Sunday, 11 May 2014

Of Old Chevy Pickups, Camel Cigarettes and Budweiser Beer

Of Old Chevy Pickups, Camel Cigarettes and Budweiser Beer

              I like it when old friends talk about the good old days.  I like it when they talk of the 60s or 70s, often referring to that time "when life was slow and oh so mellow."  I like to hear that phrase again and again: "and oh so mellow."  I like watching scenes from old movies. For old movies connect me to the past. Like Malpaso's Bridges of Madison County. One particular scene takes me back to the mid 60s.  It is when photographer Robert Kincaid, aboard his old green Chevy pickup, makes it to Iowa, thousands of miles away from his place in Bellingham, Washington. He meets middle-aged farm wife Francesca and asks for the covered bridges of Madison County. My eyes are fixed on the Old Chevy. Rugged, heavy duty, sturdy, reliable. Built between 1954 and 1958, if i guess it right. There is a spare tire at the left side of the pickup. Kincaid's words reverberate in my mind: "The road is a strange place. Shuffling along, I looked up and you were there walking across the grass towards my truck on an August day. In retrospect, it seems inevitable - it could not have been any other way-- a case of what I call the high probability of the improbable."  Kincaid and Francesca meet for the first time.

Robert Kincaid drives up and down this country road in Winterset, Iowa looking for Roseman Bridge. (pic from the wandering chick; caption is mine)

Francesca's house in Winterset, Iowa.  (the wandering chick; caption is mine)

National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid inquires about Roseman Bridge and Francesca is more than willing to show him where the bridge is located. (fanpop; caption is mine)

Roseman Bridge, built in 1883,  is one of several covered bridges of Madison County.  Bridges are covered to protect the wooden trusses from the effects of the rain and sun. (wiki photo; caption is mine)

            When Chevrolet was incorporated with General Motors in 1918, the first Chevy pick up rolled out of the plant.  It was meant to be inexpensive and designed to compete with the more expensive Ford pickup. Most Chevy pickups in the 50s had three-speed manual transmission.  It had open driveshaft.  The GMC name was on top of the car plate in front. The name Chevrolet appeared at the rear in big letters. Power steering and power brakes were mechanical options then. Price of one unit was about $1,400. But that was in the 50s. The name Chevrolet was the surname of one of the incorporators of the original Chevrolet company.  He was a race car driver and car designer.

1946 Chevy Pickup (motortopia)
A 1947 Chevy Pickup with the so-called Advanced Design features. (howstuffworks)

1/2 ton 1954 Chevrolet Pickup.  Photo taken at Arizona State University (j. knapp)

A 1956 Chevrolet Series 3100 Pickup (howstuffworks)

The 1/2 Ton 50s Chevy Pickup. It has a shiny chrome grill.  It is power steering. The Chevy pickup is dubbed "the cab that breathes." (hemmings; caption is mine)

Chevy Pickup still in mint condition.  Very nice. (g'gle pic)
The original Chevrolet Motor Car Company was named after one of its founders, Louis Joseph Chevrolet. It was established in 1911.

            I like viewing that scene when Francesca, on board Kincaid's pickup on the way to Roseman Bridge, lights a cigarette. Kincaid always keeps a pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment.  It is an all too familiar brand - Camel.  It is Kincaid's preferred brand and Francesca is blowing smoke. Obviously, she is enjoying the moment.  She is enjoying their conversation with jazz music in the background. Many times in the story, the two are shown smoking Camel cigarettes. She says:  "And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone.  I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before." They are now starting to gravitate towards each other.

Kincaid lights Francesca's Camel cigarette with a Zippo lighter.  They are on the way to Roseman Bridge. (listal; caption is mine)

Kincaid's assignment for National Geographic is to take photos of the covered bridges of Madison County.  (g'gle file)

Francesca, driving a Ford pickup, visits Kincaid while doing his work on the covered bridges.  Kincaid takes photos, not only of the bridges, but also of Francesca. (listal; caption is mine)

            Camel cigarettes were popular then.  Whereas before, cigarettes were prepared and rolled by the user, R.J. Reynolds Company was selling ready made and packed cigarettes.  They were in soft packs, without filter. It was called Camel as it used Turkish paper and looked like the expensive Egyptian cigarettes.  In its first year of operations, Reynolds was able to sell 425 million packs of Camel. Even medical doctors were used in advertisements endorsing the Camel brand.

Vintage ad of Camel Cigarettes (

Even doctors endorse Camel Cigarettes in an old advertisement (ads of yore)

Old pack of Camel Cigarettes in the 60s. (wiki)

A 1948 billboard of Camel Cigarettes at Times Square (wiki)

Specially packed Camel Cigarettes (

R.J. Reynolds was the founder of Reynolds Tobacco Company. He was originally from Virginia but moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he established in 1875 his tobacco company that produced Camel Cigarettes. He became the wealthiest man in North Carolina. (wiki) 

           In their four days of being together, as Francesca's family members are attending a trade fair, they become too close to each other, drinking Budweiser, dancing the night away, kissing  passionately and making love. It is forbidden love. It is like playing with fire. More Budweisers for the two. And Francesca has to decide:  to run away with Kincaid and live a new life together or stay in Iowa with her family. They make love again on the last night. I can hear Johnny Hartman's song playing in the background:  "Once in every life....Some one comes along....And you came to me....It was almost like a song....You were in my arms....Right where you belong....And we were so in love....It was almost like a song..."

Dinner by candlelight (G file photo)

They dance. (G file)

They kiss passionately. (G file)

They bathe together.  (G file)

They make love. (G file)

            Kincaid travels back to Bellingham all by his lonesome. Francesca, with a heavy heart, chooses to stay with her family. This is a strange story. A very unusual one. Author Robert James Waller says it best in the opening lines of the book:  "There are songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass, from the dust of a thousand country roads. This is one of them."

- Konted

Kincaid is still hoping that Francesca will change her mind as he waits at the town center.
My books, all written by Robert James Waller. The book Bridges of Madison County was #1 on the New York Times best sellers list in 1993.  And with a budget of $22 million, the movie Bridges of Madison County grossed $182,016,617 at the box office.

Budweiser is produced by Anheuser-Busch InBev.  It is called King of Beers. (R. Healey; caption is mine) Per my good friend Allan Alcobendas of New Jersey, InBev also produces Stella Artois.

Budweiser is sold as BUD in Europe.  It was first sold in 1876 by Adolphus Busch.

Budweiser packaging plant in St. Louis, Missouri ( g' gle)

Delivery truck in Michigan (wiki)
Adolphus Busch introduced Budweiser in 1876.