That Old Black Magic on Wheels


For the last several months I’ve been preoccupied with planning a move across the U.S.A. to the East Bay. (Obviously not with writing posts on this blog. That should change soon.)  Both of my daughters and grandsons are permanently in California. So I’ll start a new adventure living in Oakland near Lake Merritt in about 2 more weeks.

Some of you may remember how much my mother, screenwriter Jane Hall, loved “streaking through the dawn” with the top down on her latest convertible. Readers of Such Mad Fun learned about her first black Chrysler convertible, “Hi Toots,” which she took to Hollywood by ship in 1937. Towards the end of the book you can read about another black Chrysler convertible that she purchased in 1957 and hung onto for the rest of her life. By the time Jane died in Virginia in April 1987, the car was in really bad shape; the entire interior had been devoured by rodents. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. But that summer a man came to Poplar Springs with a metal Band-Aid box stuffed with $5000 cash and offered to take it off my hands. I accepted, but I always wondered what happened to the car.

I learned to drive in that Chrysler. And, to my mother’s dismay, I scraped up the large fins trying to get through the stone gate posts in the farmyard at Poplar Springs. Most of all, in those days, I wanted to escape from my parents. So I eagerly agreed to do errands for my mother by driving from the farm into Warrenton.  As soon as I got out of sight of the house, I would put the top down, turn on the radio, and blast songs like “Runaway” by Del Shannon. (Skip the ad and listen here.)

Cars were definitely a means of escape for my mother as well. This Chrysler 300 C took her on some Intriguing adventures at a time when her life was full of calamities. (Such Mad Fun, Chapter 16.)  But what a surprise I had recently. Days after I sold what is probably the last car I will ever own, a very cool fellow named Dan Granger contacted me through this website to say he has the beautifully restored car. The same car. (Pictured above.) He emailed from the west coast of Florida. A brief and fun correspondence with Dan revealed that that there have been many parallels in our lives. It’s amazing what you can find out these days if you’re serious about tracking down a vehicle. Dan purchased the car from “an ex-judge” in New Jersey who had acquired it from an attorney in New Jersey in 1999. Then he managed to track down the original title from June 1957. So I’m excited to know this Chrysler (which did not have a name that I knew about) is in great shape and may outlive us all.

My mother learned to drive In the 1920s when she and her widowed mother bought their first car. They named it “Teresa.” She drove it hundreds of miles back and forth from California to Salome, Arizona, where she had lived as a young child.

As I now head west, leaving a lifetime of memories behind on the East Coast, I will think of the cars we had, the trips we took, and “the things we’ve done together, a-while our hearts were young.”

Listen to “That Old Black Magic” (Sinatra) here.


Image of a Studebaker like “Teresa”