An Unspoken Hero in a 1959 Buick LeSabre!

An Unspoken Hero in a 1959 Buick LeSabre!

This is a series of reflections on my own life that I hope will encourage you to think about yours. Many of us have things in our lives or activities that are energizing for us. Sports, hobbies, maybe places or memories that are really special to us that came from our connections to those around us as we grew up.  Mine hangs on wonderful cars from my childhood that were connected to significant memories.


Through the Windshield of My Life

An Unspoken Hero

We were all in a white 1959 Buick LeSabre going about 85 miles per hour.

Can you imagine this car barreling down I-80 from Omaha to Lincoln Nebraska with a bunch of cub scouts and a radical den mother? I can remember it as well as yesterday. I was only about 8 years old.

A two door “hardtop” with large fins, slanted quad headlamps and all the style anyone could ask for. 1959 General Motors cars are probably my favorite of all time. I have several scale models from this year. You don’t see many of them on the road today. If I could only get into the drivers seat of one of these it would be awesome!

In 1959 Buick Motor Company built the most radical and wildest Buick yet. With fins that swept from the front to the rear, and a grill made of rectangular squares, the 59′ Buick was create1959-buick - pinkd with all new design!

The LeSabre included bright trim strips that ran the length of the body. Standard LeSabre equipment included dual horns, electric wipers, glove box light, horizontal Red Line speedometer and a trip mileage indicator.

Much like the radical impact of the star ship design the Buick had on the American scene, we can impact one another’s lives in some wonderful ways. Read on and and see if someone comes to your mind that influenced you with acceptance, affirmation or just feeling loved through them.  Let the good times roll!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb 10:24-25

It is my desire to be more proactive in loving people in word and in deed. I believe so strongly that people are more responsive to personal improvement when they are encouraged for the things they do that are right and good. So, “spurring one another on” in this context is through building relationships that include encouragement, affirmation, and messages of love towards one another.

An example from my own life

My life has had many ups and downs. I have spent a lot of time processing through my personal history and have often spoke of the pain I’ve experienced. But, I would like to give honor to my past positive experiences here through a person who influenced me. An unspoken hero of my past that made a huge difference to me personally.

There I was, in the highlight of my grade school years. It was just a year or so before my family imploded from divorce. There was a storm brewing in my family that I didn’t know about. The season before the storm later became a bright spot in my history. Maybe this is why I remember this time in my life so well. It was good.

We had just moved into a brand new subdivision in Omaha Nebraska. It was called Westridge. The road in front of our house wasn’t even paved yet. We were one of the first completed homes built by the Thornton Construction Company. Bill Thornton, as my mom called him, was creating a new living environment for the bright and hopeful late fifties. The designer colors for kitchen appliances were pink, turquoise blue, or yellow but we were coming from our previous home and the ones we brought with us were white.

We had one black and white television with rabbit ears on the top. It was the same TV that my sisters and I watched the Beatles television debut on the Ed Sullivan show! A vivid neighborhood memory of mine that recurred often was of the ladies in the fresh new neighborhood. Just like he movies, they were walking down the sidewalk with coffee cups in hand visiting other ladies to get to know each other. Ah, yes, this was the fifties! A seemingly lost decade that only some of us baby-boomers remember.

The Speedy Driver

So, back to that wonderful 1959 Buick, the speedy driver was Dot Wheeler. Dot was a unique character. She was the mother of two boys and a girl. Their family lived four houses from us on our main street in Westridge and I played with the two boys almost daily.

John 3rd grade - 1963

Bobby and Larry, were great friends for me throughout my grade school years.  If I had a quarter for every time I told my parents I was going down to “Bobby and Larry’s to play” I might be richer today. We rode our bikes, walked long distances together and dug holes to China in the weeded area behind our houses. We had many sleep over’s through the years. They were my pals, my buddies. Their mother also had a significant impact on my life.

Dot was my Cub Scout den mother. We made Paper Mache’ space alien heads out of huge balloons. We also built an six foot tall dinosaur in her basement for the Cub Scout parade.  She knew how to do everything. We built it out of a wood frame, chicken wire and Paper Mache’ . We had actual dried ice for smoke coming out of its nostrils. There wasn’t anything Dot wouldn’t do for us or with us. We camped out in her huge back yard many times. I remember being there one afternoon  making a Bunsen Burner out of a “juice can” and a “tuna can” and cooking my own hamburger on it. Um, I can almost smell it right now. I got a badge for my accomplishment that was a great reward. Dot supervised the entire process while allowing me to make the project by myself.

As we thoroughly enjoyed all of the neighborhood activities we also drove to some of them. Dot would pack a bunch of us in her ‘59 LeSabre and out we’d go onto the interstate. She always drove fast and we loved it. Just a few miles down the road was the Western Lanes bowling alley. I loved Saturday cub scout bowling league events. I always took a dollar along so that I could buy one of the best soda fountain hamburgers in the world! I wasn’t so hot at bowling, but the day was always great fun. We had turquoise bowling shirts with two white stripes down the front. We were a team! Dot was right there with us rooting us on.

Once a year Dot would take us all to her home town of Lincoln Nebraska. It was about 50 miles down the highway from our home. We were always so excited to go. It felt like a fancy vacation!


Lincoln had everything an 8 year old boy would want, caves, a planetarium, natural history museum, and every boy’s favorite, dinosaur bones all over the place.

Robbers Cave was great fun too. A small cave just the right size for a group of boys to explore. It was sandstone so we could carve our names in the walls easily. As we’d look into the ceiling cracks and crevices we’d often see bats too! We also enjoyed touring the Nebraska State Capitol. The huge towering domed building was always significant to walk through. An hour’s drive to and from Lincoln made it a long day of fun and memories for us all. With Dot’s enthusiasm we enjoyed it even more.

Without the ability to digitally reproduce one of the most memorable things about Dot, all I can do is try to create it here. It was a signature whistle;

“Phreeooo!…… Phreeooo! Phreeooo! Phreeooo! Phreeooo!….. Phreeeeeeooooooo!”

She’d open the back door of her house and out it would come! Every day we’d hear Dot calling her kids home. Her whistle could be heard from all around the block. We all stopped playing and went home when she blew the announcement that it was “dinner time”.

This last year I had the awesome opportunity to reconnect with one of Dot’s sons, Larry. He was a little older than I was and I lost track of him when I moved out of the neighborhood when I was 15 years old. Doing the math, I hadn’t seen or talked to Larry for over 40 years. Thanks to FaceBook, we found each other and have become reacquainted over the last few months.

Larry became a Christian around the time we last spoke. He went on to become a pastor for a life vocation, had a family and moved around some. We talked about  his mom. Regrettably, she passed away a few years ago. She died from heart disease, but she was with her family who loved her so much.

Who has influenced you in your lifetime?

Do you have someone that encouraged you to grow or brought some excitement to your life as a child? Is there someone that made a difference that you won’t forget? What makes you think of them? Is it something like a 1959 Buick LeSabre or a special baseball team.  Maybe it is something you might see in a second hand shop that you say, “Oh, I remember those”? One lady I knew once said that she gets excited when she sees the Giants play because it reminds her of sitting on her father’s lap while he watched them throughout her childhood.

I have had many challenges in my life that are painful to remember, but I don’t want to forget Dot. My eyes and yes, my heart turns to these old cars to keep my memories alive of those things in my life that were good! Fun times with people who loved me and others with great sacrifice are important.

I never saw Dot again, but when I reconnected with Larry I mentioned going 85 miles an hour down the interstate in that white Buick. He had remembered the fast driving, but not the Buick.  I never forgot the memory and therefore, the Buick comes attached. I will not forget how his mom took me into her life of fun, encouragement and great times.

Maybe the person who made a difference in your life would like to know.  Tell them how they impacted you. It just may make their day!

I am so glad that:

“God sets the lonely in families.” Ps. 68:6

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5 Responses to “An Unspoken Hero in a 1959 Buick LeSabre!”

  1. Seth Wheeler says:

    Dear John,

    My name is Seth Wheeler and I am Larry Wheeler’s oldest son. God bless you and thank you for posting this letter.

    My Grandma Wheeler was very special to me. Some of my favofrite memories involve riding in a car with her. I remember her with all the grandkids packed in her yellow buick stationwagon that we lovingly called the “bannana boat.” She would drive along and then suddenly let go of the steering wheel and raise her hands up in the air whooting and hollaring like she was riding a roller coaster. All us grandkids would scream bloody murder, fearing for our very lives! As I look back, I remember that we did have FUN!

    I, like my Dad am an ordained Presbyterian minister. In fact, I presided at my Grandmother’s funeral, not long afer started at my first call.

    I did not of course know Grandma when she was younger. She was always “jolly” and “fun” to be around when we were kids, but as I got to be an adult I saw how much she struggled with forgiveness, depression, anxiety, and guilt.

    Your post was an absolute blessing to me. I loved hearing how Grandma made a positive impact in your life. I’d love to visit more, but I better get going. My oldest son has cub scouts tonight, and low and behold, I am his den leader. Who knows, maybe I will follow in my Grandma’s footsteps and impact someone’s life for the better!


    Seth Wheeler

  2. Emmaean says:

    What a joy to find your post while passing time Googling “All the Cars I’ve Loved Before”. The story is inspiring and you did a masterful job weaving together cars, memories, encouragement and the Word of God. May Jesus bless you, your ministry, and this blog!

  3. Daniel Kuc says:

    Great story, I always associate years with car models. 1955 will always bring to mind a turquoise & white Chevy Belair and 1957 always makes me think of my uncle Ed’s White & yellow Crown Victoria. The car I think about the most was a White 58 Ford Country Squire which was in our family for 8 years. Whenever I hear Frankie Avalon or Connie Francis singing an oldie, I picture the massive bass woofer of the speaker on the Ford’s red dash! My dad and brothers brought home many a Christmas tree in this old wagon not to mention all the trips to the landfill with our trash cans in the back!I learned to drive in this car when I was 12 as did my older brother and sister. This was the family car that took all six of us around for years. Before the Squire my little brother hadn’t yet been born, and afterwords we all went to different places at different times. A real family wagon! Yes the fifties were pink & turquoise and wonderful!

  4. David says:

    I really enjoyed your article, thanks for posting!
    God bless!

  5. Norris says:

    Hello…I loved your writings here..brings back alot of memories. I just meet the man that designed the grill for the ‘59 Buick, Edward Vonwalther. He worked for GM, Buick Divison, under Harley Earl. He’s 86 now and still working like mad. Thanks again, Norris Sperry

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