Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

There's nothing like having that first car

  • Updated
  • 0

Almost everyone can remember the first car they had that was their very own. Or, at least, they were in dual ownership with a bank.

I didn't get mine until after my freshman year in college. That might seem a bit strange in this day of kids owning a a car while a sophomore or junior in high school. Even lots of kids my age had cars while in high school back there in the '50s.

But our family had only one car and it was in use most of the time so I didn't even get a driver's license until AFTER my senior year in high school.

Yes, it was embarrassing for me but there was nothing to be done about it. If I wanted to go to St Cloud to watch a minor league baseball game, for example, I'd have to beg for the car and then get someone, sometimes younger than me, who had a driver's license to go along because all I had was a permit.

In the summer of 1960 I finally got that coveted license, after practicing parallel parking on a gravel church parking lot between some sticks. I didn't exactly blow away the guy who gave me my test in Elk River. In fact, he commented on my rolling stops that I thought were just part of life in rural Princeton. But I scored over 70, enough to earn a license.

Mom and I started back for home from Elk River, with her driving. A couple miles out of Elk River I asked her to pull over to let me drive and she reluctantly agreed. I suppose she figured I wasn't ready for the perils of Highway 169, then a narrow two-lane strip of concrete with slanted sides that was a hazard even for an experienced driver.

A little more than a year later I got my first car. I was in the work force by then and needed a daily means of transportation instead of bumming rides from people.

It was a blue 1954 Ford (in 1961) but I was assured at the dealership where I bought it that it was a splendid car. And you know how you are with that first car — you develop tunnel vision and nothing else matters. I made the financing arrangements for a few hundred dollars and it was mine.

There were little troubles here and there but, by and large, it was a good car. In my first winter of ownership we had a long stretch of brutally cold weather, There were six straight mornings when it was -30 or worse and my car started every one of those mornings, something that couldn't be said for our family car, a much newer one.

There was a scary moment that winter when I headed home from work on MIlle Lacs County Road 3 west of town. I hit an icy patch and slid into the ditch, the car rolling up on the driver's side but not rolling over. My lunch bucket hit me in the head las I slid by a mailbox that was perilously close to my window. A couple minutes later a farmer came by, got out a chain, pulled me out with his tractor and I headed for home. .

I hadn't thought about things like gas, oil and insurance when I bought the car and those things put a financial strain on my tiny bank account. But I didn't care because I had the car and the freedom that went with it. I could go to Milaca, Cambridge and Foley and faraway places like St. Cloud and Anoka without having to beg for the family car.

A few months later, after the car was paid for, I joined the U.S. Army. And when I got to my permanent duty station at Fort Riley, Kansas, I managed to get home and drive that car back to Fort Riley. I made four trips to and from Minnesota, driving on what we called "Bald Eagle" brand tires. There was no tread left on those tires and no spare in the trunk. But somehow that car survived those trips back and forth as I sped up to make it up a hill in a snowstorm with those awful tires.

The pay Uncle Sam gave me soon kept me from affording insurance for the car and it had to be put in storage off base. That was the end for me and the car. I went back once, after saving money for insurance and repairs, and there it sat, battered by someone as it sat in the lot with a broken-out back window.

I still had hopes of getting it back but I never went back. My spirit was broken, to say nothing about my pocketbook. And I suppose it wasn't long until it found its way to a Kanas junkyard.

But it will remain  forever my first  car. The joy and the pride I felt when I drove it away from the dealership gives me good memories today. It's a memory that has lasted a lifetime, even if the car lasted only a couple years.


June 14, 1962 - PHS grad Dick Southard (Class of '58) lettered in baseball at the University of Minnesota . . . A request went out for volunteers to help finish laying sod on Sunday at the new John Harvey football field.

June 15, 1967 - Terry Erickson pitched a 6-1 win for Princeton over Santiago in town team baseball. Ron Whitcomb, Tom Enger and Art Skarohlid each had two hits . . .Barry Kettering of St. Paul edged Buzz Barton of Tampa, Fla., in the Super Modified Class feature at Princeton Speedway.

June 14, 1972 - The town baseball team beat Monticello 10-7 as Ron Deglmann got the win with relief help from Denny Minks. Deglmann hit a home run  . . . All-conference baseball players for PHS were Rick Bergeron, Dan Kne, Mike Grow and Willie Walsh. 

June 16, 1977 - Jim Bowden placed second in the high jump at the state track meet at 6'5". He also placed eighth in the 880 after running 1:59.8 in the qualifying heat.

June 17, 1982 - Tom Trunk pitched the Legion baseball team to a 5-2 win over Elk River as Brian Peterson drove in two runs. The team had beaten Pine City and Cambridge in league games with David Fischer and Erik Soule as winning pitchers. The town team lost 12-11 to Cambridge as Les Nelson, Doug Patnode and John Gloege each had two hits.

June 11, 1987 - Without a local town team in 1987 six Princeton players played with St. Francis that year. Les Nelson struck out 14 while pitching a five-hit win over Rush City. He drove in three runs in that game, a game after driving in seven when he hit a grand slam. Brian Dorr had a streak of seven straight hits, was hitting .559 and had five homers and five doubles in only 34 at-bats . . . Sophomore Judy Bornholdt placed 14th in the state Class A golf tournament as the Princeton team placed sixth. She shot a186 (99-87).

June 11, 1992 - Mark Freitag won the state Class AA long jump with a jump of 22'9 1/2".  He also qualified for state in three other events . . . Princeton lost 4-0 to Richfield in the state softball tourney . . . Alison Ringaman tied for 38th in the state Class AA golf tournament . . .  Mark Anderson, Rob Hoehn and Jamie Cox made all-conference in baseball.

June 12, 1997 - The Legion baseball team lost 12-9 and 23-18 to Edina as Jesse Zimmer drove in six runs in the two games and Kirk Henchen drove in five. The team beat Milaca 15-5 behind Mark Beattie as Zimmer was 4-for-4 and drove in six runs . . . The  Princeton Panthers won four games in five days, including a 12-5 win over Sobieski in the Metrodome. Jason Miller drove in 10 runs in three of the games. Chad Campbell had a two-homer game  against Pine City and he and Brian Dorr each drove in four runs in that game.

June 13, 2002 - Jesse Zimmer had a three-run double in a 7-6 town team win over Hinckley and got a save as Eric Deglman got the win in relief . . . Luke Bakken struck out 10 in an 8-2 win for the Legion team over Cambridge.

June 14, 2007 - Katie Loberg placed third in the high jump at the state track meet and was eighth in the triple jump, becoming the first PHS girl to place in two events at state. . . Brandon Hanson shot a 77 and a 75 at the state golf tournament and placed 14th with a 152 . . . Brian Dorr and Jesse Zimmer homered off Mora ace Asa Patterson in a 4-3 win for the Panthers over the Blue Devils, Tony Stay driving in the winning run.

June 14, 2012 - Tyler Bialucha pitched a complete game in a 6-1 win over Quamba for the Princeton Panthers. The Panthers beat Mora 4-2 after slugger Jesse Zimmer laid down his first sacrifice bunt ever in 16 years with the team. Brent Miodus followed with an RBI single.

June 15, 2017 - Larkin Walter placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles at state in :14.55, bettering her school record by 41/100.


(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has written about sports in the area for the past 54 years.)


The Princeton American Legion baseball team, facing a schedule of eight games in five days next week, is off to a 6-0 start, four of the wins coming in league competition. The team opened the season last week with 12-0 and 12-2 wins over Rush City and then swept Mora and Big Lake this week. Mora is in the process of constructing a new baseball field and Princeton won 9-0 and 12-2 in games played at Quamba on Tuesday. On Thursday at home the team beat Big Lake 11-6 and 10-5. That means Princeton has scored in double figures in all but one game so far and is averaging 11 runs a game. The competition should be tougher this coming week with doubleheaders at home against Cambridge and Chisago Lakes . . . The PHS boys golf team, after quite a comeback last week to win the section championship over Elk River, had a tough time at the state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids on Tuesday and Wednesday. Edina won the team competition with a 589 (298-291) and the Tigers finished last among the eight teams with a 653 (330-323). No Princeton  player was listed among the top 25 individually, golfers from three schools shooting a 140 to top that list . . . The Minnesota Twins are still on top of the Central Division of the American League, although their lead has slipped from five games to only two ahead of a streaking Cleveland team (14-4 record in its last 18 games) and five ahead of a struggling Chicago team that is under .500. The Twins have slipped a bit, winning only 10 of their last 22 games and winning two in a row only once in those 22 games. They won a 6-5 game last Saturday with Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa and Jorge Polanco not in the starting lineup, manager Rocco Baldelli getting by with one that day. Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan has a column today (Friday) that makes the case that, statistically, Baldelli is so far the Twins best manager. I disagree with many of Baldelli's moves, like sitting those three star players on the same day. On last Monday, with 100 games left in the season, a look at some statistics shows the Twins have stayed in first place without very good performances from some top players. Near the bottom of their pitching stats Dylan Bundy and Tyler Duffey have combined for a 5-6 record and have a combined ERA of 6.04. Near the top of those statistics unheralded Devin Smeltzer and Griffin Jax have a combined record of 7-0 with a combined ERA of 2.53. Who would have thought those two would be 7-0 and the other two 5-6 in a season in which the Twins have already used 28 pitchers, recently tied for the most in the majors? Then there are Buxton and Polanco with a low combined average of .239 and Buxton hitting under .200 with runners in scoring position, and those two leading the team in strikeouts with 55 each. Meanwhile Luis Arraez and Gilberto Celestino had a combined average of .351 on Monday. Who would  have guessed that, and that Arraez would be leading the major leagues in average and  on-base percentage? That's what I mean about smoke and mirrors. Or is Baldelli waving his magic wand at the right times? The team was 36-26  on Monday after being 25-37 after the same amount of games last season.

Load comments