Writing a story about a classic car leads to thoughts of an old friend
Do you ever pause to consider the, “what if?” You know, taking a little time to reflect on the journey — reviewing the course of events responsible for meeting someone or experiencing something that changed your life? Then trying to visualize how different your life might have been had you chosen the other path at any crossroads, knowing that not only the journey, but also the destination, would have been vastly different.
That’s where I found myself last week while crafting a magazine story about an old car. I watched the words I typed as they appeared on my computer screen ... “The white ‘55 Ford Crown Victoria calling my garage home for the last five years made a short trip coming across the Texas/Louisiana border from Bossier City to Center. But, it was a familiar trip. My long-time, very good friend, Joe Greene, had owned the car for almost as long as I had been calling him my friend.”
The story I was writing told of an old car, but my mind focused on the friend I found in Joe Greene. Sadly, we lost Joe earlier this year. Our 30-plus year journey with him left me cherishing wonderful memories made with Joe and his wife, Mary, and the many car shows, club meetings, road trips and garage sessions we shared as classic car enthusiasts and as best of friends. His trademark laughter was contagious, and his teasing personality with a desire to make others laugh made him an instant friend to everyone he met. Generous to a fault, he was always concerned more for his family and friends’ well-being than he was for his own.
The journey leading me to meet Joe and Mary was accomplished in old cars. Restoring old cars was a second career for Joe after 30-plus years in the military.
He always had several projects of his own in progress, plus a number of customers’ cars to which he was applying his skills. But, the “car in the story” last week wasn’t the path to our meeting. That honor goes to a common passion for the Ford Thunderbirds known as “Little Birds” from the mid-50s.
Old cars and fast cars were my passion growing up in Mount Pleasant, one that continues today. Truthfully, it is still a disease for which I can find no cure — not that I’m looking for one, mind you. But, I was looking for my first “Little Bird” in the early 80s when I found one in Dallas. The seller told me the first thing to do was join a local chapter of the Classic Thunderbird Club International, adding that the closest one to me was the Ark-La-Tex Bayou Birds in Shreveport.
That ’57 Thunderbird purchased in Dallas, that took me to a car club meeting in Shreveport, was the journey to shaking hands with Joe Greene. That meeting, however, was not a destination, but the beginning of a new journey.
The “car in the story” ’55 Ford started as one of Joe’s projects soon after we met. Not long after, I also bought one the same cars in Lubbock. After 10 years of our making memories together, that car went to a new owner in Fredericksburg during a temporary lapse of good judgement on my part. I regretted the sale before the car was ever out of sight.
I don’t know how many years Joe worked on the “car in the story,” but progress was slow with little spare time from customers’ cars to devote to his own. Over time, however, it was immaculately restored in typical Joe Greene fashion, and shared garage space for several years with others in his personal collection.
When Joe decided to part with the car a few years ago, he remembered how much I missed my first one and gave me first opportunity to buy his. He knew the answer he would get before he called me.
I’ve put less than 1,000 miles on the car in the last five years.
It gets out of the garage during nice weather for weekend pleasure cruises and for events with our Center car club, the Shelby County Cruisers.
Life is filled with wonderful journeys. For me, some of the best has been meeting people along the way with common interests in preserving the best generation of automobiles that ever rolled on American roads.
While the cars are fun and rewarding experiences, writing the story last week about the destination of one 1955 Ford Crown Victoria and recalling the journey, makes me appreciate even more that the happiness in the journey is forming friendships with people like Joe and Mary Greene.
—Leon Aldridge can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other Aldridge columns appear on his blog site at leonaldridge.com