The Cricket In The Room

The other day I was walking through a parking garage when I heard a cricket.  I thought it was weird to hear a cricket in a downtown parking garage, and almost immediately thought how irritating the sound of a cricket is — and suddenly I remembered something I hadn’t thought about for years.

It was the summer of 1968.  Mom and Dad had loaded the five kids in the Webner clan into our Ford Country Squire station wagon to drive from Akron, Ohio to Fullerton, California, where Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Barbara and their kids lived in excitingly close proximity to Disneyland.  (To get a sense of what the trip was like, think of the Griswold clan making their cross country trek in the Family Truckster in National Lampoon’s Vacation.)

We had stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Dad wanted to do a little gambling and get blissfully away from his five brawling, bawling brats.  We were staying at a strip motel with a swimming pool.  With seven people in our family, there was no way we could stay in one room, so UJ, Cath and I were in our own room.

Of course, we stayed up much later than we should have — what self-respecting kid wouldn’t take advantage of that opportunity? — but when we finally decided to go to bed we heard the cricket.  It was chirping away, somewhere in our room.  At first we tried to go to sleep anyway.  It was just a tiny cricket, after all.  But we couldn’t sleep.  The chirping was like a rusty saw scraping against the brain.  Even though we were exhausted, with eyes that felt like they were coated with sand and brains that yearned to lapse into slumber, we couldn’t fall asleep with that insistent noise.  And the cricket seemed to taunt us.  It would stop chirping for a beat or two, and we would think that maybe it had stopped.  And then it would start up again.

Finally, giddy with fatigue at about 3 a.m., we decided we had to find that cricket and shut it up.  It was us, or him.  UJ and I scoured the room and finally found the cricket behind the dresser in the room.  We moved the heavy dresser, exposed the cricket . . . and then killed it with a shoe.  I am ashamed to admit that I was ridiculously happy to have killed a living creature, because I knew it would finally let me get some sleep.  And that is exactly what happened.

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Leisure Suits, Disco, And The Ford Granada

Lee Iacocca and the 1975 Ford Granada

Lee Iacocca and the 1975 Ford Granada

I’ve been amazed by the steady show of interest on my prior post on crummy Ford cars of the 1970s. Interestingly, all of the attention has been to one particular car — the Ford Granada. We get data on what searches have been used to find our blog, and every week there are multiple searches specifically for the Ford Granada.

Why is this so? What is it about the Granada that continues to attract people like moths to a flame, more than 30 years after the first Granada was sold, lumbered clumsily down American roads, and immediately began to rust? It there something in the boxy shape that is intrinsically appealing to the American psyche? Are some American drivers just constitutionally opposed to aerodynamic qualities in their cars? Or, did drivers like the wide-eyed headlight design with the oversized grille that evidently served as the model for the Family Truckster that Clark Griswold was talked into buying in National Lampoon’s Vacation? Maybe it is the “Ghia” design package which — as on the shiny blue and chrome model that Lee Iacocca is posing with — consisted mainly of the cheap, pebble grain plastic cover on the roof of the car that immediately faded in the sunlight and cracked?

The interior of a Ford Granada

The interior of a Ford Granada

What about the interior of the Granada? Did its design elements satisfy the same high standards that Ford met with the body and exterior? My recollection is that the inside of the Granada could be summarized in one word: velour. The attached photo suggests, but cannot fully capture, the stunning amount of velour used on the seats and along the doors. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of driving a car with a velour interior on a hot summer day, you need only know that the velour interior of a Ford Granada captured and radiated heat with extraordinary efficiency and also managed to become both sticky and smelly when the outside temperature exceeded 70 degrees. The seventh circle of hell may involve driving a Ford Granada while wearing shorts on a muggy August day. The interior also featured lots of rubbery plastic, usually in “earth tones,” oversized dials outlined in plastic on the dashboard and, in my case, an 8-track tape player. Let the party begin!

Finally, there was the actual driving and handling of this awesome machine. My Granada was horribly underpowered, so there was no thought of impressing your date with a little rat racing when the stoplight changed. The Granada did not exactly hug the corners as you turned. Instead, it was likely a stately steamship trying to modify its course, leaving driver and passenger alike with a sick, “here we go” sense of drift until the massive front end cleared the corner and pulled the rest of the car after it. And, the Granada’s fundamental lack of aerodynamic design ensured that the billboard-sized grille would be plastered with the pulverized remains of every kind of bug native to the Midwest, and occasionally small birds as well.

So, why are people still interested in this dismal example of the American auto industry’s hubris during the 1970s? Perhaps for that very reason, or perhaps because the ’70s are in right now, and no car epitomizes the decade more aptly. It was a time of bright plaid leisure suits, bad haircuts and long sideburns, white loafers with gold buckles, disco music — and the Ford Granada.