Dad’s Old Blue Chev

Dad’s Old Blue Chev

By PATRICK S. WOLFE

For some twenty-two years, my Dad, Dr. P.M. Wolfe, drove a regal blue 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe, which sported a distinctive visor atop the windshield. It was the only car quite like it in Victoria, British Columbia, and many people knew that it was Dr. Wolfe’s car. A proud and precise man, Dad kept the car immaculate, which bespoke his nature, his professionalism, and supported the positive reputation that was important to him as he traveled about the city making house calls and checking on patients in the local hospitals.

In 1967, I subjected that car to public indignity. Not only that, the unfortunate incident occurred in broad daylight at Royal Jubilee Hospital where Dad was especially well known, and he had to bear witness to it.

1949 Chevrolet Deluxe

Dad’s 1949 Chevy Deluxe a month or two prior to the event in question. I suspect the car had just been detailed and that Dad, taking pride in its appearance, photographed it for posterity. It is parked in front of the Pemberton Nursing Home where Dad’s mother was living at the time.

I had my learner’s license and Dad was kind enough to take me out with him to let me practice my driving. On the day in question he had things to do at the hospital so, on his instruction, I parked the car east of the old South Block in a single row of parking spaces next to a small stretch of grass. What’s important to appreciate is that these parking spaces were not level with the lawn, they were a couple of feet above it.

“Now don’t touch anything,” Dad said as he got out of the car. “Just leave things as they are.”

Did I tell you he had a good nose for trouble?

So, I’m sitting there, waiting. I look out the window and I discover I’m parked crooked. Being my father’s son and possessing some of the same meticulousness that was one of his most pronounced characteristics, I’ve just got to fix things and park the car right. I fire up the engine, back the car out, then come back in just so, except when I go to hit the brakes, I hit the accelerator instead, and … well, the old blue Chev is damn near airborne. Think Thelma and Louise going over that cliff.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. When the car banged over the six-inch barrier toward the end of the parking space, its nose landed in the grass, its undercarriage got stuck on the barrier, and its rear-end was inelegantly aloft, pointing back at the South Block.

It didn’t take long before numerous staff and patients were gawking out the east-facing windows of the block’s four floors, many of them no doubt wondering what Dr. Wolfe had been up to. It’s possible that all those people—all those witnesses—are the reason my father didn’t kill me on the spot when he returned to what assuredly was a startling and embarrassing scene for him.

Actually, Dad was exceptionally good about it, accepting my explanation, ordering up the tow truck, and even allowing me—in due course—to drive his car again.

Our relationship had an elusive quality born of a long-standing emotional separateness, which made it difficult for us to negotiate other bumps along the way. The times when I drove with him when I was sixteen were among the rare occasions we—just the two of us—worked closely together in intimate, common cause.

Sixteen years after his death, I will always remember and appreciate the grace and generosity of his response when he found his beloved old blue Chevy Deluxe ass-over-teakettle, mooning the establishment where he always tried to put his best foot forward.

An author and historian, Patrick Wolfe lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

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