What was your first car?
Winterset residents share their memories of their first vehicles, from figuring out their car’s quirks to road-trip tales.
A car and a love connection
Patty Hamner was driving around Winterset in her 1957 Chevy when she spied him: her future husband.
“I told my girlfriend, ‘I’m going to marry that guy,’” Hamner says. “He was so thin and he had big ears at that time, and I figured I could fatten him up because I cooked a lot at home.”
“He” was Ron Hamner. The two have now been married 43 years.
But the Chevy wasn’t just handy in the love department. It was also Hamner’s mode of transportation to her job at a telephone company in downtown Des Moines.
She bought the car from one of her brother’s friends, paying $150 cash. It was green, had no rust and would go 35 mph if you pushed it, the 63-year-old reminisces.
“The radio was beyond compare,” she continues. “It worked awesome, even in downtown Des Moines.”
She remembers one particularly harrowing car experience. Hamner and her mother were driving from St. Charles to Winterset when their car and another coming from the opposite direction looked like they’d be arriving at a covered bridge at the same time. They both wouldn’t be able to fit, and the other driver wasn’t stopping.
Hamner was going downhill, driving on new, loose rock. She tried stopping the car, ending up in a ditch in the process. Her mother’s left hip hit the dashboard, causing a dent. Her mother was fine, and the car still ran, but that dent remained.
Hamner drove the Chevy for a year-and-a-half. She sold it for $50 when she got married.
“We just didn’t need two cars at the time,” Hamner says. “So I sold mine, and we got a sofa and chair for the first home we rented.”
An early birthday gift
Clayton Ryan’s car was an early birthday surprise.
It was a couple weeks before his birthday, and Clayton and his dad went to Tindle Auto Inc. in Winterset. He already had his permit to drive to school and needed a car to get to basketball practice and jazz band rehearsals. He was also looking at getting a job.
Once they got to the car lot, his dad suggested he sit in a black, 1999 Buick Regal.
“He handed me the keys and told me it was mine,” the 17-year-old says of the car that cost $2,000. “I was pretty surprised.”
That was in 2011. Since then, Clayton’s had to learn his car’s quirks, which includes sometimes “faking” like you’re turning it on to get it started. It entails putting in the key, turning it a little bit, pulling it out and putting it back in again.
His car has dependably gotten him to many basketball games and his friend’s softball games. But there was one time the air conditioning inexplicably stopped working, and Clayton and a friend had to drive to Fort Dodge in July. They were about 30 minutes away from town when the storm hit.
They drove the rest of the way with the sunroof open and windows down, getting drenched.
“But,” he says, “it was a relief from the heat.”
Inheriting his first car
Bob Stephens’ first car was a hand-me-down from his sister.
He was 16 when he came into possession of the 1970 Ford Galaxie 500, which was their grandma’s. He drove it for two years.
“It was a big boat of a car,” says Stephens, 50, who put in the stereo system. “It was very dependable. It was a big car, so you felt safe in it.”
It wasn’t fancy, but it got Stephens where he needed to go — to school, to work at Fareway and on the weekends, roller skating in Des Moines.
He eventually took the Galaxie apart to put its engine and transmission into his 1953 Ford F-100 truck, a project that was never completed.
The Galaxie ended up in the salvage yard.
Hitting 100,000 in the Mazda
Ross Nicholl was 15 when his dad bought him a 1991 Mazda MX-6.
“I loved the car,” says Nicholl, now 29. “It didn’t have airbags; that always scared me. I thought it was really cool because it had a sunroof and a button that made the air conditioning vents move from side to side.”
He drove the car for about four years. In that time, there was one specific car issue he recalls having to deal with.
“Every time I slowed down at a stop sign or a stop, I had to put it in neutral or else it died,” Nicholl says. “I didn’t have the money to fix it, so I had to drive with it like that for awhile.”
The big excitement with the Mazda was the anticipation of hitting 100,000 miles. Nicholl and his friends drove around racking up miles, in hopes they’d be in the car when it happened. They were excited when it finally did.
He ended up getting rid of the Mazda because he wanted an Explorer, which, he reflects, wasn’t a wise choice.
“After three payments, I really regretted it because I didn’t have to pay payments on the Mazda,” Nicholl says.
Happy with her Jeep
What initially began as a family car to use while camping has now become Jaimi Nelson’s own.
“It’s been great,” says Jaimi, 17, of her yellow Jeep Wrangler. “I haven’t had any trouble with it yet.”
Her family had been looking for a car they could tow behind their motor home that Jaimi could also drive to school. They bought it from a dealership in Springfield, Neb., in 2010 for about $12,000.
“I was excited from the start because I thought a Jeep was cool,” she says.
Their family later sold the motor home but kept the vehicle. Jaimi drives it every day. She likes its small size, which makes it easy to park, and that it has four-wheel drive.
The car-related story that sticks out in her mind is that last year on April Fools’ Day, she walked into school without realizing she had left the car’s headlights on.
“When I walked out at the end of the day, I found out my battery had died,” she says. “When I called my dad to ask for help, he didn’t believe me right away because it was April Fools’ Day.”
A dependable ride to school
Toni Tindle was living in Creston when her dad surprised her with a 1962 Ford Falcon, bought from the Ford dealership in town.
It was a welcome gift for Tindle, who was in college at the time and was having to make a daily commute to her school in Maryville, Missouri.
The Falcon cost $200 and was a dependable vehicle. She drove it from 1970 to about 1973, giving rides to other students as well. A lot of studying went on in that car, the 63-year-old recalls.
“It was very economical on gas because people would pay you $1 per ride, and we could conceivably fit five people into the car; so that would be $4,” she says.
Gas in Missouri was about 25 cents a gallon back then.
“You actually made enough money, if you had enough people with you, to buy an ice cream cone, which was 5 cents a dip,” Tindle says.