May 5th…“SHARE A HOT-ROD MEMORY OF YOUR MOTHER.”
She was our cute n quiet, conservative queen of conquest. Our beloved matriarch covered the gamut, starting in 1938, by flying in a biplane over lush Iowa corn fields with her old boyfriend, Archie Knutson. Yet, it was 30 years later, in 1968, that I witnessed Mom “flying” in another fashion…….behind the wheel of our powerful Dodge Coronet 500 and almost “lifting off” down a Montana highway at close to 100 miles per hour!! Such was the wonder of our beloved mother, Clarice!!!
The year of 1967 was full of momentous change for our family. We had sold our 120 acre farm in Minnesota and moved all the way out West to Washington State. We settled into a town in the southwest corner of that new land called, Battle Ground. Thanks to the sale monies, that now rested in the bank from our farm sale back home, Dad and Mom were able to pay cash for a new home on Hawthorne Street and also paid cash for a classy, brand new 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 Coupe. We all thought our dream machine was better than any old Cadillac and loved to drive it with pride cause it rode like a dream. I even had a High School friend tell me that our Dodge had a smoother ride than her family’s Cadillac. That made me even more proud of our chariot on wheels.
It seemed like just a blink in time, and the Summer of 1968 arrived. One whole year had passed since we moved to Washington and our father’s new job with the local school district had given him a generous vacation time to enjoy as he pleased. We decided we’d load up our “turbine bronze” colored hot-rod of a Dodge and drive back to Minnesota to see family and friends that we had left behind the previous year.
That V8 Mopar 318 cubic inch engine purred like a kitten under the hood of our steel stallion as we happily rolled eastward down the Columbia Gorge with our sights set on dear old Minnesota and the loved ones who awaited us on our vacation “back home”. Like the meaning of the word, coronet, our Dodge was one of the “crowns” in our parent’s lives after working so hard in farming all their years. So, our “crown” car began this excursion and took us from our hometown in Washington and across Idaho as swift as a wish on angel’s wings.
After climbing over the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains and into Montana, we eventually stopped in some lower country to pull over and enjoy a family picnic. Being that our parents were from the “Greatest Generation”, it was common for them to bring food and drink along, rather than stop and eat at “expensive” restaurants or Drive Inns for meals. Dad sometimes would even take a can of corn-beef hash, rip off the paper label and then wire that can of food to the manifold of the car to heat it up for about a half hour or so of driving. He’d then pull over, pop the hood of the car and unwire the can from the engine block. Then, continuing to use his gloves, for protection from the heat, he’d open the hot can, and presto……..a warm meal for us to enjoy! 😉
It was after one of those roadside meals that Dad decided he’d turn over the driving to Mom and take a nap in the passenger seat while she carried on the journey for a while. Now the State of Montana, in those days, had an “open speed limit”. As long as you kept your vehicle’s limitations in check, it was pretty much “anything goes” as far as your choice of speed. Mom was now in control of our “bronze babe” as she pulled back onto the two lane highway and rolled down those seemingly endless straight miles of road that lengthened before us. Being only 14 years old, at the time, and with nothing else to do in the back seat, I decided to follow Dad’s sleepy example and hunkered down in the corner of my seat for a snore of my own.
Time lapsed and, groggily, I came awake from my nap as I stretched and yawned to a fully conscious state once again. I poked my head up over the bucket seats to see how Mom was doing at her turn with the wheel. LOW AND BEHOLD, our super conservative mother was totally COOKIN’ down that Montana highway at over 95 miles per hour!!!
Not wanting to scare her into an accident, I whispered rather intensely, “Mom, do you know how fast you’re going?” Now, she was surprised as well!!! Seems those straight Montana highways and that powerful Dodge engine were components that resulted in ZOOOOOOM!!! Mom actually took the whole incident in stride as she replied to me with an “Ohhhh welll!!” What a cool hot-rod lady was the mother of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!! 😉