~Story submitted by Miguel Vela~
I recall how happy my siblings and I were when our father announced that he had bought a 4 X 4 Jeep when we were young and lived in the region of the Peruvian Amazon. Just imagine yourself as a kid and the joy of seeing a car, a sporty Jeep without doors and with a nice hood. It was very exciting.
My father was about forty years old when he learned how to drive, he learned with the help of a friend who dedicated just a few hours of his time to teach him how to drive in the Jeep. Learning how to drive at the age of forty is a late age for today’s standards, but in his defense I have to say that at that time only few cars for family use were in the roads of the Peruvian countryside far from the capital. Since his friend did not have much time to continue teaching him, my father sought the company of one of my cousins, Carlos, who was around the age of 18 and in the house with us. They were both eager to learn how to drive so they practiced driving outside of the city and eventually learned how to drive.
I was around the age of nine or younger when that happened and I have very fond memories of family trips we went on in the green Jeep with a white hood. My mother and I were recalling a trip we went on years ago. On a trip on a rainy day, that almost ended in fatality, due to the rain and muddy road, the jeep almost ended up in a ravine. But thanks to my father’s calmness, his newly acquired expertise and some roadside vegetation, perhaps we wouldn’t end up at the bottom of the ravine. Fortunately my father knew how to control himself and remain calm in difficult times, in contrast to the “co-pilot” of the Jeep; my mom was and still is a very nervous person. I clearly remember her giving the heads up and warning my dad of the dangers in the road.
As a funny thing, I remember an episode when one early morning, we found a sleeping person sitting in the right seat of the Jeep. My father went to wake him up realized that the guy was very intoxicated and was ignoring us. The guy was so drunk that he was not able to maintain a conversation. Since we lived a half a block from the police station, we notified the policemen and they removed the drunk out of my father’s Jeep.
In the many trips we had in the Peruvian Amazon’s region, my father in his Jeep crossed narrow rivers, just like in the Indiana Jones movies, with water reaching up to the ankles. I remember the locals giving him encouragement and telling him to “put traction in fourth wheels, boss.” When rivers were wider and with high streams, the Jeep was transported in special rafts to cross the river and continue the trip on the road. I also remember a wooden makeshift bridge made of thick tree trunks. Crossing over logs was very dangerous and had to be done very slowly and with somebody in front of the car giving verbal directions so the Jeep can stay on the logs.
Trips to the river banks on Sundays were a family tradition and we ended up the day with a visit to country side restaurants in the area. Once my father coincided with an old friend he met when they were young. To celebrate their re-encounter they had a few beers together. My father only drank socially and with the second glass he was already acting up happy. As we noticed that my father was not one hundred percent, we did not let him drive back home. The friend told my mom, “Lady, don’t worry, nothing is going to happen. Your husband and I drove war tanks in the army “. Undoubtedly a pretentious statement, typical of those with a few extra glasses of liquor. Whenever my mother and I get together, we remember and laugh at that famous phrase. On Sundays in the river also took advantage to wash the car. In my memory, I can visualize the view of the car parked on the river bank and my father washing the car with the help of my brothers and myself using buckets, rags and brushes.
When we went on trips, we were seven people in the car. The older children rode in the back with a battery-powered portable radio listening to either music or soccer games. The Jeep also served as transportation to my father’s soccer team made up of co-workers of the bank where my father was the manager. I remember he used to get up early and go door to door to pick up all the team members for practices or games. My father, the coach, also taught himself and had learned how to coach a soccer team. Through a brochure he became familiar with the game and warm ups exercises that we, his children, well remember. I had the same routine with about four or five movements to warm the body before the games.
It was an inconvenience that the Jeep did not have doors because my siblings and I were really young so my parents only kept the Jeep for a short period of years. Our parents did sell the Jeep and acquire a station wagon, which incidentally is also part of our family history.
All our relatives, uncles and cousins I am sure remember my father’s famous Jeep. It definitely left fond memories in our lives that will be hard to forget. We were very happy with the Jeep and one way or another contributed to consolidate our household, traveling together and enjoying trips during our childhood.
We are very thankful to my father’s Jeep!
Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story – Miguel Vela
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