I stopped smoking on New Year’s Day, 1969. It’s the only resolution I’ve ever kept. I had two principal motivations. The first came from my three sons. They were all enthusiastic viewers of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Cleverly sandwiched between the cartoons were public-service TV ads inveighing against smoking. (Much cleverer to target smokers’ kids than the smokers themselves.) One day, Robert, my then-nine-year-old, came to me and said, “Dad, if you keep smoking, you’re going to die.” That hit me pretty hard – a powerful imperative from the mouth of a babe.
My second incentive came from my wife, JoAnne, who, about a week before Christmas 1968, told me that if I quit smoking I could buy any car I wanted. Any car? Yes! Visions of boattail speedsters and modern exotics began to swirl around in my head.
At about that same time, out of the blue, a friend offered me $500 for our family sedan, a bland but friendly and well-kept 1962 Buick Special named “White-Bread Ralph.” Taking JoAnne at her word, I gladly sold White-Bread Ralph and began to look for a replacement. I’d recently checked out a gorgeous 1966 Jaguar E-type roadster being offered by a young woman at our local university, but Jo brought up a good point: “Where will we put the kids?”
One Sunday about a week after New Year’s, I happened to be driving Jo’s station wagon through a neighborhood near our house in Stockton, and there in a driveway stood a pristine, butternut-yellow 1967 Camaro convertible. It didn’t have a for-sale sign on it, but I thought, “What the heck, I’ll ask the owner if he wants to sell it.”