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25 Years Ago – Fall 1992

A Cap Full of Memories

by Terry G. Reid

We have all thought, talked, or at least read about it. The “it” is how much our Miatas remind us of those classic British roadsters of the past. But have we ever thought of how the sight of us driving by reminds others of the roadsters of their past? I never had, until met an elderly lady in a grocery line on a Sunday morning in a small town in Georgia.

It was the final day of last year’s East Coast Rally in Savannah, Georgia. We had just finished having the group photos made, and were about to start the road rally to Beaufort, South Carolina. I suddenly remembered that I was low on two essentials—gas and cigarettes. I had become somewhat familiar with the area, as it was on the way to Roebling Road Racetrack (another great venue), and I knew there were gas stations and grocery stores nearby. So off I went. The gas was no problem, but the cigarettes were. The first store I remembered was closed, and the second only had one check out open. A group of about ten people were already waiting. Having no choice, I took my place at the end of the line. As I waited, I noticed the woman in front of me. Short and thin, with white hair, she looked like a Norman Rockwell painting of a grandmother on the way to church. Except for the cap.

She was wearing a baseball cap bearing the logo of an outboard motor company, and it was definitely a high mileage number. It looked as if it was new when Ike was in the White House. As I was studying her cap, a cashier opened another register and motioned for me to come to her. I tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, “Ma’am, you’ve been waiting longer than me, so you go first”. She smiled and said, “Thank you, sir, I really appreciate this”, as she stepped up to the cashier.

As she was paying, she noticed the rally name tag on my shirt and asked what it was for. I explained to her that I was from Birmingham, Alabama and had come over to Savannah to attend the rally for Miata owners. She then said that she had been to Birmingham back in 1944. She was on her very first airplane trip, and was forced down in Birmingham by bad weather while going out west to see her husband, who was in the Air Force. She said the airline had taken the passengers from the flight to the Tutwiler Hotel for the night, and she still remembered how elegant it was.

As I paid for my cigarettes, I described to her what type of car a Miata is, and she surprised me by saying that she and her husband had once owned an MG. I told her that if she had a minute I would be happy to show her my Miata, and she gladly accepted. As we were walking

across the parking lot to my car, I pointed it out to her, and she froze in her tracks. “It’s blue”, she said in a barely audible voice. We then went on to my car, parked with the top down, where she continued the story. Her husband was one of the first U.S. bomber pilots in England during the early part of World War II. He completed a tour of twenty-five missions over Europe when the odds said you would be killed before you could finish ten. He rearmed to the U.S. and was assigned to instruct new pilots out west. A year later he volunteered to go back to England, flying more combat missions until the war was over. When he came home this time, he brought a blue MG back with him.
He stayed in the Air Force, and for the next four years, they traveled to several bases across the country in their MG. He then left the service and they returned to Georgia. They spent the next year driving around the state on weekends, always in the MG. She said those were the best years of their lives.

Then, in 1950, the war in Korea started, and her husband was recalled into the Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to fly combat missions once again.

This time, he didn’t come home.

They had no children and she never remarried. She hadn’t learned to drive the MG, so it sat in the garage where he had parked it for over ten years. She finally sold it and never saw it again. But she never forgot it.

By now a short trip for gas and smokes had stretched to over half an hour. I began to worry about making it back before the rally start was over and everyone else was gone. But I hated to leave quickly, having caused these painful memories of her husband to return to her. I opened my trunk, took out my new blue Miata baseball cap, and asked if she would like to have it. She immediately removed her old cap and replaced it with her new one.

As I was saying my goodbye, she smiled and hugged me, then said, “I’ll remember you and your little blue car for the rest of my life, son”. I got into the car and left just in time.
I rushed back to the rally starting point, hoping the wind would dry the tears on my face before I arrived.

I have since traded my blue Miata for a new yellow one. But somewhere in Georgia, a sweet old lady still has memories of two men in little blue roadsters.

The next time your are out for a drive, if you see someone with white hair or perhaps a cane admiring your car, give them a smile, and if possible, some of your time. You may learn something. They may be seeing themselves fifty years ago, and you may be seeing yourself, on down the road.

Copyright 1992, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

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