EASY AS PUSHING A BUTTON
A car was something practical and useful to Harriett. When she was a widow working at Miller’s Department Store, she and her father bought their first automobile—a Model A Ford. It was much more convenient than the horse and buggy! After she married Arley, he selected the cars—from Buick Eights to Dodges. Harriett got her chance to choose a new car after he died in 1953—and she decided the new Plymouth Fury was just right.
First came the 1956 black and white version with those amazing fins—and an amazing new feature: push button driving! By 1962, Harriett decided she needed an update. She stuck with Plymouth Fury, choosing a white four-door sedan—and it still had the push button drive feature. Gone were the fins but there was an abundance of chrome trim.
The top photo shows Harriett posing with her new car in front of her home in Athens—the bottom photo is Harriett 25 years later with that same car in front of my home in Columbia, South Carolina. Both the Fury and Harriett have aged well!
She babied her car—and lovingly washed it on her carport every week. She always kept the gas tank filled, changed the oil regularly and only let one mechanic touch it. Mooney went to our church and she knew him to be honest and reliable. Once her car wouldn’t start and he came out to check her battery. When he looked under the hood, he couldn’t believe how clean the engine was and commented on it. “Oh, I wash it every week,” Harriett said.
She didn’t drive long distances but her car took a couple of big trips. She rode to Houston, Texas with the Connellys for Tom’s graduation when he got his doctorate at Rice University—then stayed on to visit for a month. My sister Tootsie and sister-in-law Katie drove from Athens to Houston in the Fury and took Harriett home.
In her late 80s, Harriett was spending most of the time with us in South Carolina—and the Fury was sitting home alone on the carport. It still looked good except some of the interior was a bit tattered—and only had about 30,000 miles on the odometer. Patrick was getting his driver’s license and itching to have his own car to drive.
And so the idea was born—two of my coworkers at the hospital would drive me to Athens and I’d drive the Fury back to its new home in South Carolina. Patrick could drive the Fury—and Harriett could see it parked in front of the house every day. We had a great time on the trip back with me driving the Fury. No air conditioning, and the engine ran hot driving over the mountains. It took a few hours longer than usual but we made it!
For several years Patrick and the Fury cruised around Irmo. He got stopped by the cops often because the car was so unusual—and they told him it had too many tail lights. So he put tape over a few of the lights and kept going. Then it became less suitable and he was going to get a new car.
Sadly we needed to find the Fury a new home. I put an ad in the newspaper and soon got a call from a staffer at a local television station. He had just accepted a new job at a station in Seattle and said he had a wild idea. Why not buy a car that was manufactured the year he was born and drive it to Seattle? The 1962 Fury met the bill—he took it for a spin, had a mechanic look it over, and sealed the deal. Harriett was now a semi-invalid spending most of her time in an improvised bedroom in my dining room. She was sad to hear the Fury was leaving but understood the practicality of it. “Just think, Mother,” I said. “You can’t take a trip but your Fury is going on a cross-country adventure!” She smiled through her tears. Patrick and I often wondered if he made it to Seattle safely.