My first car was a 1950 Nash. I never got to drive it.
In July 1960 my father was driving it through Kimberley when his Nash broke down. At the time I was working in the diamond mines, aged 17. He decided to leave the Nash there and buy a Packard and carry on to Johannesburg with his new wife. But first he invited my brother and me to have dinner with him and Sylvia at his hotel. This became an ordeal where he felt it necessary to give us a prolonged lesson in table manners that my mother (who had divorced him in Cape Town in 1946 for being a stingy arsehole) had obviously failed to adequately impart to us.
We learned to break slices of bread before buttering them, and to leap to our feet every time Sylvia entered or left the room. Which seemed to be exceedingly often. At the third leap my younger brother, an eccentric, shouted “Hup!” This didn’t go down too well.
On the plus side, a De Beers official from Scotland staying at the hotel had said some complimentary things to him about my progress in the company, mentioning that I had come first in the mine learners’ course. This mollified Dad somewhat. Prior to that he’d had exalted ideas about sending me to Oxford University (who fortunately did not have a course in mining engineering). He’d also wanted me to learn to play the violin.
Before we parted he told me that he had decided to give me the Nash, and that I could get it from the garage where it was being repaired as soon as I turned 18 and got my driver’s licence. As we shook hands he looked at my calloused hands and said that a gentleman should have the hands of a lady. I should never do manual work.
That’s when I knew he was delusional. It was impossible to work underground and not get calloused hands. I quite liked having those brown bumps on my palms. They made me feel tough.
After a few days the repaired Nash stood in the car dealer’s showroom like a big brown upturned bathtub. It was not a thing of beauty. Still, it was mine, and I was able to point it out to friends through the showroom windows. (The pic below is the closest I could find to what I “owned”; this looks a lot lovelier than mine was.)
About a month later it disappeared. Apparently the Packard had given trouble on the return journey, so he sold it and took the Nash back to his farm near Bredasdorp. I gathered that I could fetch it if I still wanted it, but I could see no way of getting there without a car.
To hell with it. I’d make do with my bicycle until I’d saved up to buy my own car. A smaller one that was less ugly, and not a petrol guzzler.