So bye-bye Miss American Pie

Drove my Chevy to the levee,

But the levee was dry.

And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye,

Singin' "this'll be the day that I die,

"This'll be the day that I die.

It's been 40 years since singer/songwriter Don McLean immortalized the Chevrolet automobile in his classic song, "American Pie."

Actually American Pie is one of more than 700 songs in which the Chevy is mentioned. No other car even comes close.

Chevy turned 100 years old last week. I found it a benchmark experience because Chevys have been a part of my life since the time I was old enough to drive.

My first set of wheels was a '56 Chevy BelAir, two door, two-tone blue. I loved it.

My good friend Jack Evans also had a two-tone blue BelAir, almost identical to mine. We'd cruise together, then park them side by side outside Buck Culley's restaurant in Coaldale. We thought we were cool.

I began dating my future wife while driving that car. We'd take it out to Heisler's Dairy bar for miniature golf and ice cream, or to the Angela, Palace or Victoria movie theaters in the valley.

When the radio quit working Mary reminds me that I used to sing to her while we were driving. She also reminds me I was a lot more romantic in those days.

Today I drive a Trailblazer, a different kind of Chevy. This one's roomy, and good in snow with four-wheel drive. It's a perfect vehicle for those Summit Hill winters. But the biggest difference is now I pay $3.50 a gallon to fuel the beast. Back then, gas was only 25 cents a gallon.

Chevys have always been there for me.

After the '56 Bel Air died, there was a 1963, gold in color, four-door sedan my first family car. It served me well, but it wasn't nearly as cool as the '56. It was, however, the car I taught Mary how to drive in.

After that I graduated to a 1973 Chevy Caprice station wagon. My family was growing, and so were the size of my vehicles. This wagon was a treasure, dark green, with faux wood paneling on the sides. I towed my first boat to Canada with that car. We'd put the back seat down, laid out a couple of sleeping bags and pillows, and the kids would sleep in it all the way to the border.

Around the same time we latched on to a 1972 Camaro gold, with rally wheels and bucket seats, and a great stereo with an eight-track. Suffice it to say this was my favorite all time car. Actually it became my wife's car I was relegated to the station wagon. It later became my youngest son Jim's first set of wheels. He thought it was cool. We all did.

Chevys continued in our life.

Soon after moving back to this area, I went to Hahn's in Lehighton and purchased a used, but well maintained 1986 Chevy S-10 pickup, my first truck. It was silver and gray with a red pinstripe and had four-wheel drive. It was a good truck. It also was good at towing a boat.

After several winters it developed a few rust spots. So I took it to the Carbon County vo-tech school and had the kids in the automotive classes work on it. They restored it so well, that it looked new again. I drove out of the vo-tech parking lot like I was departing from a new-car showroom. I got about five more winters out of it before I turned it over to my son, who kept it until some drunken driver plowed into it one Saturday night while it was parked in front of my son's house in Coaldale. It died before its time.

My oldest son, Mike, has always been a Chevy man. He drives a silver Impala these days, equipped with a back child restraint seat for our little guy, Sean James. He also has an older Chevy Cavalier (185,000 miles) that he uses to drive to Reading where he works. His wife, Thelma, drives a Lumina, so Chevys are very much in evidence in that household.

But before four-door sedans, Mike was a Camaro man. He owned three of them. The first we got for him while he was in high school. That was probably a mistake, but we live and learn.

His last Camaro caught fire one afternoon on top of Bugzie's Hill while he was driving home from work. It burned to a crisp. Now that was a hot car, literally.

According to an Associated Press story last week, General Motors has sold more than 204 million Chevys in its hundred years of existence. Of that 204 million, my family has owned at least a dozen. So that should allow us to be classified as part of the Chevy family.

In the last 83 years, Chevy has been the top U.S. brand for 52 of those years. I've been driving them for about 50 of those years, so I'd like to think I was part of that success.

And who remembers Dinah Shore singing "See the U.S.A., in your Chevrolet" on her popular TV show back in the 50s and 60s?