"Perhaps people, and kids especially, are spoiled today, because all the kids today have cars, it seems. When I was young you were lucky to have a bike." -- James Cagney

After 18 years, the automobile my wife and I purchased in 1996 finally gave out. Realizing the time had arrived when we'd have to give it up was heart wrenching. After all, we bought our car the same year I retired.

We drove everywhere until it began showing its age, and we were faced with having to make costly repairs or trade it in for a new one.

We found a ready buyer with our son-in-law's help and spent the next several weeks looking for a replacement.

They say the best time to purchase a new car is the beginning of the year when dealers are eager to reduce their inventory to make room for the latest models.

I didn't know who "they" were, but acting on their advice we visited several automobile dealerships, listened to endless spiels, and perused the newspapers for the best car deal before settling on a hybrid.

I have owned many cars over the years from compacts to minivans. My very first purchase was a '56 Plymouth Plaza sedan. It was fashionably painted sea spray green with a cream top.

The car came equipped with a push button gear shift and vinyl covered bench seats. Other conveniences such as a heater, defroster, and radio -- and even the cigarette lighter -- were not included.


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Since I had just started working, I was barely able to make the down payment. Even without accessories, the car set me back a whopping $1,800!

My purchasing a car was welcome news to my parents, as I had moved back home following discharge from the U.S. Army and was always borrowing their only car -- a vintage Plymouth coupe -- which my dad also used for his gardening business.

It's amazing how much we've come to rely on cars. Before being issued my driver's license, I did a lot of walking and biking and made the most of public transportation.

Back in those days, owning two cars was a luxury and possessing three or more was porcine.

Some things about cars we never forget.

I still recall the night I helped a friend push his family car out of the driveway and down the street before starting it up. He wanted to take it for a spin without his parents' permission, and I was an accessory.

Me? I didn't know the first thing about driving. After a trip around the block, we pushed the car back up the driveway without waking his parents, and nothing was ever brought up about our brief escapade.

A lot has changed since those early days.

Cars now come equipped with almost every imaginable amenities.

Rearview TV monitors, GPS system, keyless ignitions, and heated seats just to name a few.

And there's no telling what the designers and manufacturers have in store in coming years.

I will concede that yesteryear's cars weren't as sleek, didn't travel as fast, and weren't equipped with all the safety features today's cars offer.

On the other hand, people are traveling at a much faster rate than I'm used to and traffic has more than quadrupled since I began driving.

And I've driven a lot of miles.

And now that commuting is no longer a problem, I can appreciate seeing more of the landscape I overlooked when I was in a rush to get to work.

One more thing: I consider cars of our time as classics.

You only have to see the number of folks who stop and stare when a '70 Torino drives by to get my point!

Better yet. Try walking sometimes and leave the car keys at home. It'll do your body good and help prevent strokes.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at transcript@bayareanewsgroup.com.