The $5 Ford

In the early 1970’s I was a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham Washington. The campus was located at the base of thickly wooded Seholm Hill and was itself looking down on the city of Bellingham and beautiful Bellingham Bay. The city was referred to by irreverent students as ‘Belly wash’, but not me as I really liked the place.

At the back of the campus, a narrow road wound up to the top of Seholm Hill where a parking lot provided a place to view the submarine races in Bellingham Bay; at least that’s what the guys told their girl friends. From the huge amount of empty beer bottles in the bushes, guys without girls apparently did a lot of drinking. Girls and beer had been a tradition at this place for many years.

Enter my friend Lloyd Spoon. An older student, Lloyd had been a road musician, playing trombone, flute or drums, wherever he needed to work. He had floated a student loan so was now a full time student in the music department. One fall day, he decided to hike to the top of Seholm Hill for exercise, plus his car had recently died so now walking became exercise. A few hundred yards up the road, he came upon a light green1951 Ford Fodor sedan with a very irate owner kicking the tires and swearing. As Lloyd approached, the red faced owner turned to Lloyd and said: ” Give me five bucks and this piece of junk is yours!” As the car appeared to be in good condition, Lloyd gave him $5, collected the signed title and coasted his new wheels down the hill. A quick check showed the fuel pump was bad, an easy and fast fix. For the next several years, this car took Lloyd to school every day, made trips to Seattle, San Francisco…. it ran and ran.

Lloyd offered me a ride into downtown one day. The Ford was parked in a ‘No Parking’ zone and had a ticket on the windshield. Lloyd pulled it off and stuffed it behind a sun visor. There were dozens of tickets stuffed behind both visors! “I’m always late for school so I park wherever I can.” Every quarter, when Lloyd’s student loan came through, he would sit down with the police department, spread out the tickets and negotiate his total fine. “Here’s what my tuition and books cost, here’s what I need for rent and food; the rest is yours.” What could they do? They took pennies on the dollar.

In my senior year, I noticed that the Ford had been sitting at a curb for quite some time. “Broken?”, I asked Lloyd when I saw him, “Ford-O-Matic finally give up?” “Nope, runs fine but the brakes are gone, shoes, master cylinder, everything. It’ll cost more than $5 so let ’em tow it away. I’ve gotten my moneys worth.”

Lloyd went off to play with the Stan Kenton Orchestra for a few years, traveling the country in a band bus where he didn’t need a car, not even a $5 one.