The photos in Ruth Anne Choma’s old family albums offer a glimpse of a young woman who appreciated the finer things in life: wearing fur coats, riding beautiful horses and driving her 1967 Ford Mustang.
She certainly loved that car – so much so that she even snapped a picture of it on her honeymoon, her new husband barely visible behind the wheel.
It was March, 1970, and my newlywed parents had piled their bags into my mom’s Mustang, bought when she was still a single teacher. It was “Springtime Yellow,” with a 289-cubic-inch V8 engine and black vinyl interior, and it would take them from Toronto to Montreal, down to New York City, through New England, up to Niagara Falls and home again.
“I absolutely loved it,” my mom says of the Mustang. “It was cool-looking. Nobody else had a yellow one. Everybody had a red one. That’s why I didn’t want red. I wanted to be just a little bit different.”
Back then, mom and dad would just hop in the Mustang and go, “and see where we ended up,” she says.
“It was really peppy; you just stepped on it and it took off, and it had a really nice sound to it. You can always tell a Mustang from the sound.”
Those were carefree days, but big changes were in store. In February, 1973, my parents piled into the Mustang with a new bundle – my brother – riding home from the hospital in my mother’s arms.
“In those days, there weren’t car seats,” she explains. “You just held the kid and away you went.”
Sadly, with the arrival of my brother came the departure of the Mustang.
“It was hard to see it go,” my mom admits, but she was giving up her career for motherhood, and they couldn’t afford to keep both the Mustang and the new Ford Pinto station wagon. “When you have kids, you have to be practical.”
The Pinto was a tough adjustment, she says. “It had no get-up-and-go.”
With its four-cylinder engine, however, it was so much better on gas that sometimes my father thought they could go forever on one tank.
Not so, he discovered the day he ran dry on Highway 401 and had to leave my mom, by then with two small children, alone on the shoulder.
“It was scary,” she recalls. “Your dad’s off with his little gas can, and I’m singing songs, trying to pretend everything’s fine, but I’m just shaking in my boots because the trucks are whipping by making the car shimmy.”
Even scarier, she says, was the time we were in a big pile-up in their second Pinto on the 401. It was Christmas Eve, 1980, and many of the other drivers, “probably all a little tipsy,” drove off without waiting for the police. It’s hard to imagine how my brother and I slept through it all. It’s hard to believe that, unbeknownst to my parents at the time, we drove a car that became infamous for exploding in rear-end collisions.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, and I ask my mom if she’d like to drive one again.
“I don’t know,” she replies. “Are they good on gas now?”
How my mother has changed since her days of miniskirts and beehives. It seems she now appreciates the simpler things in life.
I ask her whether, 41 years after she sold the Mustang, she has any regrets.
“Well,” she says with a pregnant pause.
I assure her I’d like her honest response, but what I get leaves me wondering: “Oh, you were just so worthwhile,” she says with a laugh.
Dianne Nice is the Globe’s business community editor.
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Correction: The Mustang had a 289-cubic-inch engine, not 289 hp as stated in an earlier version of this story.