I practice my speech?"
I had been on the used car lot for only a few days
when a kindly Baptist minister from northern
Virginia bought me. Immediately we headed
east and I began my new life serving as an
all-purpose car for his church congregation.
Sometimes a Sunday School class would pile in ten
or twelve at a time, overflowing my three rows of
seats. Other times I carried succulent
offerings prepared for church dinners and church
outings. On one occasion I was even lent to
a young couple who had just been married in the
church. They didn't own a car and I provided
a means for them to go on a short honeymoon.
But whatever my task, I was always driven
carefully and treated with respect. The
years passed most pleasantly.
It was a stifling day in August of 1963 when my
owner met a fellow minister at the Washington,
D.C. airport. "If you don't mind, may I
practice my speech while we drive?" the
stranger asked. As we drove toward the
Lincoln Monument we listened -- utterly
spellbound. "My God," my owner
softly whispered. "You have written the
Gettysburg Address for Our People."
Briefly hesitating he added, "I especially
like your use of the phrase 'I have a dream' a
time or two near the end of the speech. May
I humbly suggest you enumerate about a half dozen
more of Our Dreams -- and each time repeat the
phrase 'I have a dream'. Let it build and climax
in a giant crescendo that will be remembered for
My owner and I had witnessed and in our own small
way contributed to a moment in history. And
so it was a sad day when several years later I was
informed that the church, having now grown
considerably in size, had decided to buy a small
bus. I knew the church's meager budget did
not allow for two vehicles and I was heartbroken,
although I tried hard not to let it show. I
fought back the tears and tried to demonstrate a
quiet dignity in keeping with that which I had
been privileged to have been surrounded by.
I had left the Glenview with a sense of
apprehension. I was now leaving my minister
and the church congregation with a profound sense
"This is the car I was talking about, Brian.
The wood is in really great shape. We can paint it
and shine it up and it'll make a perfect
prop." I was perplexed, but the next
day I found myself on a trailer headed west
cross-country. Only a week later I emerged
from a Los Angeles body and paint shop looking
brand new. What a fantastic feeling! I
also found myself adorned with a new roof rack
that had two shiny colorful surfboards mounted on
"One, two. One, two, three, four.
Everybody's gone surfin', Surfin' USA."
The crowd roared! Surrounded by potted
palms, surfboards, amplifiers and giant speakers,
I was now part of the Beach Boys concert stage
show. What a life! Carefully driven from
city to city I was polished before every show.
During rehearsals I took the stage and then
patiently waited for an evening of great music --
not to mention the admiring looks of thousands of
fans. I enjoyed the privileges of celebrity
with none of the responsibility. Young all
over again, I was living a fantasy few woodies
could ever dream of!
In 1968 a real life drama briefly took center
stage. It was an era when protest was the
order of the day. While waiting alone on
stage I became aware my tailgate window was being
raised and someone was placing a package on my
third-row seat. Instinctively I suspected it
might be a bomb. I waited nervously as the
crowd began to arrive, but no one noticed the
suspicious package. I felt the extreme
urgency of the situation. I had to call out
the only way I could. Blasting my horn as if it
were stuck brought attention and the needed help.
"This would have blown away the entire
stage," the bomb-squad captain said.
"What a lucky coincidence the woody's horn
would go off all by itself!"
Too soon the sixties transitioned into the
seventies. Concerts became fewer and at a
quarter of a century in age I once again found
myself up for sale. General Eisenhower, Dr. King,
the Beach Boys -- it had been a great run.
Forrest Gump had nothing on me!
I was feeling the ravages of wear and tear as well
as just plain old age like never before. My
life seemed to be in a state of ever-accelerating
deterioration. In what seemed like an instant, I
had become nothing more than a glorified cargo
truck for an endless string of very forgettable
owners. I hauled melons in Moline, pigs in
Paducah, and trash in Tulsa. Life no longer held
any joy. As the years blurred I found myself
out west working in towns from Yuma to Yakima, and
everywhere in between. I was now thirty
years old and clearly my best days were behind me.
I often consoled myself with memories of the
wonderful and privileged life I had known.
As I crisscrossed the country I often reflected
back on the glorious years I toured with the Beach
Boys. Now that was the way to see America!
But time was no longer my friend and happy moments
were few and far between. Ironically one of the
rare bright spots in my life during this period
occurred outside the United States in the rugged
wilderness of Saskatchewan, Canada. I was a
carryall at a "Boys' Ranch", a nice name
for a reform school. I enjoyed the healthy
outdoor life style that seemed to serve many of
the boys so well. In the evening I was
especially popular with the boys as they would
often sneak out of their dormitory and gather
around me to listen to my radio. I was old
enough that no ignition key was needed to turn on
my radio. From hard metal to disco to the
Bee Gees -- I loved it all. "Hey, I
used to tour with the Beach Boys!" But
of course they couldn't hear me -- and I doubt any
would have been the least bit impressed anyway.
I liked most of the boys although a few did seem
incorrigible, especially the one who displayed the
indignity of carving his initials, "D.R.",
in my wood. I think it must have stood for
"damn retard". But all in all,
Saskatchewan was not bad. Frankly, it was
the only "home" during this period of my
life that I even care to remember.
Things seemed to be on a non-stop downhill slide.
I really didn't think my life could get much
worse, but I was about to be proven wrong.
It would be a misstatement to say that the quality
of my life had deteriorated. There was no quality.
From Saskatchewan I eventually headed even farther
north. I was driven up the Alcan Highway to
Alaska. There I continued to work hard until
one day my trusty Flathead V-8 could simply go on
no longer. I was abandoned along a
backcountry road many miles from the nearest
civilization. There were many days when not a
single car passed by. The winter cold was
unbearable and the passing of the seasons took a
relentless toll. I was resigned to spend
eternity in the never-ending ice-hell I called
"Has this got beach written all over it or
what!" As I slowly emerged from my
drowsy state of hibernation, I realized two young
men were examining every wrinkle and scar on my
rusted and battered body. "If we can
haul this piece of junk back down to Malibu we can
make a fast buck selling it to some surfer."
Although I wasn't offended at being called junk, I
really didn't approve of the mercenary tone of
their words. But all I could think about was
the warm California sun. I offered no
resistance as they loaded me on the back of their
flatbed truck. A week later I found myself
parked along a busy street in Malibu with a For
Sale sign in my window. Two or three people
a day looked me over. However my sad state of
repair, especially my decaying wood panels, made
anything but a good first impression. I was
quickly losing hope.
Then one afternoon a young man who looked to be in
his late twenties slowly walked up to me.
There was an air of familiarity in his manner -- I
felt as if I knew him. I sensed instantly
that he wanted me and the following day he
returned to tow me away. As he attached me
behind his pickup he whispered, "Hi! My
name's Dave, and you're about to start a new life
as my own special beach cruiser. I've
dreamed about a woody like you for a long time,
Little Buddy." It was all too much.
Somehow I had been saved from a frozen eternity in
Alaska. It was as if I had died and gone to
Heaven, otherwise known as Malibu Beach.
As my new owner worked on my engine I felt the
skilled yet gentle hands of a caring mechanic.
"I hope you understand that I can't really
afford to fix your body, Little Buddy," he
said. "It would be futile what with the
salt air and all." He continued, "You
know, I once lived at a place that had a woody
just like you." Chuckling, he added,
"I was a pretty wild child back then.
But that was in Canada and the woody I knew there
was maroon, not blue." It was him --
the retard! Now I knew why he seemed so
familiar. My new owner was none other than
the kid at the boys' ranch who had so brazenly
carved his initials in my wood! The initials
were still there but long ago they had been
covered up when a bumper sticker was slapped over
them. And along the way one of my owners had
painted me blue. But my faith in humanity
was restored. If there was ever a case of a
wayward kid turning his life around, Dave was it.
He had grown up to be a hard working and
considerate person. I was now proud to carry
his initials, even if he didn't know.
Then came the most incredible surprise of my life,
even topping Malibu. "Better start practicing
your hula moves, Little Buddy. We're going
to Maui!" I was in a state of euphoric
disbelief. "I got a job shaping
surfboards for a shop in Kihei", he
continued. "From now on it's sun and
endless golden beaches for us!" In less
than two weeks I was loaded aboard a Matson
transport ship and on my way. A few days
later I arrived in Honolulu and was immediately
transferred to an inter-island barge bound for
Dave and I enjoy a wonderful life. Weekdays
are usually spent parked in front of the surf shop
where my owner works. With an array of
surfboards strapped to my roof rack I earn my
keep, serving as a unique billboard for the shop.
All day long an endless chain of tourists in their
rental cars stream by. Many make U-turns and
pull into the surf shop parking lot to admire me
and often to pose for a picture next to me.
"Can you imagine the life this old Ford must
have lived?" is a common comment, as is
"What a story I bet this old Cruiser could
tell." Yes sir! Yes indeed.
I Had a Nickel
Life is truly good. Few are so fortunate as
to spend their Golden Years lounging on the soft
sand beaches on Maui. There isn't a beach on
the island that Dave and I haven't been to
innumerable times. Wherever there's a swell
and the waves are breaking, that's where we are.
Whether it's before work, after work or on a day
off, Dave and I traverse the island endlessly in
search of that one perfect wave.
From Flemings Beach to Launiupoko Park -- from
Kamaole Beach Park to Makena Beach -- from
Spreckelsville to Kanaha Beach -- this is my life,
my wonderful life. All are fantastic
beaches, but my favorite has to be Hookipa Beach.
Located just outside the old plantation town of
Paia, Hookipa Beach is the Windsurfing Capital of
the world. It is also a gathering place for
old Cruisers like myself. There might be a
few who are appalled by our looks, but our rust
and our dings are simply the scars of a rich and
full life -- and we wear them proudly. My fellow
Cruisers and I are unanimous. Each of us
would far rather meet our Maker on a sunny Maui
beach than to be preserved forever within the
sterile confines of some climate-controlled
"What a neat woody!" (Older people call
me neat.) "What a cool Cruiser!"
(Younger people call me cool.) To me they're
both words of love, which I will never grow tired
of hearing. Tourists' cameras click photos
of me all day long. If I had a nickel for
every picture I have posed for I'd be rich.
But then I already am.
And so as I look back on a half century plus of
life, I truly have no regrets. I now have
but two wishes. One is to continue to
faithfully carry Dave from beach to beach
endlessly. And maybe someday my second wish
will come true too. That will be the day the
"damn retard" peels that sticker off and
exposes the "D.R." he carved all those
years ago in far off Saskatchewan. I know
what his first words will be. "I knew
there was something special about you all along,
Little Buddy. That blue paint didn't fool me
for a second. Surf's up. Let's
The End --
Cruiser Art 1999-2015
(Note: This Auto
Biography is included with each Ford Woody print)