DFH Volume 1 Issue 9
By Jim Dayton
“How in the world could the stoically proper Dayton family have a wild side?” one might ask. The answer is, we may not, but my dad got as close as it gets. In 1956, my dad, Paul, bought a new “two tone” baby blue and white, two door Ford Fairlane. At the time he was driving a 1952 ugly looking green Ford. He decided he had to sell the ’52 (a “sale by owner” transaction), before he put the new car on the road. So, the ’56 sat in the garage for what seemed to be an eternity, although it was probably less than a month.
Dad was only 33 years old at the time, but he was living a mid-life fantasy. While the new Ford was waiting in the garage, he put some aftermarket personal touches on it. The first was a Bermuda bell within an easy stretch from the clutch on the driver’s side floor. When he stepped on the stem of the bell, a reverberating “ding-dong” rang out in an unmistakable signal that Paul Dayton was coming. It was like having a bicycle bell on steroids. Then came the mud flaps. In the ‘50’s, mud flaps were not installed to keep your car clean; they were a symbol of “coolness”. They were a statement, to the world, that “this car is really cool”. Next came the lifter springs on the back of the car. These springs jacked up the rear-end of the car so it sloped slightly downhill from rear to front. It was another sign of “cool”. But the quintessential modification was the addition of a glass pack muffler. The muffler didn’t muffle hardly anything. The Ford thundered down the street with a sound so loud that it was annoying to the average person. If the engine “backfired,” the resounding “boom” added another notch on the “cool scale.” As an eight-year-old “rebel kid,” I thought my dad had the coolest car on planet earth.
In about that same era (1956 to 1960), my dad yielded to the urge to do 360° donuts in the snow in at least one unplowed intersection any time we were riding home from church. I also remember the time at a church youth group skating party on a local lake. Dad loaded the car with kids, drove down an icy embankment onto the frozen lake and then went berserk. He slipped and slid and did skids and donuts all over the ice. We were all afraid the ice would break, and we would sink, which made the ride even more heart throbbing. Obviously, I survived although I didn’t think I would at the time. Paul must have been, at least by Dayton standards, at that special moment, the “wild and crazy guy!”