We’ve not visited Ray’s Corner for a while — nor done much of anything else here on the blog — largely because we’ve been visiting the real Ray’s Corner quite a bit lately.
My dad, who is 85, has had some health problems in the six months since a minor accident ended his driving career. He increasingly grew short of breath over the summer.
Long story short, a few doctor visits, a few tests. Heart trouble. Last month, Dad had three stents put in to clear blocked arteries. He’s feeling better, but I do the driving and grocery shopping. Some of that used to be time for blogging, or for working out. So it goes.
Today, though, I was reminded of a time that might have been the best of my father’s 85 years.
In the summer of 1964, my parents were in their late 30s, with three young boys. I was 7. My brothers were 5 and 1. Dad and Mom felt confident enough about their lives that they bought their first house.
This house, in a quiet, leafy older neighborhood in Columbia, Missouri. They paid $18,000 for it (about $127,000 in today’s money).
Things were so good in the summer of 1964 that my parents also bought a new car, a 1964 Pontiac Catalina, midnight blue. They paid $2,500 for it (about $18,000 in today’s money).
Mom loved living in Missouri, just far enough away from her family in Wisconsin. She loved that house, too. I saw today that it’s for sale.
Save for the two large decks and some necessary updating, it sounds largely unchanged from when we lived there. “The 3 bedrooms are clustered,” the description reads, “perfect for a young family.”
That it was, for exactly one year.
Dad worked for Railway Express Agency, something like today’s UPS. The gig in Columbia, a college town always shipping or receiving packages, must have seemed such a sure thing in 1964.
But business depended heavily on passenger trains, which were dying out. As business dried up, REA cut jobs. It allowed workers with more seniority to take the jobs of those with less seniority.
In 1965, just a year after buying his dream home and his dream car, Dad was bumped from his job. That summer, they sold the house and moved back to Wisconsin, where Dad bumped someone else.
That house in Columbia was the only house my parents ever owned. Thereafter, they always rented.
That year, 1965, was when Dad stopped buying records. His collection, part of which is mine now, ends that abruptly. You see why.
This was one of Dad’s records. I still have it, but it’s in rough shape. We listened to it with him over and over.
Now, 45 years later, one of its songs seems to summon the hope and dreams, the loss and wistfulness of that time.
“Walk On By,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. It’s out of print (but I have four copies). The song, an instrumental cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune, is available on this greatest-hits compilation CD from 2001.