Some years ago when I was doing research for my book, I received a letter from a man named Roger Morrison, who was the current owner of my father's custom-made 1952 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. My father's car collection wasn't all "old" cars—there were some classic cars—a 1932 Chrysler, a 1949 Daimler, and an experimental 2-seater Raymond Loewy-designed Packard given to him by the car company (more about which in a later post), as well as the modern Rolls. I remember my father describing being measured for the driver's seat as one would be measured for a suit. Such was Rolls-Royce perfectionism.
Cars were a big deal in my family. I had two of them by the time I was five (more about that, too, in a later post). But about the Rolls— Mr. Morrison's letter said "In the back seat there is a fold down armrest with a secret compartment which has room for personal effects as well as a pigskin covered cigarette case and notebook. Some notes it it refer to a 'Tiny Melton.' Can you please let me know the significance of this?"
Suddenly, all these years later, I could feel the sheepskin rug in the back seat between my toes, I could smell the leather of those pale cream pigskin seats, and see the glossy inlaid fruitwood bar with its Waterford decanters and glasses. Such elegance! Tiny was the much beloved Boston Terrier I had as a child. For some unfathomable reason, I chose to record his death in that secret notebook.
Driving the Rolls was always a bit of an adventure, for the car's steering wheel was on the right, English-style. One needed a co-pilot for passing or parallel parking. Although my mother was a confident and excellent driver, she only took the wheel of the Rolls when absolutely necessary. We never had a chauffeur, much as such a car cried out for one!
That's me, age seven, in the photo sitting on the luggage rack on top of the car in front of our Weston, Connecticut home.