Studebaker Stories:

4500 Miles In 102 Hours and I Got Married

By Del Hardegree

Ah...youth. I really should be dead for some of the foolish things I did way back then. Back then was Thanksgiving weekend of 1961. I was young, foolish, and slobbering around in love.

I had met my wife-to-be when I was on leave from the Navy five months before. We had a plan to get married in June 0f 1962, when I could get leave again. I had already traded the old 1954 Green Dodge Coronet for my, new to me, dream machine, a 1957 Studebaker Silver Hawk.

1I was stationed in Fallon, Nevada, where us swabs used to say there was a good-looking woman behind every tree...both of them. My wife-to-be lived in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, more than 2250 miles away. I guess it was the loneliness of being so far from home. It might have been the fact that every letter from my wife moved the grandiose plans for the wedding up another notch. The latest was that an aunt was sending the wedding gown material directly from Japan. Whatever the reason, I was primed and ready to get married. I didn't want to wait until June.

When we got off work about 4:00PM on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my friend, Bray, came and asked what my plans were for the weekend. I didn't have to be back on duty until 7:00AM Monday. I said in a half-hearted way that I was thinking of going to Birmingham to get married I really shouldn't have said such an adventurous remark to Bray. He started urging me on. Before I knew what happened, we had gathered our dress blue uniforms, just in case something happened and we had to hitch-hike, and we were headed to town to cash a check and to call my “Sweetie.”

“Sweetie' wasn't so sweet. She said she wouldn't marry me if I came home then. She wanted that Japanese silk brocade wedding gown and June 1962 date as agreed to. I told her I was coming home anyway and would stop on the way to see her for a minute. Bray and I jumped in the Hawk and headed to Birmingham.

In 1961, the speed limit on Nevada's highways was ”reasonable and proper.” The plan was to keep the speedometer at about ninety MPH. We would change drivers every time we bought a tank of gas. The passenger was supposed to figure a way to get some sleep around the center armrest hump in the back seat. We drove way too fast over deserts and mountain passes that left many cars gasping or boiling over. The Hawk never wanted anything except an open road... a place to stretch her legs. We averaged over 20 MPG on that trip, even at those speeds.

When I arrived at “Sweetie's” house on Friday afternoon, about 3:30PM “Sweetie” came running out dressed like a queen. She jumped in the car and said we had to rush to the doctor and get a blood test. Another aunt knew the head clerk at the courthouse and she opened up just long enough for us to get a license. Somebody found the preacher in the laundromat. We got married about 9:00PM Friday night.

Saturday Morning at 6:00AM, I was on my way back to Fallon, Nevada...still wondering what had happened. My new wife would ride a train to join me in Nevada in a couple of weeks.

If driving home was adventure, driving back to Nevada was pure misery. The back seat of a Hawk is not like a bed. We threw caution to the wind. We raced a new Plymouth Fury about halfway across New Mexico. We were gassed up and leaving when the Fury pulled in and just had to see the totally stock 289 CID V8 that had left him in the dust. I was driving when I was jolted totally awake, sliding on ice in the Nevada mountains. By the grace of God, we made it.

I've been married to “Sweetie” for over 47 years now. We sometimes argue whether the Hawk had black or crème/white upholstery. My Hawk was painted two-toned crème/yellow. It took me years on this site to find one with the same paint scheme. I enclose a copy of the bill of sale. Does the serial number 7207379 mean anything to anyone?

I've had many cars since. Hands down, the 1957 Studebaker Silver Hawk is my favorite. It's not all nostalgia either. That car was sooo far ahead of its time.

Del Hardegree

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