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Two Sad Days Over 50 Years Ago

In the fall of 1963 I was 18 and just out of high school, working at a Studebaker dealer in my home town (Rochester, NY) and going to college at night.  I loved the design of the new ’64 Studebakers and loved being able to do the dealer prep work on the new ones as they came in – which I managed to convince my boss should always include a short test drive…  :-)  

As a side comment  --  they never let me drive the one and only R2-powered car we sold (while I was there), a white Super Hawk, but I made friends with the new owner, and he didn’t trust himself (in his sixties) to “see what it could do”.  So one weekend after he had a couple thousand miles on the car (it was the following spring -- he didn’t drive it during the winter) he invited me to go out with him to a desolate road and push it to the red line in both first and second.  Quite a feeling to shift the PowerShift tranny into third at 90+ MPH and get it up to about 110 before backing off!!  Yep – we did chirp the tires on both shifts.  But back to the reason for my short memoir…

I was working in the parts department on that fateful day in November when the bookkeeper came running with the news that President Kennedy had been shot.  I remember thinking she must be kidding for a minute until the truth of the news sunk in.

Soon after there was the terrible news from South Bend, that Sherwood Egbert had resigned as president of Studebaker and then the even sadder news on December 9th.  It was on the evening news just as I got home from work.  Studebaker was going to shut down much of the South Bend plant and stop making the Avanti, the Hawk and the trucks.  I didn’t sleep much that night.  That sad event has been well covered in Turning Wheels for December, 2013 by Andrew Beckman and Fred Fox, so I won’t go into more here, except to say that it wasn’t easy for a teenager to experience 2 potentially life changing events in such a short span of time – the kind that you always remember where you were when you heard…