After 70 years, the Volkswagen Beetle is retiring. Once upon a time, my father moved my family from Paradise to Sacramento to become the manager of the only Volkswagon franchise in Northern California. Years later he told me that when he would pull up at stoplights in the Beetle people would look at the Beetle and burst out laughing and he’d feel sick that he’d staked his family’s well-being on the Beetle.
The Beetle bought us a house with my own private bedroom. The Beetle paid for my college education and that of my brothers and helped my mom establish her own business after my father died.
One summer day in 1965 on a lawn at the University of California I was complaining to two friends that we weren’t old enough to drink a beer in a bar. One of them observed that we could if we were in New York. Another said, “Well, let’s go.”
To drink that beer we drove 9,000 miles in a 9-day roundtrip in a Volkswagon Beetle. (You could flip the back of the back seat down and sleep in the back while two rode in the front.) It was the first time I’d driven across the country. Vietnam was hot and the Cold War was on simmer. Two songs dominated the AM radio stations blanketing the nation: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Something’s Happening Here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Same songs would work as a soundtrack for today.
Damn, I loved that car. So long, Beetle. I’ll see you again a little further down the road.