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Fly Away Little Bug, Before VW Kills Off Species

July 13th, 2019 · Tags:Cities · Satire

 

Social media tells me that the Volkswagen Beetle is no more … again!  Remember the U.S. “Bug” was quashed years ago, although the Latin American-made Bugs continued to multiply south of the border, following that whole Boys From Brazil kinda thing – German stuff migrating to the southern latitudes and all that … I digress …

So, with the demise of the most peculiar of all automobile species, accordingly … how about we focus on the VW Bug for a moment with a few randoms … Do you have some favorite Volkswagen stories too?

Ha … In a few years, will it be that the Volkswagen Beetle becomes the “New Coke” of the automobile world, again?  Is this another “Now you see it, now you don’t” marketing ploy?  Will the Bug be back, after consumer outcry? I wonder …

Small Wonder … that reminds me … that is the name of a book that Volkswagen published and packed in its Bugs along with the owner’s manual, back in the day.  I had my hands on a copy of it in like 1970 — right about the time of the famous Lubbock, Texas Tornado … the storm that almost quashed the hometown of Buddy Holly & The Crickets … I digress … Anyway … in my mind the Bug and that tornado are mashed together.  My oldest brother had a brand new Volkswagen and was living in Lubbock at the time of the devastating storm.  The first or second time I saw his Bug, it bore a “spiderweb” cracked/shattered imprint all the way across the automobile’s front windshield.  What is that, about four feet across on a Bug?🙂 My brother and the car were caught in the high winds of the Lubbock storm’s path, when a metal trash can flew across their path and left a mark. Ouch!

I wonder how many Bugs got smashed in Lubbock that day. If you ever visited 1970-era Lubbock, you know the place was crawling with Volkswagens, probably not unlike most college towns of the day.

So VW has a special place in my heart, although I have never owned a “Bug” … because I stole one once:)  Ha … it was that very Lubbock Bug, after its windshield and black eyes had been mended.  For some reason, my brother left his Bug on our farm for a few weeks for us to use.  It was quite the farm-boy thrill when I was allowed to fill up the VW with gas, because it meant I could drive the 1/20th of a mile loop from the farmhouse to the gas tank and back … ha … never needing to shift out of 1st gear on that brief drive — shifting, still a bit of a tricky maneuver for this 10 year old (at the time).

Driving that little fill-’er-up circuit was fun … But not as much fun as the day I stole the Bug.

My mom could barely master a stick-shift transmission, like the one in the loaner Bug we had at the time — but that didn’t stop her.  One day she was determined to attend some Home Demonstration meeting, or 4-H Leaders event or something at the Oldham County Barn in Vega, Texas, and she took The Bug.  What’s more, she took me, my sister Cindy, and our friend Teresa was with us too.  For some reason, we were left out in the car in the shade that day, with the keys so we could listen to Top 40 tunes on KIXZ or KPUR on the AM radio in dash.  That’s when a great idea hit me.  Let’s go for a little ride!  So I hopped behind the wheel with my two accomplices (“older women, no less) … and we took off down the dirt and caliche roads around the County Barn.  OK … “stole the car” is a bit of hyperbole, but still … what a great adrenalin rush … that whole “doing-something-a-little-daring” thing … I think we drove around for about five minutes before we parked the Bug without mishap.  So fun … thus … I rave about it about a half century later … I digress …

I’ll never forget the smell of a nice clean vinyl Volkswagen interior back then.  Maybe the plastic mixture of the vinyl from Germany was different or something.  Ron’s bug was white with a red vinyl interior … “four-on-the-floor” transmission … (although I only needed two gears for my getaways) … oh that little rumble and shutter as I let out the clutch and putt-putted down the road.

Hmmm … other top VW moments … actually this is perhaps the low point … an old friend once confided in me that an old girlfriend OF MINE “slept” with HIM in a VW.  Wish I could forget that one … or that my “filter’ worked, and I would have better sense than to report it.

Another Bug that comes to mind is Eli’s baby blue Bug — the car of a co-worker at my first, part-time college job on the fuel island, fueling up 18-wheelers at Ryder Truck Rental in northeast Amarillo.  Eli was not a tall man, nor was he fast at filling and washing trucks, but he was pretty interesting.  I still remember his best stunt that he taught me.  Back in those days, the aluminum of canned drinks was slightly stronger, and you could stand on top of an empty can on one foot, and it would hold your weight.  However … if you stood on the can and at the same time bent down, and with your index fingers, tapped both sides of the can at once … voila! … it would instantaneously crush into a perfect little “hockey putt” of recyclable goodness:) Ha … Eli forgot to tell me that you had to be very quick, or when the can crumpled in a flash, it would also catch and pinch the hell out of your fingers.  Ouch!

Of course no VW tale would be complete without … “SLUG BUG!”  I bet you played it too on road trips … you’d see a VW Beetle, call it out loud to your friends or family … and “find me somebody to ‘slug.’”  Ha … in my PR career, I pitched many an out-of-box idea (because those are the ones that get attention, despite what corporate America PR might think/say and want to bill you for) … and at some point, I pitched a “Slug Bug PR” idea to some large company.  The idea was to lease and logo-wrap VW Beetles in every major city where the company had offices … but most importantly to put the company logo on the very top of the Bugs … then have drivers go up and down the streets of the downtown, between the skyscrapers.  The plan was to put out a news release in advance, to tell other companies and potential clients about the ploy … and to suggest that office dwellers — those lucky enough to have a window in their cubicle — watch for the Bugs every day and then to race across the office and punch their coworkers, yelling “Slug Bug!”  Workplace bedlam would ensue, I predicted, and everyone in the financial districts would be watching for the company’s logo on the streets below … every day.  They didn’t buy my idea … 🙁 … I digress …

And now, leaving the canyons of Manhattan behind, mentally, travel back with me to the level Texas Panhandle.  Certainly, If you have followed this blog — or Route 66 for that matter — you have seen or viewed many references to and photos of the art installation … or maybe you have seen the world famous “Cadillac Ranch” near old Route 66.  Well … have you ever heard of “The Ranchette?”  As you may know, Stanley Marsh 3 commissioned a group of artists from California — The Ant Farm — to assist with this famous art monument to roadtrips.  But also, sometime after the Cadillac Ranch’s initial notoriety and early, new coats of paint, a friend or family member of Marsh 3’s presented him with a present — a VW Beetle planted in the ground in front of the Marsh home … “The Ranchette”  … Stanley also had a giant “pool table” — a green pasture of grass or winter wheat, planted to resemble a playing surface and pool table pockets — visible from an aerial view with assorted brightly colored and numbered Volkswagens — moving around like billiard balls.  How fun!

 By the way, is Volkswagen already the plural form?

Also in the Panhandle … The owner of two of the coolest, best AirBnBs on Old Route 66 had a great, off-white VW Super Beetle, cleverly named “Pearl.”  But dang it … I just learned that Pearl was sold … like a year ago. Ha … and I was not consulted!?! Oh well … glad I didn’t create any ideas for future tourist postcards to promote the AirBnBs … or anything like that:)  I am in shock.  But regardless, can’t wait to see “Station 66” and her sister AirBnB “The Lucky Horseshoe” again!

 

 

Like I said … I never owned a Bug, but was part owner of a VW Rabbit convertible once … that was fun, but no one ever punched anyone because of the rabbit, to my chagrin.  Ha … I still remember the classified ad I put in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when we sold that car:  “Topless bunny wants to play.  Fast. Good condition, but needs facelift”  … The first looker bought the car, the day the ad ran.

When I first moved to Fort Worth, I used to see a camouflaged version of VW’s other fun car — The VW Thing — which looked pretty much like a WWII-era, German personnel carrier … ha or maybe like Dr. Doolittle’s mythic creature the “push-me-pull-you.  The box-like body was pretty much the same shape coming or going. But here’s the thing … about the Fort Worth Thing … it had a band name spray painted on the side of the car.  “The Toadies” … never did find out if that was an early sighting of one of the bandmembers — Fort Worth’s most famous rockers at the time.

The Toadies “Possum Kingdom” … what a great song … what a great rock voice!  “I’m not gonna lie …” I digress …

Ever see any of the quirky old VW advertisements?  They were always fun … My favorite: a TV ad that featured a Bug being driven over a river bank or into a lake or something like that, to illustrate that the VW was airtight and would float … pretty much just like a fishing bob … you know in the event that you were ever in a 40-day downpour or whatever …  What a great advertisement!  Other’s claim that Volkswagen’s “Think Small” ad campaign was the best of all time.  I still prefer the floating Bug, hook line and sinker.  But here it is:

Think Small Campaign

“SLUG BUG!”

Know what I sayin?