Caveman's Craigslist

There it is!  There it is!  Boy, do I have a hot night planned tonight!

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, there were two ways most kids scored their cars.  You could buy one off a buddy that either needed money, was getting another car, or lost his license, or, you could refer to the Advertiser, or The Shopping News, or whatever your local weekly advertising “newspaper” was called.  It was just like Craigslist except it was in dead tree format, only came once a week, was local only, had a much smaller circulation, and was expensive to advertise in, but at least you could receive it for free.  

In fact, it came right to your door, so to speak.  Actually, it got stuck in one of those open-ended, plastic boxes that they would attach to your mailbox post, whether you wanted it or not.  You were better off having it, because otherwise the delivery guy would just chuck it in your driveway where it inevitably, got rained upon.  I read many a soggy Advertiser, carefully peeling the wet pages apart, trying to find some four wheeled nugget of gold.  In the winter, it would get covered in snow, and you would usually find it with the snowblower.  No chance of reading it then.  It was no biggie though, because your neighbors almost certainly didn’t want theirs.  In fact some of them, in some form of protest against unsolicited advertising, never picked picked theirs up, so it was kind of like having a three month archive available to you at all times.

I grew up in one of the best areas for used car shopping in the country.  Right on the border of Kenosha Co, WI, and Lake Co. IL.  There were two large cities within 70 miles, and a fairly high population scattered around them, so there were plenty of buyers and sellers, but it was still rural enough that there were plenty of farms and such where dudes had room to work on and store cars.

Our local Advertiser came out on Wednesdays, so my buddy and I had a weekly ritual.  That night, we would meet at one or the other’s house, throw  a frozen pizza in the oven, turn on the TV, open up the Advertiser to the center page, and try to pull it apart in two bunches of equally numbered pages.  Then we’d each take half, and get to “work”.  

Unlike Craigslist, the advertiser’s ads were not classified, or categorized in any way.  Totally random.  You could find an ad for a ‘57 Chevy tucked right between ads for weight loss scams and ads that started with the words “Single white male”, so you had to keep a sharp eye, and be able to cover a lot of ground at the same time.  Just like with Craigslist today, the best deals would often get swooped up within hours of an ad’s initial appearance.

Used car ads in advertiser papers were written in a language that no Craigslist surfer under the age of 35 could understand, although, if they are big into texting, I think that they could probably figure it out.  These papers charged by the letter for their ads, so a.w.q.c.(Abbreviations Were Quite Common)  AT, A/C, PW, PL, PS, PB, 2dr, 4dr, 3spd, 4spd, Int Wprs, AM/FM-8T, Nds.TLC, etc. Ads for luxury cars would just say “loaded”.  

Some guys couldn’t figure it all out.  After having an ad that that resembled some kind of redundant, dyslexic alphabet, they would have a final line that said “Blue in color.”  Really?  In color?  I thought you might have been referring to the car’s emotional state.  Couldn’t he just have said “blue”?  Those words “in color” probably cost him between one and two bucks.  That was almost enough to catch a buzz on tap beers back then.

Anyway the ritual rarely resulted in a vehicle purchase.  We did it mostly for entertainment.  (Kinda gives you an idea of what losers we were, huh?)  We would often call up people just to mess with them, especially if they had what we thought was a stupid ad.  You know what I mean, the ones claimed that their garden variety car with a morphodite combination of options was rare, or a “collector car”.  Junk collector maybe.  Who wanted a ‘78 Ford LTD II? Even if it had T-tops, big deal.  Of course, that was back then.  Today, those cars worth... well, how much do they weigh?

One last thing, for all you Craigslisters. If you think a picture can be deceiving, try going by the sellers word alone. No pictures in the Advertiser. At $.20 per letter charge for text, who could have afforded to use pictures even if having them were possible? 

This would be how a seller would describe a car over the phone:

But they almost always ended up looking something like this:

          or even worse, something like this:

Buying a car is so much easier these days, but on the other hand it's so much more expensive. I've seen cars like the one above going for $4500 and more, these days. Back in the '70's, a car like this would go for $500 max, if it ran half way decent. Wouldn't you love to go back in time, buy about ten of these beaters, and do absolutely nothing to them except hold on to them until now? That would have never worked though. There's no way we could have resisted fixing 'em up and driving 'em.

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