I’ve always had nicknames for my cars. My first, a 1947 Ford sedan, was Possum — so called because he often played dead. Time after time, with a little help from a mechanically talented friend, I was able to bring Possum back to life. But this time Possum was really dead. Roadkill dead. Junkyard dead.
Only that great Mechanic In The Sky could know how many miles Possum had traveled, because the odometer was long ago broken. My dad bought Possum for me in 1957 for $75 and he had been my companion for about three years when his exhaust belched for the last time.
Today, many 13-year-old cars run beautifully, but back then, a still dependable vehicle of that age was a rarity. (I recently saw a restored 1947 Ford advertised for $26,000!)
Possum had no trade-in value, and I had very little money for a down payment. But I had to have transportation to and from my minimum wage disc-jockey job. So I summoned the courage to walk into the bank to see if I could borrow enough money for another car.
I was interviewed by a man named Mr. Whitaker. As I sat nervously across the desk from him, I must have looked like one of those crime suspects you see being interrogated on TV.
Mr. Whitaker asked me about my family. He said he knew my dad and remembered that he was a good football player in high school. He also remembered when Dad was drafted into the army and came home with a war injury. He knew Dad had gone into the ministry and was now pastor of a church.
The banker asked about my job and how much money I made. When I told him, there was a long pause. He then asked if that was my only source of income. When I said yes . . . another long pause. Then Mr. Whitaker stood up and excused himself.
When he left the room, I sat thinking about my situation. I knew I was going to be turned down for the loan. I remember thinking that maybe I could get a room near the radio station so I could walk to work. But what about my girlfriend and our dates to the drive-in theater? Mercy me! What a fix I was in.
Mr. Whitaker returned to his desk with a couple sheets of paper in his hand. He slowly pulled the chair back from his desk, sat down, put the papers on the desk, and spoke words that have stayed with me my entire life. “Son, I don’t know you, but I know your dad. So I’m going to let you have the money.”
“I don’t know you, but I know your dad.” What a blessing to have a father with that kind of reputation.
Like many young people, early in my working career I struggled financially and made some poor decisions, such as buying things I couldn’t afford. One such purchase was an automobile.
For me, there was no hell on earth worse than having bill collectors constantly barking at my heels: showing up at my workplace demanding money, threatening to garnish my wages, ringing my phone at all hours.
One day 50 years ago, I’d had enough, and I made a resolution. I’ll straighten out my finances and never, ever be late making any kind of payment. The first thing I did was call the finance company telling them to come get the car. I rode Shank’s Mare the four-mile round trip to work for several months. Cheap! And good exercise, too.
I’m proud to say I’ve kept that resolution all these years, thanks in part to those words spoken by Mr. Whitaker . . . and most of all, thanks to the reputation and example of my father.
I haven’t had a call from a bill collector in 50 years. Now, if I could only do something about those robocalls!
After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.