The Family Boat


When people cast a nostalgic eye back, their minds often drift to warm memories of the family car. When I think back to the cars we’ve owned, though, I don’t get all misty-eyed. For decades, Ted and I never bought a new car—we always had second-hand vehicles from relatives. As a result, cars weren’t that special to us. Nonetheless, some of our best family anecdotes revolve around cars.

One frosty November day, years ago, we were driving down Kingsway Avenue in Edmonton when for some reason our trunk suddenly popped open. We turned right onto 109 Street and came to a red light, so Ted got out of the car to close the lid. He leaned over, slammed the trunk lid—and caught his tie in it.

I was sitting in the front seat with the radio turned up, waiting. Then in a quiet passage, I heard a lot of thumping and banging. I turned around and couldn’t even see Ted’s head. All I saw was his hand, pounding furiously on the trunk.

By this time the light had turned green, and cars were backed up behind us.  I tried to stretch across to find the release lever, but the car had bucket seats and I couldn’t reach it. I had to get out of the car, run around to the driver’s side, and pull the catch. By this time, Ted was absolutely livid. Cars were tooting their horns, and drivers were laughing as they drove by. Once Ted got back into the car and settled down, of course, he was able to laugh too. It must have been quite a sight!

Despite the beating it took from Ted, the car survived intact. One of our other cars wasn’t as lucky.

Back in the early ‘70s, Ted bought a massive second-hand Lincoln from his brother Jim. This beast was so unbelievably huge and heavy that we called it the Queen Mary. You can imagine the kind of mileage it got. Instead of miles per gallon, we measured it in gallons per mile!

Some people would consider the car luxurious, but it wasn’t really our style. I was never completely comfortable driving it. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car that big, you know how easy it is to lose track of your speed. I got pulled over by the police one day in a school zone, and while I wasn’t going that fast, I was certainly well over the limit. I doubly mortified, because I was a school trustee at the time.

I got out of the car, and the policeman slammed the door behind me—locking my keys in the car. I know he was embarrassed by the blunder, but he hid it well. “Next time,” he told me sternly, “keep an eye open for the school zones!” Then he got into his cruiser and drove off, leaving me to sort out the problem of my locked car.

The end came when we took the Lincoln in to Rene Parenteau’s garage for minor repairs. One of the young men at the garage didn’t realize the mechanics had removed the carburetor and tried to start the car. When it didn’t start, he pumped the gas pedal, showering the engine with gasoline. The engine burst into flames, which quickly spread. Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but the car was completely gutted.

Poor Rene! It took him almost a full day to work up the courage to phone. The next day, around noon, our son Jim got the call. Rene apologized again and again. I think he was desperately worried about what we would say.

Jim approached his father and cautiously broke the news to him. He expected Ted to be upset, but instead, his dad burst into gales of laughter. “Never did like that stupid car anyway,” he chuckled.

The car carried a bit of insurance, so we wrote it off and collected what we could. My only regret is that we were never able to give the Queen Mary a proper burial at sea.

-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry a Farmer