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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Why is Spokane a hub for summer classics?

Bob Bennett, of Cheney, Wash, hangs red fuzzy dice from the mirror of his 1963 Plymouth Fury at the Goodguys car show Aug. 18, 2017. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Bob Bennett, of Cheney, Wash, hangs red fuzzy dice from the mirror of his 1963 Plymouth Fury at the Goodguys car show Aug. 18, 2017. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

So surely there are those in Spokane who do not care about restored vintage automobiles.

Right? I mean, there have to be. It’s a statistical certainty and all that.

I got to thinking about these folks recently while contemplating the Spokane area’s sure signs of spring. The emergence from garages of fixed-up old cars is one. Though sometimes it’s more like a sign of summer.

Anyway, that brought to mind the idea of people unmoved by the name Studebaker or those oblivious to the charms of a lovingly restored 1957 Chevrolet.

Do they need a support group? I would offer to organize it, but my heart would not be in it.

You see, I like shiny old cars. I’m no gearhead, but I can understand the appeal of a pristine engine block or gleaming fenders. Especially if you did the restoration yourself.

Of course, those who don’t care do not really need a support group. They can simply ignore the car shows and conversations about cracked exhaust manifolds.

But what about the rest of us, those who are not into rehabbing old cars but still find the end results appealing?

Maybe we need to answer one question: What is it about Spokane and restored autos?

It is more than nostalgia, though that can be a powerful driving force.

It’s not just an obsession with the past, a yearning for our own youth.

And I don’t think it is just a salute to Spokane’s blue-collar roots.

I think it’s closer to what a writer once said about why a lot of TV viewers watch HGTV shows. It was, as I recall, this: People like seeing situations made better. We like improvement.

And what is successfully restoring an old sedan if not a happy ending?

Sure, automobiles are a special case. You know the list: freedom, power, elegance, speed, memories, sex, independence and getting to what’s next.

But what if your pulse doesn’t quicken at the full-throated growl of big-engine revving? Why would seeing a spiffed-up old Dodge on Division turn your head?

Because your dad had one? Because its lines remind you of old movies and an America that the fortunate among us might idealize?

Here’s my theory. I think we connect with restored cars because they show that someone cared. That obvious attention and patience resonates with some of us.

Sometimes we come up short when it comes to the impulse to love one another. Relationships are complicated. But when we see a gorgeous old Thunderbird or Stingray, we know we are looking at the results of ardent devotion.

There’s something reassuring about that.


Like many of us, I have multiple areas of embarrassing ignorance.

For instance, I am extremely poor at tree identification. I don’t know a maple from an ash. And I have read multiple articles about distinguishing one kind of pine from another, yet the information in these arboreal guides never seems to stick.

Kind of sad for a resident of the Evergreen State. Don’t you think?

It’s not just trees. I’m lousy at identifying styles of architecture and the artistic categories of the great painters. I could go on. It would be a long list.

But the one that really bugs me is birds. I simply do not recognize bird calls.

I have been reminded of that recently as I resumed riding my bike to work. Shortly before dawn, while it is still dark, the birds are really piping up.

Assuming they aren’t all robins, I would like to know just which of our feathered friends I am hearing. Then, in the future, I could greet them by name (or at least species).

So here is what I propose. I want to rendezvous early some morning with a bike rider who really knows his or her birds. I’m looking for genuine expertise here.

Then we can leisurely tool around a few Spokane neighborhoods and listen to the songs serenading us from the trees. Should just take 45 minutes or so.

If you are interested in being my ornithological guide, let me know.

As I said, the time to do this is early in the morning. So if the prospect of going for a 5 a.m. bike ride does not appeal to you, well, I’ll understand.

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