Adventures in a Nash Rambler

I was too young to drive when I marched for the first time. I was also too young to understand the complexities of the so-called “conflict in Vietnam.” I only knew we were sending young men to die in a country on the other side of world; a country that didn’t seem to pose any real threat to the United States.  My father’s refrain (shared with most of his generation) was “when you’re asked to serve your country you just go. No questions asked.” Which seemed to be a stupid thing to do.

There were no anti-war marches planned in my hometown of Reno Nevada for two reasons. One, the good ole boys, who were proud they couldn’t even find Vietnam on a map, would have loved an excuse to commence a shootin’ party on the nerds who actually planned to graduate from high school.  And two, the city fathers would have loved  to advertise that Reno was “the place where them damn anti-war protestors got what was coming to them.”

From estuarypress.com

San Francisco, that was where it was all happening. So I hitched a ride to the City with my best friend, her father, and Dr. Mole (not his real name but what he looked like). The drive required us to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains which at any time of the year is a crap shoot (just ask the Donner Party) and sure enough we encountered heavy snow just past the summit and could barely see the road.  Then the radio, which had been iffy since we left Truckee, suddenly sparked to life.

The song that brought the radio to life was “If You’re Going to San Francisco.” I saw this miraculous coincidence as a validation that my deception had the cosmic seal of approval. You see, my parents thought I was going to a book fair with a friend who was an A+ student, her father who was a noted Chaucer scholar, and the dean emeritus of the philosophy department. Had my father known that I’d lied and I was on my way to an anti-war march with two socialist-leaning democrats, he would have had me locked up. 

After dropping Dr. Mole off at a shabby Victorian belonging to his elderly mother, the Chaucer scholar, A+ student and I checked into a motel near the UC Berkeley. It was one of those motels on University that generally rented rooms on an hourly basis which only sharpened the perceived danger of our escapade.  

In the morning we wandered around the campus where other anti-war rallies were being held and then met Dr. Mole at Moe’s Books on Telegraph. Moe’s is the sort of place that caters to obscure classics and rare out of print books. In other words, nirvana for any academic so soon both men were lost in the dusty back shelves. We had to constantly remind them about the march.

View from the water

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, there are only two ways to really appreciate the skyline for the first time; either by crossing the Bay Bridge or taking the ferry from Larkspur to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Some people may argue for the Golden Gate approach and I wouldn’t say they’re wrong but you don’t really get the whole skyline and it was spectacular on that day.

The parade started in the city’s crowded financial district and meandered up to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate park.  I don’t remember anything other than marching behind a flat bed truck from which Country Joe and the Fish played acoustic guitars and led cheers but it’s not a short distance and there are steep hills along the way.  Today that walk would kill me.  I do remember poor Dr. Mole complaining mightily when we finally reached the stadium and found a seat but it didn’t take him long to revive once the speakers began describing the horrors of a totally unnecessary war.  For such a little man, he could really let it be known how he felt “No More War!”

We drove back to Reno that night; this time there was fog on the summit and ice on the road.The old Nash Rambler’s electrical system shorted out somewhere along the Truckee and we had to stop while the two men, neither or whom had any mechanical skills, tried to figure out why the lights were no longer working. But the gods spared us that night, the lights miraculously came back on, and we all lived to tell the tale. However, after my father found out about my adventure, peaceful dinners at our house were officially a thing of the past. 

As I watched the recent marches for stricter gun control, I thought about the arguments my father and I had almost nightly during those years. What a waste. I hope that’s not a scene played out in the home of any young marcher but sadly, it probably is. 

I never thought back in the sixties that I’d be marching in my actual sixties…  Just goes to show that the fates are fickle and love to play a good prank or two on our sorry selves.

30 thoughts on “Adventures in a Nash Rambler

  1. Great songs.
    I think it IS like that in many homes. There are adults, parents even, complaining about children wanting safer schools after they’ve been shot at! It’s the hardest thing for me to comprehend. It’s been about 20 years since my dad gave me the labels “bleeding heart liberal” and “tree hugger” but the labels stuck. Since he’s my dad via marrying mother, I always like to reflect fondly on my father’s activism, because progress. Always progress.
    That was a brave trip you took, Jan. One that surely changed you and resonates with who you are today.

    • Thanks Joey! When you’re young, if a trip doesn’t have a fear factor than it’s not really an adventure! My father softened towards the end of his life but we sure had some rough years. I hate to think of other families going through the same thing.

  2. We grew up with the war and the Civil Rights movement. My dad was clearly in the “burn your draft card and you might as well burn your birth certificate” camp, but he had much sympathy for the plight of blacks in this country. He wasn’t fond of the people in the national scene stirring the local pot, but he had raised us to understand that race shouldn’t be an issue. Complex times.

  3. What a gutsy thing for you to do. I’m impressed. I’m also impressed with the political activism that we’re seeing now with these kids from Parkland. I imagine that you’re right about how many arguments are going on in conservative homes now– kids who want to be safe fighting with parents who want the status quo… not understanding that the status quo has changed. I like your choices of music for this post. Made me smile.

  4. Crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains at night with icy roads – you were a brave girl. We did that on a train a few years ago; it was snowing and the tracks were being cleared in front of the train so we could pass safely. Such a winter-wonderland, like being on the Polar Express. But I digress… I grew up in a conservative home, we had guns, (for hunting) we all knew how to use them and how to safeguard them. I shot targets with my Dad a few times, but I was not interested in hunting. Growing up where guns were accepted did not inspire me to own one, or to introduce my child to them. I have never owned a gun and do not plan to, but I respect the right of those who do. What I cannot tolerate is the sale of assault weapons. I see no purpose for them, except for what they were built for – assault. Ban them, plain and simple. The NRA, as do other PACS, have a stronghold on politicians. One of our Senators accepted a very large campaign contribution from the NRA in his last bid for election and won. After the MSD shooting, he took a very soft stance on gun control and is being raked over the coals by his own constituents. He let an opportunity to step forward and lead slip away. Shame on him. I think conversations about guns in conservative households sound very similar to conversations about guns in liberal households. I do not know any liberals who want to trample the 2nd amendment, nor do I know any conservatives who want to arm teachers. I think we are all closer on this issue than we imagine, we just have to keep up the fight and hold our elected officials accountable. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS is just 1.5 hours South of my home. I know that community, and they will not stop until there is change. All of Florida is with them!

    • I agree, the solution is easy. Severely limit sales of weapons made specifically for war. But as long as the NRA keeps making it a 2nd amendment issue, it’s going to be a struggle.

  5. Thanks Jan – you paint a vivid picture in your writing and I was at the edge of my seat. So much to protest these days AND so much else we can do to make the world a better place.

  6. I’m impressed too, at the guts, but even more at the fact that you were actually there at that time. By the way you sound, I’d have you for a couple of decades younger.

    And I can’t even imagine how that must have felt: a war with a country far away who had nothing against you. It was rare then but now there are many like this all over the place.

    • Yes, I’m an oldie moldy! It was a wild time to live through – so many highs and lows. I have a lot of empathy for the young people today – I know with high hopes often comes soul-wrenching disappointment.

  7. I’d almost forgotten about those little Art Deco breadboxes on wheels. Anyway, the saying “It’s all cyclical” really does seem to confirm what’s happening these days. The voice of the majority always seems to get ignored by those in power. That certainly was true of Vietnam and appears to be equally true today. I wonder whatever happened to the idea that everyone’s vote matters in America? Seems the majority of Americans are not being heard and a country that ignores its majority runs the danger of falling to centralism. America has always been a country where if the people are unhappy they will stand up and tell their leaders that if you don’t listen to us we will vote you out and take the country back. Jan, I’m so sorry your dad couldn’t see the logic in your wanting to have a voice. Many in the 60’s were shouted down, just as the young people are being called names today, but we saw what happened to those who failed to hear our generation. It may take time, but it’ll happen again—mark my words. Sadly, and prophetically, it’s all cyclical. ‘O)

  8. Attacking the survivors of gun violence just to save your triple A rating with the NRA shows just how morally bankrupt those greedy wastes of human skin have become.

  9. Good for you, Jan. I loved this post. The vets who returned from Vietnam remind me of the Irish who joined the British forces in WW1. In 1914 they went out as heroes after being promised by Britain that Ireland would have self government if her men supported the war effort. But that promise was broken and in 1916 a rising took place in Ireland against British rule and the men returning from the carnage of war were often looked upon as traitors. It led to civil war in Ireland a few years later – a story repeated many times around the globe.

    • Ireland has such a tragic past – I watched a Netflix show about Irish castles and it highlighted the struggles over the years with the Brits and, further back, the Vikings. However the Irish people I’ve been lucky enough to know are such a delight.

  10. No assault weapons in the hands of anyone other than military. Not even military should be acceptable to carry or have automatic weapons in their homes. No!!

    I was raised by a teacher of high school and a NASA engineer. They had weekly discussions about the world with us. They dumped the 3 of us at my aunt and uncle’s farm so they could March for Civil Rights in Washington DC.
    Mom taught literature, English and Spanish. She sent home permission slips so her HS World Lit classes could read, “Malcolm X.”
    It was great to know I could be on the Pill even though I didn’t even kiss a boy until I was 16. 😀 No sex until I was 19, almost 20. Hard to believe, I know in the “Make Love, Not War” generation!! ❤️
    We were taught that our Dad changed cloth diapers, we All Had to do our own laundry and Mom threw her iron out when Dad made a comment about perma- press shirts she bought. Life was always Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? The pregnant girl, spaced out boy, the “hoods” were asked to join us for our Friday night pizza and often barbecue nights.
    My Dad (thank God!) died after 4 months of chemo at age 69 in 1/11. Probably the nuclear reactor lacking precautions. . . He would have been so upset about 9/11 and the troubles blacks, gays (LGBT) and other minorities + ethnic groups face today.
    He would absolutely hate Trump.
    Hugs, Robin
    🎶 I loved Dionne Warwick’s version of “What the World Needs Now.” I also liked your version of it. My Mom signed as a parent for a friend of mine who became pregnant while being raped on college campus. Her mother would have “disowned” her, she told us and “blamed her for crossing campus late at night.” I tell these crazy stories just​ to say, “Peace is the Answer!” and “Love is the only way to overcome!!” ☮️ 🕊️

    • Your parents sound like amazing people. My parents weren’t bad people per se – they just had strongly held convictions. The same ones their parents had. They were definitely not a rebellious generation. Sorry about your dad. My dad did soften towards the end and definitely would have hated Trump.

  11. The 60s were a difficult time for Americans. Reading this made my heart really heavy – especially the second paragraph – the unwillingness of Americans to cooperate with Americans.

    Kudos to you, and to all the young people, who are brave enough to stand up for their convictions and protest against this culture of violence.

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