Memories on Wheels: A Look Back at Moeller Means of Conveyance

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Perhaps no one else is interested in this but I recently started trying to recall the number of cars I’ve owned in my lifetime. The list doesn’t contain the 1923 three-door sedan I already wrote about because I never owned the title to it. Here then, in order of ownership, are some I can recall. My memory is not being completely accurate these days. Some entries may vary from actual fact, just like some news reports we hear these days.

The first car I held title to was a 1933 American Bantam purchased while in high school. It was one of only three known to exist in Tacoma. If one was for sale today, it would be priced well beyond my present income status. It was a tiny thing with barely enough room for two (and none at all for hanky-panky). My father found it for me. It was so small and light that when I came out of class at Stadium High School one afternoon, I found it several rows downhill from the roadway — somehow sitting in the actual stadium. With three buddies, we were able to lift it back up to the roadway. After high school came five years of Army duty and Dad sold it while I was away.

After being discharged, my first car was a 1941 Pontiac coupe. It was almost dark when I first saw it but I was so eager to have a car that I bought it on the spot. I should have waited. The frame was so twisted it almost looked as if it was going down the road sideways, and I found out later that the eight-cylinder motor had been replaced by a six-cylinder one.

Eventually, marriage became a factor and a “sensible” car was needed, so the next one was a 1949 Plymouth sedan. By this time, I was already working for a radio station, KMO in Tacoma.

Then, when my wife Frances’s father passed away, we inherited a nearly new 1953 Oldsmobile 88. I accepted a radio job in Wenatchee and it was a great car to go back and forth over mountain passes from Wenachee to Tacoma — something I did frequently until the rest of my family could finally join me on the far side of the hills.

Then, we felt another car was necessary, so a 1940 Ford coupe was acquired. It was perfect for short trips around town and, who knows, it might be someone’s hot rod today. I traded it in as down payment on a new 1955 Ford station wagon, purchased after a partner and I started our own successful radio station. With the children growing, this was a sensible purchase. After a few years, I sold my interest in the radio station to an eventual third partner and a look of affluence was called for. 

Thus, the most expensive car I’ve ever owned appeared on the scene: a 1959 Ford T-Bird with white leather seats and the large Lincoln motor. This became my status symbol in the community. Fast? Once, when no other car was in sight, I “opened it up” on a straight Eastern Washington stretch of highway and the speedometer was still climbing at 125 miles per hour when I chickened out.

Then — soon after moving into a home on the Curtis Hill Road — a 1953 Chevrolet Sedan was the car we bought from a Winlock dealer once we realized that we couldn’t keep up the payments on the T-Bird. It was almost as bad a “lemon” as my old Pontiac. We eventually traded it in for down payment on a brand new 1962 Rambler station wagon, purchased from Howard Hutchins’ agency next to the railroad overpass exit on Gold Street. It was a good car, one that my wife used on her Avon route, meaning that we needed another vehicle for me to drive back and forth to work. 

The one we found was a 1952 MG TD Sports car being sold by a GI at Fort Lewis. It was a pure delight with many features not seen in cars today. For instance, the windshield could be folded down onto the hood (a feature that meant less drag if it was raced against other cars of the same ilk).  It was the perfect place to hold a martini poured from a thermos bottle at the old drive-in theater. Remember those? 

One day in October, I used the Rambler to go to work and left it at Howard Hutchins’s for a routine checkup. That was the night of the famous “Columbus Day Storm” of 1962. I came home to the sight of a collapsed garage with the MG inside!

I was able to rebuild the garage and restore the MG but it was impractical for carrying bales of hay to our beef supply so the next move was to a real oddity: a 1960 Chevrolet Corvair pickup truck. Like the sedan of the same name, its motor was in the rear, making loading difficult but that was compensated by a hinged side panel that could be let down and serve as a ramp, a great idea! 

I can’t remember why but it was traded off and replaced by a 1953 DeSoto “Woodie” station wagon. It eventually gave out on the highway as I was returning from cleaning a cabin we’d built on the Entiat River, the upkeep of which was too difficult at that distance. I left it alongside the road and hitch-hiked home and have often regretted that move.

Then we sold the farm and moved into Centralia. I’ve far exceeded my usual space, but — never fear — someday there will be an update of more recent cars in the Moeller family.

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Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at bookmaven321@comcast.net.