Carful of memories

Reporter learns true value of cars goes beyond money

Green Laker reporter Hannah Tetzlaff and her father, Steve, stand next to a red Ford convertible that caught their eye while strolling around the Street Cruzers Inc. Car Show in Berlin.         Cathy Tetzlaff photo

By Hannah Tetzlaff

My dad never viewed his restored 1974 Thunderbird as simply a car with a price tag.

For him, it was the vehicle for all his memories.

The Thunderbird was the first automobile that he bought while he was in the Marine Corps.

It was the car that he drove when he took my mom out on their first date, when he pulled away from the church after they were just married and when he sped to the hospital for the unexpected birth of their first child.

Those memories and many more were housed in that car, but I never realized the significance of this until I attended the Street Cruzers, Inc. Car Show Sunday, Aug. 14 in Berlin.

Originally, I wasn’t planning on going to a car show — it’s hard to plan on something when you don’t know about it — so picture my confusion when my father barged in at 8 in the morning on Sunday and invited me to one.

Despite the lack of foreknowledge, I went because it was my dad’s, grandpa’s and Uncle Scott’s first show, and I wanted to support them.

The event had more than 500 entries participating with vehicles of various makes and ages.

I saw a convertible Volkswagen that reminded me of the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo, an old vehicle used for surfing, an entirely pink 1947 Mercury and an imitation of the car from Dukes of Hazzard.

Though there were plenty of interesting vehicles, the one that caught my attention most was a 1947 Midget race car.

It was the appearance that attracted me, but it was the owner’s story which made me stay and learn more.

Owner Bob Clements of Montello was the second driver for the car and had raced it for about 19 years, from the  mid-1950s to the early 1970s.

He loved racing in that Midget, and even recalled a time when he crashed the car, causing him to fly about 200 feet in the air and crack his helmet. Though the accident landed him in the emergency room, he couldn’t wait to return to racing.

Sadly, the car was parked for good, and it wasn’t until 1984, when Clements found the badly-beaten car and bought it from the owner.

After three years of restoring and piecing the race car back to its original form, Clements finished the Midget and was rewarded for his efforts. About three times a year, he drives the vehicle in vintage race car meets, allowing him to relive his past.

Listening to Clements recall his memories with the Midget car made me think of my own father and the car of his youth.

And not only my father, but the other entrees as well.

How many memories or stories were stored away in those cars as well?

Because of that profound moment, I couldn’t view cars the same way again.

When people passed by and complimented my dad on his T-bird, I didn’t assume they were looking just at the monetary value or the outer appearance.

When they said, “Nice car, man. Continue to take good care of it,” I knew what they were really saying.

“All the work and effort you poured into it has really paid off. You have restored the past. Now, cherish it and all the memories you’ve created with it.”