My First Car was a 1924 Ford Model T like the one above. I bought it at age 13 or 14 with money that I made selling watermelons for my Uncle Buddy at his watermelon stand in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Mine was a real rust bucket with big knots on the tires and rusty springs for seats. My stepdad, Sam, was horrified to see my new car parked in front of the house. Dea (my Mom) told Sam that if he didn't want my car in front of the house he would have to buy me a better one. Thus, to my great happiness he got me the 1935 Ford shown next.
1935 Ford - Waldron, Arkansas (and my puppy, Tippy). This was a great car with a rumble seat. Mama Gray made green seat covers for the rumble seat springs. I added chrome "Buick rings" to the front fender, chrome eyebrows on the headlights, a goose horn on each side, mud flaps on rear wheels, a real fox tail on the radio antenna, and twin steering knobs on the steering wheel. I could get 10-12 kids in this car (most in the rumble seat). This car became famous in Waldron and Scott County. It was occasionally used as a getaway car during our watermelon stealing operations.
Starting when I was just 14 years old my brother, Gary, and I would drive from Ft. Smith to Waldron on the weekends to visit with Mama and Daddy Gray. Climbing Backbone Mountain was a real thrill. We had to use first gear to get the Ford to the top. Me and Gary thought we were really something making those trips. Mama Gray always greeted us with a coke float or fresh baked pie. We later made a trip to Little Rock with my cousin, Gil, aboard. Gil had a great time honking the goose horns all way through Hot Springs. People were standing on the sidewalk watching the commotion as we passed through.
The twin steering knobs on my steering wheel were great for fast turns but if you got your sleeve caught on one of the knobs you became tied to the steering wheel and it made for some interesting turns. Once I was trying to teach Margie Henson, my girl, how to drive and she hit a tree with the right front fender. Me and Dea decided to tell Sam that someone else hit the car so he would get the fender welded.
I frequently drove Mama Gray to the grocery store as she and Daddy did not have a car at the time. I was working on my car and had taken the drivers seat out for repair. Mama needed to go to the store so I put a wooden table chair in the drivers spot and she got into the regular passenger seat. This was not really a smart thing to do. As I lifted the clutch to engage the first gear the table chair slid completely out from under me leaving me holding onto the steering wheel and balancing myself crouched on my left foot while trying to hit the brake with my right foot. The car lurched forward in several jerky moves until I finally got it stopped. Mama was scared to death and didn't know what to do. She decided to call Buddy to deliver whatever she needed at the store.
Once with a load of kids packed in the rumble seat and cabin I made a sharp turn to the left as someone had spotted some girls down the street. During the turn Wayne "Pot Lick" Johnson slid off the car and made a crash landing on the graveled pavement doing about 20 mph. I stopped and everyone ran over to him to see if he was OK. His hands and knees were pretty well skinned up, his pants and shirt were ripped up. Otherwise, he was OK so we continued our chase of the girls.
A favorite car game we used to play in Waldron was called fox and hound. Unlike most, we played this game using our cars. Always played at night one car would be designated as the hound. Everyone else was a fox. The foxes would disperse throughout Waldron and the hound would begin searching for them. Once the hound car spotted a fox car he would chase it until he could tag the fox car with his bumper. Then, the fox car would become a hound car and join in the chase for the remaining fox cars. So you never knew exactly who was a fox or hound as the game proceeded. Once when I was being chased I darted into Theo Money's an open garage which was just behind Mama and Daddy's house. With lights out I made the turn into Theo's garage. The ruts leading into the garage were filled with water and when I hit my brakes the car just kept going and I went half way through the back wall of the garage (wooden structure). When the hounds passed I backed out of the garage and the boards on the back wall fell mostly back into place (I hoped). I survived as the sole remaining fox and won the game. My passengers, Mugs Blair, Toby Thompson, Speedy DeWitt and Ronnie Hampton were most impressed at my escape and evasion skills. Much fun was had later at the Rock Cafe where everyone told their tales of the hunt.
Totally unaware of the danger and illegality of our actions I must confess we never should have done what I am about to reveal. Dea did not learn about our escapades until many, many years later (thank goodness). In 1949-1952 the hills around Waldron were pretty steep and small trucks had to get down into grandma gears to get over them at a slow speed. Many of the trucks were loaded with big fat watermelons. Me and my buddies got the bright idea of following very close behind the trucks at night to get some watermelons. One guy standing on my front bumper would jump on the back of the truck and climb to the top. He would then hand watermelons down to another guy on my bumper/hood who would then pass the watermelon to guys in the rumble seat. We would offload 7-8 watermelons for our nightly feast. It was important for the guy on top of the truck to get off before the truck topped the hill and picked up speed. One night Toby Thompson failed to get off in time and we had to drive 25 miles to the next hill to pick him up. The truckers got wise to what was going on and soon they had a guy hidden in the back of the truck who would rap you little paws with a stick of stove wood when you tried to climb aboard. After this, we reverted to the normal practice of stealing watermelons in the fields where the risk was a butt full of rock salt at the most.
I loved my 35 Ford and there are many more good stories to tell. I will add more at another time.
1942 Packard Clipper (sure wish mine looked like this one). I convinced Dea that I needed to upgrade from the 1935 Ford to this sleek looking set of wheels. This was my first car with headlights built into the fenders. It had a big straight eight cylinder engine. It could reach about 101 mph going down hill which was often accomplished on tires with red shades of the inner tubes showing through. I loved this car but it kept me broke most of the time. The engine began to use more oil than gas. It finally came to a rest in front of our house where I suspected it would stay until I could drag it off to Blythe's salvage. Miraculously, before I was totally afoot, the local Knapp shoe salesman came to my house and asked if I wanted to trade the Packard for his 1941 Studebaker. I jumped at the deal. It was later evident that it was a tossup as to who got screwed the most, me or the Knapp shoe salesman. However, I noticed that the Clipper made it to the salesman's house but don't recall ever seeing it leave there.
1941 Studebaker - Waldron, Arkansas. This little car refused to die. It had a great engine, good transmission and a strong body. Unfortunately, the front wheel undercarriage system was a nightmare waiting to happen. At times the right wheel would pop out from top to bottom at a near 35 degree angle. This would cause the front of the car to jump up and down and wobble like mad. I had to yank the steering wheel hard left and back to the right to pop the wheel back into the vertical position. Needless to say when approaching vehicles saw this going on they were not sure which direction I was going to go and they just tried to get out of my way. This happened once as Bud Blythe, the local State Highway Patrolman, was approaching me on Highway 71 near Buddy's store. Bud could not believe what he had just seen. He stopped me and ordered me to "get this wreck off the highway immediately." Soon as he left town we were back in business again.
Once on a trip returning from Heavener, Oklahoma, Toby, my back seat ballast, yelled "Jim, the gas tank just fell off". The car was still running on what gas was left in the carburetor so I was able to back up to the tank. We were able to loosen the gas line and route it up through the floorboard near the back seat. With the tank in his lap Toby held the gas line in the tank. We were able to reach Waldron and pulled into Bird's service station. When Omer Bird came out to wait on us Toby held the tank out the back window and ordered $1.00 worth of gas (about 4 gallons).
We were traveling near Mansfield, Arkansas in a blinding rain storm. The Studebaker stalled probably from water splashing up on the ignition coils. Toby was in the front seat with me with Speedy and Ronnie Hampton in the back seat. Toby was going to jump out to see if he could fix the car. Speedy, who didn't like to be outdone by Toby said "stay put Toby I'll handle this." Speedy got out of the car with the rain pounding on him. Standing in water he raised the hood and reached in with a screwdriver he had taken from the glove compartment. He called out to me to hit the starter. Soon as I hit the starter there was a bright flash, a loud zaaaap sound and the thud of Speedy's head hitting the hood. We jumped out of the car and found Speedy lying in a ditch with water running over him. We fished him out. His eyes were still spinning around. We put him in the car and he finally recovered to a near normal condition. Surprisingly, as if the Studebaker had enjoyed playing a trick on us it fired right up on the next try.
One moonlight night I was in the front seat smooching with my girl and Speedy DeWitt was in the back seat with his girl. Speedy had his head up against the back window which was partially down with his left arm around his girl. The moonlight was perfect and we were all enjoying the moments together. Suddenly, a loud blood curdling scream from the back seat panicked us all. Speedy who had been on his girl's right had suddenly flown through the air and landed on her left. He was still screaming and his hair was standing straight up. He girl was screaming to but she didn't know why. I turned my head to see what had happened and there in the window where Speedy's head had been was the most monstrous, evil looking space alien you could imagine. My girl started screaming with the others. I wasn't sure if I was going to try to save everyone or just jump out and run. Then, in the moonlight I could see what had happened. A very large cow had walked up to the car and put her big wet nose directly on Speedy's head. What a night - I am sure the four of us in the Studebaker will laugh about this all our lives.
I had this car until I graduated from Waldron High School in 1952. It had given it's all to me and was in pretty sad shape. I left the little car parked at Mama and Daddy Gray's home next to a walnut tree and their butane tank. At some point later, Daddy decided to make the fatal call to Blythe's salvage to come and take the Studebaker to it's final resting place.
I sure wish I had it back now.
1954 Ford - Commerce, Texas
1955 Olds 88 - Commerce, Texas, Winter Haven, Florida
1956 Buick Century, Laredo, Texas & Sacramento, California
1955 Caddy - Sacramento, California
TR-3 Triumph - Sioux City, Iowa
French Renault, Sioux City, Iowa (Gary and Jimmy)
Pontiac Bonneville Convertible - Tucson, Arizona
Two 1968 VW's Apple Valley, California
1972 Chevy Nova - Taiwan
Toyota Corolla - St. Petersburg, Florida
1976 Datsun 280-Z 2+2 - St. Petersburg, Florida & Clark AFB, Philippines
Dodge - Waldron, Arkansas & Commerce, Texas
1979 Ford Granada - Commerce & Midland, Texas
1982 Olds 98 - Midland, Texas
1982 Buick Century - need picture here
1984 Nissan Maxima - need picture here
1988 Honda Accord - need picture here
1989 Honda Accord - need picture here
1995 Ford Explorer - Midland, Texas
1996 Honda Accord - need picture here
2003 Honda Accord - Midland, Texas
2008 Honda Accord - Midland, Texas
2009 Toyota Venza - Midland, Texas
2011 Toyota Highlander - Midland, Texas