Friday, March 14, 2014

the yellow betty

The Yellow Betty in Betty Hale's driveway in Glencoe, AL in 2010.
My mother in-law, Betty Hale, passed away early in December.  She had given me her 73 Super Beetle about seven years ago, having said that I would appreciate and take good care of it.  I have and I will.  The day of the funeral services I was to meet the rest of my family at Crestwood.  I felt it fitting to drive her old bug there. 

Unbeknownst to me, Gina after finding out I brought the bug, arranged that we lead the procession on into the cemetery.  The car hadn't given me a lick of trouble going, but it started making strange noises as we made our way up the winding road behind the hearse.  It felt as if the bottom had fallen out of the car, dragging something loud over the dirt road.

I had the feeling that the car was ready to give up the ghost and wanting to be buried next to her old owner.  Strange timing.  Everyone was looking at each other in the car and I said a quick prayer for the VW to at least make it to the plot before falling apart.

After the graveside services, I looked under the car to see what was dragging.  Nothing.  The car started up, and I didn't want to take any chances with it.  We drove straight to Floyd's VW in Glencoe and dropped it off. 

Life got kind of hectic after Mrs. Hale's funeral.  We didn't need the car right away, so we just left it over there.  I figured Eddie would call me to get it out of his way when he could get around to fixing it.  I didn't pick it up until Wednesday.

As a Christmas present my sister Cindy gave me a new headliner for the beetle.  Unbeknownst to me, Gina paid Eddie to install it while he had the car.  Christmas came and went and I had no idea what awaited me.  When I finally got to see the car, Eddie told me that he had to use two headliners - both made in China and packaged FOLDED!  He tried ironing the first one out, but it was a no go.  It seems like those kind of items need to be packaged ROLLED instead of folded.  Oh well.  Eddie got the second one in and took the first headliner and custom covered the rear compartment.  He also used some insulation to baffle the engine noise.  I was really impressed that he took the extra effort to fix that back area for me - he was under no obligation to do so.

During Christmas of 2012, my sister had also given me a new front bumper to replace the old rusty one.  Eddie put the new bumper on the car too - attaching the rubber off the old bumper onto the new one.  The car looks so much better. 

I drove the car home, first time to drive it since the funeral, feeling like my car has a new life of sorts.  I told Betty a few years ago that I was going to slowly but surely restore her old car.  I doubt if it will ever be like new, but it's going to improve with age as time goes by.  Since she's gone, I can't help but think of her every time I scoot about town in it.

She drove that car around for over three decades, babying, pampering her car.  It was her prized possession.  Mrs. Hale once told me that the car represented freedom to her. She purchased it with her own money, meaning she could go when and where ever she pleased in life.  Anyone who knew Betty associate her with that little VW of hers.

I was once standing in line at Popeye's on East Meighan and a stranger came up behind me and asked if that was Betty Hale's VW.  I told him that it had been and that she passed it down to me.  I asked him how he knew that particular yellow bug had been hers.  He looked outside at the car in the parking lot and said "I'd know that car anywhere...never thought she'd ever sell it."  He said that he had tried to buy it from her on several occasions in the past.  Betty wouldn't part with it for any dollar amount. 

Mrs. Hale got to a place about eight years ago that she needed more dependable transportation as she got older, something automatic, a car with air conditioning.  She couldn't keep up with two cars and so she passed the bug onto me. 

I asked Gina why she didn't want to drive it much.  She only drives it when her car is in the shop and there's nothing else to drive.  She said she did when she was younger, but didn't care for the extra task of driving a straight.  She says The Yellow Betty smells like gas - even though I had the fuel lines replaced several years ago.  She says when she's in the car, she smells gas for the rest of the day. 

I don't mind it.  Maybe I'm just used to the smell of the old VW.  I don't mind driving straight shift, it's fun. 
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