My father, Charles Fredrick Pollard, known to all as Fred, had in the late fall of 1947gone down to the Local Chrysler- Plymouth dealer to find out why he had not received his new Plymouth. He had placed his name on a list for a new car, which was what had to be done at the time. After waiting almost a year for a car that was to be delivered with temporary wooden bumpers, as there was no chrome anywhere to be had, he had grown tired of seeing other names move ahead of his on the list.
We stood admiring the brand new Plymouth that set in the middle of the show room floor.
“Sure is shiny,” I said.
This was the second year that they built automobiles after World War Two. The previous year they were the same as the 1942 models which were the last ones built at the start of the war. These new models were radical in design and seen by all as the way of the future and they really were shiny.
When, after a lot of laughing back patting and two handed hand shaking a very happy customer left the sales desk, my father and I walked over and sat down across the desk from the dealerships owner.
“Hello, Mr. Eiler,” my father said somewhat stiffly.
“Hi, Fred. Still working on the house?” he asked as the two men shook hands.
“No, it’s about finished unless Ruby comes up with something she wants to change. But I’m not here to talk about my house, or my wife. I’m here about that new car I ordered nearly a year ago now.”
Mr. Eiler, owner of the dealership and friend of many years, sat across his desk with a white handkerchief clenched between his teeth. The man suffered from hay fever and used the handkerchief as a filter to breath through. With watery eyes, he studied my father intently.
Finally he said, almost under his breath, “Fred, I know that you don’t work in the automobile industry so I’m sure you don’t know. It’s not good enough to just put your name on a list and put up a little money. That’s just not the way automobiles are bought today. With the war over and everyone wanting a new car there aren’t enough to go around. The government sets the price on the new cars, as I’m sure you know. The trouble is, the price is so low it’s hard to make any money. So everybody in the business is taking a few hundred dollars as incentive to expedite your new vehicle’s delivery. For three hundred dollars I can get your name to the head of the list.”
I sat in awe, studying the glistening highlights on that shiny showroom model between myself and the huge front window.
My father stood up silently, with a look of complete disbelief.
“Are you telling me, Chris, that the good faith money I put up and the order I placed only entitles me to stand at the back of the line indefinitely? I shove three hundred dollars under the table you’ll move my name up on the list and then order a car for me? I’ll then have the privilege of waiting for it to come in? Seems kind of like paying ten cents to stand in line at a nickel crapper house. Now I see why you breath through that handkerchief. The air you do business in could leave a bad taste in your mouth. Couldn’t it?”
I suppose the sun went behind a cloud because I was sure the glistening highlights had disappeared off that new Plymouth’s sheen.
“Well, Fred, I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s just the way things are done now that the war’s over,” he said shaking his head side to side as though denying his own words.
“Ok, Chris. The war’s over all right and that’s not all that’s over. I’ve bought near about all my gas from you and you’ve done all my automobile work that I didn’t do myself from the day you opened your doors here. Don’t ever expect to see me come through those doors again,” he said, holding his hand out for the return of his money.
“Fred, wait a minute. Don’t be that way. This is the only way I can make any money on these cars. Set your self down and lets talk about this,” he said. He was visibly shaken, he surly did not want to make an enemy of a man so well thought of in the community.
“My money,” Fred Pollard demanded, his eyes steady on the other man unblinking. The two men, now standing, glared at each other as though each expected the other to back down.
I sure hoped it would be my father.
I knew him as a man who was kind and considerate of others feelings and whole-heartedly lived his life by the golden rule. I had never seen this hard angry side of him.
I wondered if paint had chrome in it. Maybe that’s why that new showroom model didn’t have any shine they probably didn’t have any chromium to put in the paint.
In a moment Mr.Eiler took his handkerchief out of his mouth as he returned with my dad’s money and said, “Fred, I feel bad about all this and I want to make it right. Tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you have my show room model , that gray one right there. It has a couple things on it you didn’t order but I’ll throw them in anyway. It won’t cost you a cent more just so there won’t be any hard feelings. Now how’s that.”
Suddenly that car glistened like a diamond star in the black of night.. I started for our new car but was grabbed by the shoulder and and held still.
Chris,” Fred said, ”I would sorely hate to see you loose money by selling me that car. Besides that it wouldn’t hardly be fair to move my name to the front of the list after all those folks paid three hundred dollars to be first. With fifty people all first, you shouldn’t have any problem finding someone to buy that pretty new car. I’ll take my money now.”
“Will a check be all right?” Mr. Eiler asked.
“Did I give you a Check?” Fred asked. “No,” he said answering his own question
“Cash will be fine.”
I sat slouched in my seat staring past the automobile at the rivulets of rain running down the showroom window. Surly so close after the war they didn’t have any paint either; because that new rattletrap was coated in the dullest of gray primer. Who would want such an ugly thing?
Fred Pollard never owned a new car that I remember, although my mother said he had a new model T Ford when they were young.
“ I’ll beat your brown if that isn’t a shame. He wants one, too,” my mother said, "and he ought to have it.”
I sure can’t understand any of this. Dad wants a car, Mr. Eiler wants him to have one, that’s for sure, and mom wants him to have one too. And there’s nobody wants him to have one more’n me. Shoot, I’ll bet everybody in the family wants him to have one. Why not?