Wakefield High School Crest

Wakefield High School Class of 1959

Arlington, Virginia

Wakefield Warrior
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Andy Barker

1957 DeSota Fireflite

The 1957 DeSoto. Look at those lines. Sculpture in motion. And it was my car on Saturday nights. All I had to do was wash it once a week, wax it every month or so, and fill it up with gas.

On this particular balmy, autumn evening of my senior year, I had a date with a blue-eyed, black-haired beauty from the junior class. We decided to go to the Sunset Drive-In on Route 7 to see a Frankenstein movie. After purchasing Cokes and bags of popcorn from the snack bar, we strolled back to the car. Like a gentleman, I opened the door on the passenger side for the young woman to get in, but instead of closing the door behind her, I slipped into the seat next to her.

When we had finished our drinks and popcorn, I casually rested my elbow on the back of the seat—too shy to put my arm around her. In the movie, we watched a blonde start to climb a rickety staircase. At the top was the laboratory where Dr. Frankenstein had created his hideous monster by sewing together various parts of cadavers. As the music built to a climax, I knew a dramatic confrontation was imminent.

If I frighten my date, she’ll fall into my arms and that will break the ice.

I moved my hand behind the seat. Then, at the instant the blonde opens the door and the monster’s face appears, I grabbed my date by the neck.

She jumped up, so startled that her head hit the roof with the impact of a cannon ball.

When she came down, she clutched onto me. “You scared me half to death!”

“Jeez, I’m sorry. Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she said, rubbing her neck, “but I think I damaged your father’s car.”

We looked up and in the light coming from the movie screen, we saw a round indentation—the size of her head—in the headliner fabric.

The next morning I went out to the parking lot to inspect the damage from the outside. There it was—a bubble, the size of a cantaloupe, protruding from the car’s hardtop.

Over breakfast, I told my father what happened.

“When I was about your age,” he said, “I rolled my father’s Model T with my favorite gal in the seat beside me. Thank god, we walked away without injury… To teach you a lesson, you’re grounded for two months and have to pay for the repairs to my car.”

The next incident etched into my memory took place in the early morning hours after the senior prom. My date—let’s call her Ann—and I were on Shirley Highway, driving back from the Brickskeller in Washington, D.C. She’d had too much beer to drink, so she kicked off her white satin high heels, stretched out on the front seat, and put her head in my lap. A few minutes later, I felt something warm on my legs. She coughed and the vile odor of her vomit assaulted my senses. At her house, I had to carry her to her doorstep.

Although I scrubbed the upholstery on the front seat of my father’s car, nothing could rid the smell nor remove the stain. And, of course, my rental tuxedo was ruined. For that mistake, I had to work all summer as a bus boy at a diner in Virginia Beach to repay my debts.

It’s ironic that in Japan I don’t own a car and haven’t for many years. But the memories surrounding the 1957 DeSoto still occupy a warm place in my heart.

Note: The photo above is not of my father’s car, which was two-toned green; it is courtesy of RemarkableCars.com. To see additional views of this $95,000 restored classic: http://www.remarkablecars.com/ppads/showproduct.php/product/3963