My Turn: The day I bought a Woodie

Chet Lukaszewski of Huntington with the 1948 Chevy

Chet Lukaszewski of Huntington with the 1948 Chevy Woodie he bought in 1968 and lovingly restored, keeping a promise to the seller. (Jan. 24, 2013) (Credit: Handout )

Travel deals

The date is Friday, Jan. 5, 1968. I was a new, young teacher at Syosset High School, and at the end of the school day, I stayed in my classroom to tie up some loose ends and to set up my lessons for Monday.

I then went to my parents' home, checked the mail and relaxed, reading the latest issue of the Syosset Tribune. I eventually got to the classifieds, and there it was: LAST OF THE WOODIES. 1948 CHEVY, ORIGINAL OWNER, EXCELLENT CONDITION. Being an avid surfer, I sure wanted that Woodie! I called the number and spoke with the owner, Mrs. Davis. Since she lived nearby, I asked if I could come over to look at the Woodie. "Sure you can," she responded.

The Woodie looked pretty good for a 20-year-old "wooden" car. She gave me the key, and I started it up and we went for a spin; it drove well. Upon careful inspection, the wood was intact but definitely had to be refinished; there was some body rust, and it needed a paint job. I told her that I would like to buy the Woodie.

She saidthat at about 7 p.m., several people were coming over who also were interested in purchasing her car, and I was invited to attend. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was the last to enter her living room and found myself seated among six or seven "older" gentlemen whose demeanor seemed to turn serious as I sat down. Mrs. Davis thanked the group for their interest and then posed the question: "Why do you want to buy the Woodie?" As I listened to their responses, I soon realized that these were "serious car guys."

It was finally my turn. I started by saying I was a teacher at the local high school, and in my spare time I enjoyed surfing. I would drive the car down to the ocean, surfboard on top, give it a good home and do my best to restore it to what it looked like in 1948. I could see and feel that the car guys weren't very moved. In fact, there were several comments about me not being able to care for the Woodie.

So, Mrs. Davis, in her classy and ladylike way, looked at each of us, thanked us again, paused and announced, "I think I'll sell the Woodie to the young man who's the teacher."

Early Saturday morning, Mrs. Davis arrived at my parents' home. She moved over into the passenger seat, and there I was in the driver's seat of my 1948 Chevy Woodie!

On the way back to her home, she explained how her children learned to drive in the Woodie and some of the other memories associated with the car. It was very emotional for both of us. She actually teared up a little! I asked her if she really wanted to sell me the Woodie; she smiled and answered, "Yes, of course!"

I left her that morning promising to return when I refinished the wood and applied a new paint job. It took me about two years to tidy up the Woodie a bit and to complete these tasks.

True to my promise, I drove to Mrs. Davis' home, which was a short distance off a main road. I knocked on the front door, but there was no answer. Looking into the windows as I proceeded to the back of the house, it appeared that the rooms were empty. I knocked on the back door and, again, no answer. I never saw Mrs. Davis again.

Over the past 45 years, with the help of some good friends, I have been able to restore the Woodie to what it looked like in 1948. It's been to the ocean and to some car shows, but mostly I just like to take it out for a spin a few times a month, not in the rain or snow. I appreciate people's enthusiasm toward the Woodie: the thumbs up, "nice car," "beautiful!" and the little guy who sat behind the wheel and exclaimed: "Grandpa, it's a wooden car!?"

I am truly enjoying the entire "Woodie Experience."

And, Mrs. Davis, thank you again for selling and entrusting me with the Woodie. I hope you like it.

--Chet Lukaszewski, Huntington

 

Getting the gang back together

 

When I was 16 years old, I belonged to a club that consisted of 10 other boys from my Brooklyn neighborhood. We rented a basement for $6 a month that we called our clubhouse. It had a few couches, a record player and a card table. I was the social director who would call sororities and invite girls from other parts of Brooklyn to come down on Friday nights. When they came, we would play our favorite rock and roll records, and dance and socialize.

We all left the old neighborhood and settled all over the country. Some are in Florida, two are in New Jersey, one is in Washington, D.C., one lives in New York City. I'm the only one who lives on Long Island.

In 2006, with the help of the Internet, I located most of them and invited them to my house for a 50th reunion. Eight out of 10 made it to recollect the good old days. It was lots of fun reminiscing the fun times we had. Some of us still keep in touch.

As we get older, I realize it will get harder and harder to get together.

--Martin Blumberg,Melville

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