1961 Buick Magazine

February 1961 Buick MagazineY’all are probably tired of hearing me mention the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon, but that vehicle is why I have a copy of the February 1961 Buick Magazine. In it, readers get to rhapsodize over the features in their new and old Buicks.

F.G. Chambers of Cincinnati, Ohio, is very pleased with his 1961 Invicta, which he is convinced is better than his 1957 Special and gets better gas mileage. He brags that his buddy, has a “much more expensive competitive make that doesn’t ride any better and that certainly doesn’t have the smooth transmission of my Buick.” In addition to power brakes, power steering and windows, he has the guidematic light dimmer and rear window defroster. “I also have my car equipped with Wonder-Bar Radio. That floor button control is out of this world.”

 Buick demographics

February 1961 Buick Magazine

If you are curious about the demographics of Buick owners in those days, just check out the cutline for the photo at the bottom right of this spread on New Orleans: “DRESSED APPROPRIATELY for the occasion, two attractive young [emphasis mine] ladies look on the Mardi Gras fun”. You had to be a Buick owner to think those are “young” ladies. I don’t think they could see young with a telescope.

On a second note: Missourian Editor John Blue impressed on me that “You never write that a female was a lady. You can tell if she is a woman, but you don’t know that she’s a lady.”

Control Arm Suspension

February 1961 Buick MagazineThe driver if this car doesn’t seem at all nonplussed to find herself on a raft afloat on a nondescript body of water. She doesn’t even seem concerned that a couple of hooligan fisherboys are apt to scratch her paint job. In 1961, the portholes are still there, but the fins are disappearing.

Cypress Gardens

February 1961 Buick MagazineI was just looking at footage of Cypress Gardens in family home movies from when we went to Florida in 1961. The Gardens were living-breathing PR machines for Florida. They even had a photo booth where you could call your friends up in the frigid north and describe to them the action flying by. If you weren’t all that good at photography, the announcer would tell you the exposure settings before the skiing beauties passed by.


February 1961 Buick MagazinePeter Jay Noto of Oaklawn, Illinois, wrote, “Every two years I buy a new car. I travel quite a bit being an actor, and Buick offers me the best performance together with complete pleasure. My next one will be a 1961 Buick Convertible.”

That name didn’t ring a bell, so I turned to Google. The only reference that popped up was on Page 10 of the June 29, 1960, Economist Newspapers where a gossip column by Vic Short said, “Peter Jay Noto reminds me he read the leading male role for “Living Venus” as mentioned here a few weeks back, but movie producer Lewis said that play wasn’t Pete’s particular cup of tea, that the Oaklawn theater guild actor would be better cast in a teenage flicker.”

Living Venus sounds imminently forgettable, but it did serve as the film debut of Harvey Korman.

Old Jackson Road

The magazine came to Mr. and Mrs. L.V. Steinhoff, courtesy of Wiethop Buick Sales at Sprigg and William. I was pretty sure that’s where Dad bought our LaSabre, but I would have sworn it was called Clark Buick.

I’m not sure when Kingsway Drive quit being called Old Jackson Road.


Franklin School Safety Patrol

Franklin School Safety Patrol 2There’s no doubt that young ladies were attracted to those cool uniforms we School Safety Patrol guys wore. Not only did we have bright yellow helmets, Sam Browne belts and bright raincoats, but we also had the STOP flags that could capture the cute girls until you gave them permission to proceed.

Key post at Keller and Themis

Franklin School Safety Patrol 6Our patrolman bundles up against the rain falling on his post at Keller and Themis. That’s my 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon at the curb (mentioned for the car collectors who specialize in it).

White boots and rolled cuffs

Franklin School Safety PatrolThis was the era of white boots for girls and rolled-up blue jean cuffs for boys. I mean, you had to buy them long because of expected growing spurts. Just like bikes were bought big enough that you had to put wood blocks on the pedals so you could reach them until you grew into the two-wheeler.

Not allowed to stop cars

Franklin School Safety Patrol 7We were strictly informed that we weren’t supposed to actually stop cars. Our flag was to hold back the kids until we were sure the street was safe to cross, then we would swing out flag out to reinforce to any approaching car that they were supposed to stop.

I did, in my role as Captain, turn in the tag and description of a car that failed to stop at the stop sign I had rolled out into the middle of the street. Whether he turned it into the cops or not, I never knew.

We took our jobs seriously

Franklin School Safety Patrol 5I am proud to report that all of our charges always made it across the street safely. Surprisingly enough, I don’t recall any of our peers mocking us for our duty. Maybe it was because we could sneak out of class early to take our posts. We wore our rolled-up white Sam Browne belts attached to our belts when we were off-duty.

Trinity and St. Mary’s Patrols



Plastic Statues and Seatbelts

Woman w kids in car 03-21-1969 64When I spotted this carload of kids shot back in Ohio in 1969, I thought back on more innocent days when we counted on plastic statues on the dashboard to keep our precious cargo safe. The only restraint system most kids encountered was Mom’s arm hastily flung out in front of them.

Padded dashboards

Religious statues on dashboard 09-06-1967These icons would have a tough time sticking to today’s padded dashboards that replaced nose-bending metal ones.

You can say what you want to about how “they don’t build them like they used to,” but that’s a good thing. My 2000 Odyssey van just turned over 170K miles. I used to have to trade cars about every two years when they had less than a third that much mileage. It’s true that cars suffer damage at lower speeds than they used to, but that’s because they are designed with “crumple zones” that eat up the energy of a crash rather than transmitting it to the vehicle’s occupants like the old solid-frame cars.

Seatbelts in the Buick LaSabre

Ken Steinhoff 1959 Builck LaSabre station wagon at Buck Nelson Flying Saucer Convention 74

My folks figured I needed more than plastic statues, particularly after I hit a bridge before I had driven 150 yards during Ernie Chiles’ attempt to teach me how to navigate the highways. They equipped the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon with some of the first after-market seatbelts to hit the market. My car and I were covering the Buck Nelson Flying Saucer Convention in Mountain View in this photo. You’ll read more about that later.

There was nothing automatic about those first belts. In fact, I’m not even sure they had quick-release buckles; you might have had to thread the belt through the buckle every time. I don’t remember if the wide front seat had two sets of belts or three. If it was the former, that was probably Mother’s idea of safety – it kept my date on the far side of the car.

I give Dad credit: he put them in the car for me, but he wore them religiously, if only to set a good example. Working hundreds of wrecks made me a seatbelt fanatic. When I encountered a passenger who didn’t want to buckle up, I’d give them a choice: buckle up or walk. Here’s a site that gives a good explanation of why seatbelts save lives and how they work. They’ve come a long way since my fabric belt bolted to the floor.

Crash stories

Trooper Norman Copeland 04-14-1966

1966 Don Ford wreck on Mississippi River Bridge