Personal Cop Out

Chapter 21: Personal Cop Out

By Harvey Kalmenson
    I remember my first car as if it were yesterday. I returned home from the service and my dad somehow found a way to give me a homecoming gift of five hundred dollars. At the time, he must have cleaned out his bank account in order to make it happen. We went to a Ford dealership and picked out a young guy’s dream car: a 1955 Ford convertible. It was aqua and white with a tan top and white sidewall tires. The inside upholstery matched the outside paint perfectly. Man, was I gaudy or what?
    My car color matched the times we were living in. Things were beginning to percolate, 1956 was right around the corner as we all readied ourselves for “Heartbreak Hotel”. And the man who introduced a brand new era, the one and only, “Elvis Presley”.
1955 Ford convertible– we paid $1,500 brand spanking new. It left me with car payments of $90 a month. At the time of purchase, (not yet da harv) was earning a grand total (after taxes) of $57.50 per week to take home. That would be worth $522.75 today, the equivalent of an 801% increase.
To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $58 in the S&P 500 index in 1958, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $32,214.58 in 2021. This is a return on investment of 55,442.39%, with an absolute return of $32,156.58 on top of the original $58.
(Excuse my impertinence, but every so often my other life as an investment counselor comes out and I just can’t help myself).
    Anyway, I have always loved cars. At this stage in my life, I have it down to a final choice between two superlative machines, either a Bentley Continental GT or an Aston Martin, like the one driven by 007.
    If ever it happens to happen and I somehow have the ability to purchase either one of them, I will, of course, have to do so. I mean, if a dream comes true who am I not to act on it. 
   It occurs to me, there may be some of you out there who are of the opinion thinking about luxurious automobiles is not exactly a wholesome dream for anyone, especially me, to set as a dream goal. Well, there was a time when I put having a really super house as my goal, above all else. It was a strange phenomenon when I discovered how much more important having a house was than having a car. In actuality, I needed both.
    The house proved to be far more essential for a guy with a family. It’s doubtful that people go out shopping in search of a used house; the terminology is usually reserved for when you shop for a car. A house is your family’s home. A car is for transportation, especially when both the husband and the mom have to go to work every day as we did!
    What sealed it for me regarding the big difference between the importance of a car compared to a man’s home became apparent abruptly. While it’s true we weren’t evicted from our family homesite, the threat was an ominously dark experience. Cold, hard-to-take, and straightforwardly frightening. Multiple letters announcing the ominous date my home was going to be sold at auction; at least when it comes to falling behind on car payments, they give you the courtesy of not kicking you out of your home with all the neighbors standing around and watching the community hanging.
    And at the last moment, God showed up, mission impossible was accomplished, and as one of my great friends said: “All’s well that ends well”.
    My two little kids didn’t have an inkling of what had transpired. Each and every day when the girls spotted me walking down the street, coming home, they’d both dash towards me with big hugs, yelling loud enough for me to hear them from down the street, “Daddy’s home!” Those girls were helping me survive. I often felt like their hero. That was many years ago, a big time difference between then and now.
    We’ve got a tenant leasing the same house today. I still own it, but now we own two houses; one of which is our home. We affectionally refer to it as “Da Villa on Da Hilla.”
The days before:
    I pulled my beautiful convertible into the parking lot at the Palladium nightclub, across the street from Earl Carroll’s. An extremely appropriate gal was enjoying my Ford convertible as much as I was. It was a good time to be alive while spending my money like it was the last day I’d be allowed to do so. I mean, I had eight hundred and fifty dollars the United States army had given me as mustering-out pay.
    I was carrying it all rolled into a bundle, in order to make sure everyone near us was able to see how a wealthy man hangs out. I think this last sentence gives you an idea of my cognizant abilities at that moment in time. As the great Duke Ellington had summed it all up: I was about to cop-out.
    The evening had been a spectacular experience. The show came to an end. I dropped my date off at her home and found myself alone, examining my feelings about what I had just been privy to.
Chapter 22: Thinking Back

    To this day, without equivocation, I can say with complete conviction: Sammy Davis Jr. was the greatest all-around performer I was ever privileged to be personally entertained by! I had watched him many times on television, all the way back to when I was a child myself. For me, he was without equal.
    During my allowed position in life, I have been asked by usually an aspiring actor: who in my opinion was the most outstanding actor I have ever met, seen in person, or have worked with? And my answer has always been the same, all these years, from the moment he stepped on stage to thoroughly capture all of us: Sammy Davis Jr. Nothing Sammy did as a performer was ever a cop-out!

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