She was a staid little old lady, very prim and proper, dressed in quiet beige, sitting very uprightly, with her head held high. I named her Jemima. I bought her in 1960 and she was two years older than me. She was my first car, a 1938 Vauxhall – purchased for the princely sum of 60 pounds..
From the first, I felt we had a connection. I could overlook her idiosyncrasies and flaws, such as needing a large drink of water every time we commenced a journey together, requiring me to carry bottles of water at all times (I don’t know why I didn’t get her obvious radiator problem fixed?) Somehow I just felt I could rely on her and she wouldn’t let me down. On one occasion when other younger and flashier models were falling by the wayside in a drenching rainstorm, Jemima just carried steadily on, without wavering or missing a beat, until we reached the safety of home.
In my youthful enthusiasm, however, I think I rather overestimated the energy and strength of the old lady when I decided we should pay a visit to a friend in the country. This necessitated climbing a rather steep hill, some would call it a small mountain, to get there. Our progress became slower and slower as Jemima puffed and panted on the steepest incline. Cars whizzed past us at 40 kilometres an hour. Alarmed I urged her on. If we went any slower we would start going backwards, placing in jeopardy those unfortunate enough to be coming behind. When we finally made it safely over the crest of the hill, Jemima wheezing and gasping, the relief could be heard in my voice as I shouted, “We made it!” and our journey into the country continued uneventfully. The ride home was a breeze, downhill all the way. But I didn’t attempt such a trip again.
I had many learning experiences with Jemima. She frightened my young brother half to death one day when she shook, spluttered and coughed fit to choke, then stalled, with clouds of steam hissing from under her bonnet. My brother wrenched the door open and took off down the street at top speed, as if the devil himself were after him, putting a very safe distance between him and Jemima. I really believe he thought she was going to blow up. It was all quite harmless really, and easily fixed after the nice NRMA gentleman indicated I had accidentally forgotten to put the cap back on the radiator after slaking her thirst. My brother was always quite a nervous passenger in Jemima. On reflection, perhaps it was my driving, and not the car!
I had some lessons to learn in correctly judging distances. On one occasion I was driving down the main street of Victor Harbour, the country town where my family lived, when Mum spluttered … “Whoooooo dear. You are just a bit close to the cars, ” as she sucked in her breath, flinched and pulled her legs to the right. “I’m fine,” I breezily replied, just before a loud ping indicated I had left one of the door handles behind on a parked car. Mum was right, as usual.
Another time I nearly lost my friend when we went around a corner too quickly and the door (which opened from front to back) flew open, and my friend was sucked outwards — without the restraint of the seatbelts of today . I quickly reached over with my left hand, grabbed the back of her coat and hauled her into the car, while steering to the side of the road with the other hand. After we had recovered, we were reduced to fits of hysterical giggles for the rest of the trip home.
I can’t really remember how long Jemima and I were together, only a few years, but I look back on those times with fond memories, and wonder what happened to her after we parted ways. Perhaps she would be worth a lot of money today – as an antique or vintage! She holds a special place in my heart.