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Memories of and 80-year-old—First time with the family automobile

By LEE MEYER of DeGraff

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Most of us recall the very first time we were allowed to take the family automobile all by ourselves. But how many can recall the exact date? I’m one of the few that know the exact date my parents allowed me to take the family Buick all by myself. The date was May 15, 1953.

How do I remember this exact date?

In 1953, my family lived on a farm eight miles south of Benson. TV was in it’s early years, and reception in rural areas was not reliable. My father had erected a large telephone pole next to our home, and installed a television antenna on top. The reception was still not reliable, and downright terrible many times, especially when there was a program or special event we all wanted to watch.

So what was happening on May 15, 1953, that was so important I would remember the date and details of the event 65 years later?

A big heavyweight boxing match was being televised between Rocco Francis Marchegiano & Jersey Joe Walcott. This match was for the Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Some of you older readers may remember Rocco by the name of Rocky Marciano, who later retired undefeated. These two had fought earlier on Sept. 23, 1952, when Walcott was the champion and Marciano was an up-and-coming promising fighter. In this fight the champion Walcott knocked Marciano down in the first round, and was ahead on points going into the 13th round when Marciano landed a knockout punch to become the new heavyweight champion.

Since Walcott had been well ahead on points when he was knocked out, he was eager for a rematch. The Marciano people were not really excited about scheduling a re-match, however the promoters put together the rematch on May 15, 1953.

I was extremely interested in watching this heavyweight rematch; however, was also worried about the reception we would get out on the farm.

One of my best high school friends’ father was the Cadillac Oldsmobile dealer in Benson. They also had great television reception, and my friend Doug had invited some of us to come to his house and watch the fight.

At the last minute, I convinced my father to let me take our Buick, alone, for the very first time in my life, to Benson to watch the fight at Doug’s home.

My father agreed but had a rigid set of rules prior to my leaving for my friend Doug’s house.

1.) I could leave the farm 15 minutes before the fight started.

2.) Since he was going to either watch the fight on our TV, if the reception was good, or listen to the fight on the radio, I was expected to be home to the farm 15 minutes after the fight was over.

These rules didn’t bother me too much, because I still was going to have the family car for a couple of hours -- figuring a 15-round heavyweight fight would take some time.

The fact that our family car would spend most of this time parked in front of my friend Doug’s home, was OK by me.

Promptly 15 minutes before fight time, I eagerly pulled out of our farm yard, headed to my friend Doug’s home in Benson. I was on top of the world, driving the car alone, all by myself. I was living the dream of every 15 year old boy.

As I pulled in front of Doug’s home, much to my delight, Doug and a couple of other friends were there to witness me driving up alone, big-shot with the family Buick. Into the living room we went, just in time for the introduction of the fighters, Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott.

As we settled back to watch a great 15 round heavyweight fight, I was enjoying the fact that parked outside was the family Buick, which was mine for a couple of hours. Even though I was rooting for Marciano to defend his heavyweight crown, I was not prepared for the outcome. Two minutes and 25 seconds into the first round, Marciano landed a knockout punch on Walcott’s chin, and I was in the Buick headed back to the farm.

All total, I had control of the family Buick for about 45 minutes!

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