Windshield wipers

In recent weeks it has rained almost every day.  Soggy even for Seattle.  And it’s reminded me of the time years ago that we got a brand-new Ford Fairlane station wagon.

My Dad believed cars were to get people from point A to point B.  They were not comfortably furnished living rooms with wheels in which one might listen to a radio or indulge in frivolous playthings like electric windows or power steering.  Car = transportation.  Even so, I was 13 and excited about a new car in the family.  We’d had the old station wagon for ten years, and several delays in the delivery of the new one only heightened my sense of anticipation.

It finally arrived:  “Silver Smoke Gray,” pretty blue steel dashboard, three-speed manual transmission with shifter on the steering column, no radio, all crank-down windows, including the tailgate window.  It was Exhibit A for my Dad’s functional view of cars.

This was the era when it was practical and affordable to “go for a drive,” and we took the new car out for a spin after church one Sunday.  We ventured much farther than the usual routes, onto back roads and into countryside we’d not seen before.  I’ve always enjoyed exploring new areas and neighborhoods, and what could be better than touring in the new Fairlane?

It started to rain.  Almost immediately after turning on the windshield wipers, the bracket that connects the electric motor to the wiper arms broke.  Rain was coming down in buckets and we didn’t have a way to keep the windshield clear in the gathering darkness.  But it turned out that there was a way.  I crawled under the dashboard in my Sunday best and pulled that broken bracket back and forth by hand.  Wow – manual windshield wipers.  Perhaps this kind of out-of-the-box engineering inspired the 1968 advertising slogan, “Ford has a better idea.”

Seemed like it took us at least an hour to get home, which is a lot of pulling-that-stinking-bracket-back-and-forth-to-wipe-the-windshield.  All the sparkle and appeal of that car evaporated in that hour, and it never returned.  In fact, if someone had offered us two cents for it that afternoon, they probably would have had themselves a new car.

That was 1965, and there hasn’t been another Ford in our family since.


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