The Vehicle I Never Forgot
My parents never owned a Pontiac, but I was sorry to read a newspaper story saying that General Motors will stop making them next year. They've already stopped making Oldsmobiles. During the years I was in school, we owned an Oldsmobile, a Ford, a Dodge and a Packard. I liked the Olds, but our Packard was by far the best car we ever had.
We weren't rich, but my father made good money during the Depression. My mother controlled the bank account and did most of the driving, so we owned a Packard. It was the best car I ever knew until I got my jeep in the Army.
We had a good house with five bedrooms in town, a summer place on a lake 70 miles away, and my sister and I both went to private schools that cost money. My parents could afford to own that Packard. That was as close as we came to being really rich. The Packard was a great car then and my memory of it is that it was better than the car we own today, 70 years later. You had to shift the gears manually. The car easily went faster than it was legal to drive and was all around classier than either of the two cars I have now.
Our cottage on the lake was three hours from home, and week after week my mother drove the car 70 mph for three hours getting to our cottage. I don't remember any time the car didn't perform well and didn't take us where we wanted to go...quickly. Our Packard always felt good, too. I wish I could own one now and I still have a soft spot in my heart for Packards.
Beginning with the cars I drove that my mother and father owned and including all the cars and trucks I drove in the Army, I suppose I've driven more than 20 cars for more than 10,000 miles, and a few of them a lot farther than that. I'm not counting hundreds of cars I've rented and driven.
In London, I had my own jeep during World War II because I drove out to one of the airfields to report on the frequent occasions when there were air raids emanating from there. After the Invasion, June 6, 1944 (we always capitalized it because to us there was only one), I took my Jeep to France and Germany, following the infantry troops everywhere they went.
It seems wrong, but I cannot recall now whether "jeep" was capitalized or not when I had mine. I never mentioned it in my stories then, so it didn't matter. I'm uncertain, but as I recall, "jeep" didn't become an uppercase, proper name until after the war, when the makers wanted it known that they produced it. The jeep was made originally by the American Bantam Car Company in Pennsylvania, and both Ford and Willys shortly after got into making them. (I don't know what happened to the Bantam Car Company.)
I loved my jeep during the war and took it everywhere I went. I drove it dangerously close to the front, ate in it, slept in it and did interviews in it. The jeep was my home away from home. It never let me down, and I remember to this day when I gave it up to come back to the United States. I wouldn't have abandoned it for anything less.
During World War II, I traveled mostly with a press camp comprising 18 or 20 newsmen and one woman. There were seven jeeps for the reporters. Every day, I went to a different unit near the front, looking for a good story and other reporters always wanted to go with me. It wasn't only that I had my own jeep, but as a reporter for the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, which was circulated only among our servicemen, I was no competition for the American reporters sending stories back to the U.S.
I hope they don't discontinue the Jeep.
(Write to Andy Rooney via email at email@example.com)
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