It was a wedding weekend for us. First on Saturday at Merrick State Park, our own Sarah Elmquist married Chris Squires. The park is a beautiful one, upriver from Fountain City, and the campground where the reception was held is along a well-traveled and fished slough. The bride was beautiful in an ecru beaded gown adorned with sweeps of chiffon. The groom was handsome, too.
From the Wisconsin wedding we traveled to Minneapolis for the wedding reception of our old friend George Sawyer to Dee Dee Ackerman. They were married in August in New Mexico, where George’s sister, Jean, has a ranch. This reception was for their Minnesota friends and family. There were also a few of George’s Winona school friends, John among them. It was good to see them, too.
It’s a strange thing to re-meet people you haven’t seen for nearly forty years. If you see people on a regular basis, you hardly register that they have changed over the years. They still look like the same person you went to school with or worked with.
But at the reception, as I looked around, I would see people I thought looked vaguely familiar, but couldn’t place. I could tell they were looking at me thinking the same thing.
As the evening went on, and we milled about talking to people, I finally encountered two men that I’d been exchanging glances with during the evening. They recognized me before I did them, but women are at a distinct advantage what with the miracles of salon work and underwear with shaping fibers woven in.
It turns out they are friends of George that I met because I had bought a 1961 Morgan Plus 4, which I had no business buying. But George made me buy it, and I will be forever grateful, especially since he was willing to help me out when things went wrong with it, which was often. For things George couldn’t fix, which turned out to be a few, Donnie Angst was my mechanic in Winona and a nice Communist mechanic guy in my Minneapolis neighborhood worked on it, too. Donnie is the one who discovered that the axle was assembled backwards and was the reason that the knockoff hubs would unwind and drop with a clank onto the street and have to be retrieved before the wheels fell off.
The Morgan is a beautiful car. Like an old MG TD with longer and more sensuous lines. It was built on a wood frame, and had a Triumph engine and crazy Jaguar transmission. It also had a leather strap which held the “bonnet” (hood) down and was a great conversation starter. The spare tire sat behind the driver, it had a leather convertible roof, plastic rain flaps, and a heater, defroster and windshield wipers that would make the old Model T seem like the Cadillac Esplanade of creature comforts.
When I bought the car, for $2,000, I didn’t know four things: how much trouble it would be, how much fun it would be to drive, that I would have to eat 3/$1 chicken pot pies for a year, and what a guy magnet it was.
In fact, when I re-met these old friends, that’s pretty much what they remembered about me and what they wanted to talk about. The car is still a legend. Especially it is a legend in this recession, when hardly anyone can fathom having the expendable income to buy a car you know is going to cost you many times the purchase price to keep running, shouldn’t be driven in the winter, and getting into and out of might throw your back out and ruin your golf game. It took me back to a time in my life that was both among the best and worst, as late teens and early twenties can be. Never had I experienced such fun at one end of the spectrum and loneliness at the other. It was the first time since I was born that I was not continually surrounded by people I knew and loved. But finally my loneliness was resolved when John and I settled on having a future together, and I am once more continually surrounded by loved ones.
When John and I decided to get married, I sold the car for what I had paid for it to a friend of George who eventually took the car back to his home on the East Coast, John Farrar. He died while still young. But he had sold the car to a dentist in Connecticut or Pennsylvania or somewhere, and I hope it is still running.
I wish I could buy it back for $2,000!