60s: Cars and cool

Mom cried the day dad brought home a used 1960 dark red Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible. “Frank, you bought a red convertible,” she cried, with heavy emphasis on the word red, which shepronounced like a guilty verdict. “Burgundy,” Dad said. “Burgundy. It’s Burgundy.”

I felt like an accomplice. I was a teenage car nut. Dad took me along with him to kick tires at the seller’s house before we bought it, used, a couple years older than new.

We did the twist at middle school dances. Chubby Checker, who made the twist popular, played in a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. A couple of my girl classmates were there, and they were the envy of the rest of us.

Meanwhile, also in 1962, the Beatles were getting going in England, but we didn’t know about it. And the Beach Boys started in California.

And speaking of the Beach Boys, surfing was infinite cool, especially in California. Southern California more than Northern, where we were. But it spread to national cool and affected what we wore, what we watched, what we listened to, and what we did as well. Woodies, station wagons with wood sideboards, and especially older station wagons, were prized. Surfers had blonde hair, bleached or not, male and female.

In Los Altos, nobody I knew actually surfed. There was surfing in Santa Cruz, about ninety minutes away; but nobody had wetsuits so those were special hardy people, in the cold Northern California oceans.

What we did do was make our own skateboards and ride them down the asphalt hills. You couldn’t buy a skateboard back then. You had to buy adjustable metal roller skates, pull them apart, and nail them upside down to the bottom of actual boards. Which is what we all did.