He and his brother, my uncle Jim had worked on that car for two or three months. Every week night for a long time to get it running again and in safe condition to take me back and forth the 300 miles to Pittsburgh.
Oh, how that Dodge Polara could get out of its own way too. It had the largest V-8 engine they manufactured in it. The trunk could have held three bodies, it was that huge. When I drove it back to school after the holidays, there was some snow falling and dad recommended that I stay a good distance behind the semi-trucks and pay attention to how they were driving.
It was a different feeling driving such a large automobile and I felt very safe that night and afterwards.
At the time I was living in an efficiency apartment on the third floor in a complex in Mount Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh. It took two different bus rides to get to Pitt campus. (parking spaces were rare and expensive..)
The rest of the Winter 1977 was extremely cold. So cold, my dad suggested that I bring the Polara car battery inside at night so the car would start the next morning. Dad was always so good at teaching me how to take care of my cars. As a mechanical engineer, dad not only worked as an engineer, but enjoyed working on cars and had what seemed like every woodworking tool ever made.
The caravan drive home from Pittsburgh after college graduation that April seemed hectic at the time. My little brother came with me in the Polara while dad, mom, grand-mom and another brother rode in dad’s truck. It was the days of CB radio. Dad’s handle was Southern Comfort and mine was the Sunshine Lady. We talked with each other to pass the time during the long drive.
There was another CB’er named Whiskey Pete who dad and I spoke with on the radio and when we talked about stopping for gas, he stopped as well. When Whiskey Pete came up to the pretty blonde at the gas pump and introduced himself, I introduced Southern Comfort, my dad. Dad and I thought Whiskey Pete’s shock and surprise was funny. It was easy to banter on the CB with a stranger when my little brother was in the car and my dad driving a truck in front of me.
I felt safe back then.
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Music video by Whitney Houston performing Run To You. (1992)
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