Thursday, June 02, 2011

Doris and Me

 (This is another in the seemingly endless series of stories about a boy and his old, used cars.)

I've often thought that there was a glaring omission on our High School diplomas. I looked at it the other day just to make sure I was right and, no doubt about it, there was not one mention of the Carolina Theater.

That's a shame.

Carolina Theater Balcony
I venture to say that I learned about as much from the balcony of the Carolina Theater as I ever did from sitting in a classroom in school. That university on North Tryon Street was where I learned about LIFE!

Now, unfortunately, I had to unlearn just about all of it, but that's not the point. A diploma's only purpose, in my opinion, is to verify where you got your education. In that respect, my sheepskin fell woefully short of that goal.

By 1958, the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry phase of my life was far behind me and I was entering my Rock Hudson era.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson
School was over at last, I had a full time job, I was carefree and single and, … only two things were missing: .....(well, three actually, but there wasn't a damn thing I could do about NOT resembling Rock Hudson in the least) a sports car... and Doris Day!  (my OWN Doris Day, of course.)

Being the attentive student that I was, my lessons at the Carolina had taught me that, like dawn follows night, without the sports car, there would be no "Doris Day."

So began the TRIUMPH TR3 chapter of my life.

Again, it was a used car, but it was made in England (1955) so there was no question that it was an authentic, sports car; foreign, fast, all thrills, and no frills. (One of comedian Mort Sahl's jokes at the time was about an American sports car finishing a race in Europe.....”even though the radio and heater had gone out”) According to the ultra sophisticated Sports Car crowd at the time, only Europeans knew how to make real sports cars. According to them, the fewer conveniences the better.

(That was like saying, “only the French really know how to take proper baths.”)

1955 Triumph TR3
At any rate, my TR3 certainly qualified. It was manufactured in England, had no radio, no clock, no inside door handles, (you had to pull a “string” to open it), no roll up windows, so if you wanted more fresh air, you had to use a large screw driver-type tool and remove the entire side panel OR take the top down.)

It had an inside starter, but I think that was an afterthought, perhaps included only for Triumphs sold in this country, because there was a very prominent crank included with the car (which came in handy many times when the battery died, which seemed to occur about every two months).

Once you removed the leather top and side panels (it was a “rag top, as we sports car aficionados called it) and placed them in the trunk with the crank, there was not much room for anything else.

I also learned that the Brits never could get the English language quite right either.

They called the hood......a bonnet
The trunk.....a boot
and a wrench......a spanner,
just to name a few.

But, the TR3 and I persevered, because I knew in my heart that "Doris Day" was waiting!

My career got a big boost when the CBS radio and TV station in Washington hired me in 1961. I packed all my belongings, which luckily were few, and stuffed them in that little blue TR3.....cranked it started and headed for THE BIG TIME (in my mind, anyway).

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't get much better than being 25 years old, on a beautiful spring day driving a cute little sports car to a brand new job in the exciting city of Washington , DC!

I felt like I was sitting in the Carolina Theater watching myself starring in my own movie.

Perhaps my future Doris was waiting for me up there!

All was going well for me in the big city until one morning in September when I left my apartment to go to work.

I'll tell you about that in part two of my TR3 Saga entitled,