Memories and experiences





What’s the difference between memories and experiences?


            That’s easy—experiences are what you are getting while they are happening and over when they are over. On the other hand, memories can last as long as you want them to. Also, you can share many memories with others and get multiple pleasures.


            After last month’s sharing of our “armored limo” memory, we have received many calls and comments, not only from our local Club members, but some other Regions who get our newsletter.


            Everybody seems to want more stories. Even our newsletter editor seems to think all I do is sit around and tell stories. He even published a picture to prove it. (Tim, you are wrong…I don’t tell stories, but it is fun to share memories.) The older you get, the more experiences you have, and therefore the more memories you have to share.


            This is good because it is really shocking to realize how many unfortunate people are out there that don’t have any personal experiences with a LaSalle or the memory to cherish and share.


            Therefore, I feel it is my moral obligation to share at least one more of our LaSalle memories with the fine people of the LaSalle-Cadillac Club.


Our first LaSalle has many firsts. It was the first LaSalle I actually owned, and it was the first car Phyllis and I bought after being married. It was the first car that Phyllis had her name on the title (mine was on it, too). It was the first car our firstborn son rode in, and that was on the way home from the hospital at Camp Carson, Colo.


            It wasn’t, however, the first LaSalle I wanted, because I wanted every LaSalle I ever saw, starting when we moved across the street from the Cadillac-LaSalle dealership in downtown Denver.


            Whenever the new LaSalles came out, it was all I could do to remember my toilet training. The man who owned the dealership had a nice-looking daughter about five years older than me. They always let her drive new LaSalle convertibles. Envy is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings for that girl.


            Back to the story of our first LaSalle. It was a beautiful Marquette gray, 5019, four-door without a blemish and just over 10,000 miles. The first time I laid eyes on her was the 30th of November, 1950.


            We were in the Army at Camp Carson and near newlyweds. A co-worker and I were in Colorado Springs on Army business late that afternoon, when we spotted the car on a used-car lot just east of the Santa Fe depot.


            After close inspection and marveling at the condition and cleanliness, I knew it had to be a rebuilt total. I asked the salesman the price and he said “$1,295 and no dickering.” This was about $250 over blue book and we both knew it.


            He started telling me a story of how it was owned by a little old lady from Chicago, who only had her chauffeur drive it on vacation here in Colorado. We have all heard “little old lady” stories about cars.


            My laughter kind of insulted the salesman, so he told me the rest of the story. I agreed to buy the car if the story was true, and he told me I could have the car for free if it wasn’t true. I gave the man a $30 deposit to allow me to check out the story.


            The story checked out. It had been purchased new from the Marksheffel-Adams Cadillac dealership in Colorado Springs by Bertha Fields, whose family owned a large department store in Chicago.


            It had been stored in the Broadmoor garage for her use when she came to the Broadmoor Hotel, which was several times a year. There was a service contract with the dealership to have a serviceman pick the car up, drive it, check it out and service it once a month, whether it had been driven or not.


            She always had a local chauffeur do the driving. Her death in late 1949 was unknown locally until the estate was settled in mid-1950. I also found out that the dealer had bought it from the estate for $750. The car had less than 200 miles since last being serviced. I decided to buy the car, but the salesman would not budge from his price of $1,295 because of my doubting his veracity.


            Fortunately, I had a buyer waiting for my cherry ’37 Buick and my Dad co-signed with me for the bank loan. The beautiful car was now ours. Talk about good living! I had just married the most beautiful, sweetest girl in the world and now I had the most beautiful, sweetest running car in the world. Life was good.


            Because I was in the Army, we could only get financing for one year. I got a second job working nights at a gas station pumping gas and repairing cars. Phyllis was now a full-fledged registered nurse and got a job working nights in the OB ward at Memorial Hospital so we could make the payments.


            That car would lay rubber in all three gears. Absolutely no one beat me in traffic light street drags. Being young, I did abuse the car, but it would take it.


            By this time, Phyllis was pregnant and the Korean war was in full swing. Later in the year, Phyllis promoted me to father and the next day the Army promoted me to staff sergeant.


            1950 and ’51 were good years. Then, within ten days, the war flared up and I got orders to Korea. I was able to get a delay in reporting to Camp Stoneman, California, until we could move our belongings to Phil’s home in Montrose. We then drove the LaSalle on a circuitous trip to San Francisco, visiting family on both sides from L.A. to Frisco.


            Our “Sally” ran as well at sea level as it did at the higher altitude that it was accustomed to. Phyllis stayed with me until I shipped out to Korea. She then drove home to Colorado and went to work at a doctor’s office there.


            To this day, people in Montrose remember that beautiful car she drove to and from work. The only pleasant memories of Korea were the letters I got from Phil, which usually included pictures of our son and our LaSalle. Eventually, I was able to transfer to Yokohama, Japan, and now had enough rank to send for my wife, our son and our LaSalle.


            To this day Phyllis believes that the only reason I sent for her was because that was the only way I could get the car over there. You and I know that is not true, don’t we?


            Phyllis got her Port Call and packed up the LaSalle, bundled up our year-old son and drove to the port in Seattle, where the LaSalle went on one ship and Phil and our son on another. Phyllis beat the car to Japan by about two weeks. She assured me it was on the way. We watched it being unloaded from the ship after being in a dusty hold for a month. We washed it and gassed it and took it to our quarters to show it off to our friends.


            A LaSalle was the envy of all the GIs in the area as well as the Japanese. We took several memorable trips while there, including a long furlough with a Navy chief and his wife to Kyoto and Nara. The only problems we ever had with that car was two flat tires and a punctured gas tank.


            Surprisingly (?) Phyllis again was expecting and since we wanted the baby to be born in the States, we decided to sell the LaSalle in Japan, rather than ship it back. We sold for nearly three times what we paid for it to the mayor/governor of Kanagawa Prefecture. We flew back and had a ’37 limo waiting for us (oops, that was last month’s story).


            We never saw our beloved first LaSalle again. However, about five years later, one of our Army buddies had just finished another tour over in Japan and visited us on his way back home. He told us he had seen the car about two months earlier. The same politicians still had the car and were keeping it looking like new. At least “Sally” had a good home and was appreciated.


            One of the things about experiences that become good memories is that some bring tears and make it hard to see and write—so will close and see you next month.


— Walt