Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 5: Mobile Devices 80’s Style and An Unexpected Stranger

(This is part 5 of a multi-part series. If you wish to start at the beginning, click here)

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More younger childhood family cars.

Both mom and dad remarried within a few years of their divorce. My stepfather had some cool cars before we came along: A VW Bus, BMW 2002, and a Porsche 911. I believe he sacrificed a lot of fun car opportunities after in the name of family stewardship. We soon became one of millions of American families who, post gas crisis of the seventies, became enamored with Honda. Their first was a (1979) 4 door Civic Wagon they nicknamed the “Silverfish.“

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A perfectly reliable Honda (like they were for so many), the wagon filled many roles, including taking us on weekend road trips across Kansas to visit Grams. My mother and stepfather helped make the 3-4 hour trips very cool for us by hooking up a small black and white 6” TV to the 9 volt outlet. We would put the rear seats down, spread out blankets in the hatch (seat belts optional!), and turn on “Friday Fright Night” (black and white or B-grade creature features) on the local CBS affiliate, KCTV channel 5, sponsored by Adams Toyota in Raytown.

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Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 5: Mobile Devices 80’s Style and An Unexpected Stranger

We could keep reception on the little black and white almost to Topeka, when snow fuzzed the picture, and then off it went. But hey, it was mobile television! The only other way my younger self could even imagine TV in a car would be based on how far an extension cord could trail out the back.

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Brother and I each traveled with our favorite Brach’s candy snacks—his: Cinnamon Imperials (aka “Red Hots”)

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and me with Wintergreen Lozenges (aka “Pink Mints” –I have a weird fascination for those).

On very rare occasion, maybe we’d hit the Brach’s “Pick a mix” in the local grocery store before hitting the road (Oh, how I miss those).

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Mom soon acquired a (1980 or ‘81) Honda Accord and that was another steady transport.

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Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 5: Mobile Devices 80’s Style and An Unexpected Stranger

In fact, I saw a 2018 bringatrailer auction for an Accord that was the spitting image of hers, and it inspired me to prose out this memory:

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They were a youngish couple, looking proximately at their 40 milestones, both on their second marriages. I’ll call them Mom and Stepdad.

They, enjoying a Saturday night out in this exact model and color. Walking to their car in the Shoney’s parking lot.

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He, a dark haired stranger. Nobody knew where he came from. Probably no one cared where he went. He didn’t have to be seen, but he picked this youngish couple. Followed them, cautiously, at a distance, but not afraid either. Was he looking for something?

A handout?

Possibly. He had no family, could only provide for himself with whatever talents he could scrape together. The couple noticed him, watched him curiously as he followed them out to their car. What did he want? What were his intentions? A sense of adventure must have seized the young couple as well, as they were now transfixed by this stranger, and made no attempt to hurry away.

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They reached their vehicle and stopped, turning around to see what the stranger would do. One of them, in a rather impulsive moment, opened the rear door of this 4-door Honda, invitingly. Surely not expecting this total stranger to continue to come forward and accept an impromptu invitation.

The stranger paused ever so slightly, then leapt into the inviting cloth back seat with as daring a move as the original invitation was.

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The following day, Children (I’ll call them me and my older brother) were picked up at Dad’s at the conclusion of the shared custody weekend. The dark haired stranger was still in the back seat. The Children’s curiosity was immediately piqued. Who was this? Black hair, green eyes, tuft of white on his chest. He seemed to ask the same of us? “Who are you, round brown eyes, small hands, reaching out to touch me? Are you joining this family too?” Indeed, the introductions went well.

For the next 16 years, we had our family pet. I’m convinced people only get one really good cat in their lives.

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Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 5: Mobile Devices 80’s Style and An Unexpected Stranger

This tough old tom, who would share the heat floor grate in the morning as we all tried to get warm before trudging off to school, would share a bed cover with you on most nights (depending on which brother won the fight to get him) or sick days. The tomcat that would stare down the holy terrier in the back neighbor’s yard and have no qualms about chasing his yappy little keester away if he happened to believe today was his lucky day. The tom that we once pulled into the driveway and saw carousing with some hot fluffy white number no one had ever seen before or since, and this Dean Martin look on his face, like “What? You all think I don’t have a social life too?”

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We were a Honda family. He outlived three of ‘em. I can still see him in the back seat of this one on that day we were introduced.

Illustration for article titled Life in Cars: Part 5: Mobile Devices 80’s Style and An Unexpected Stranger
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Please join me soon for Part 6.

Summary:

HP: 59hp (1979 Honda Civic Wagon); 89 hp (1980-81 Honda Civic Sedan)

Torque: 69ft-lb (1979 Honda Civic Wagon); 91ft-lb (1980-81 Honda Civic Sedan)

Let’s just say they really purred.

Interesting facts: One otherwise normal day when my mom and stepdad were dating, he was driving us all around in the VW bus. He had to make a sudden stop and I came flying forward from the back bench, impacting face first into the unyielding front dash panel. I was bloody mess, but no serious injuries. My no-seatbelt behavior finally caught up to me. Another physics lesson in momentum.

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Soundtrack: Theme to Friday Fright Night

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