The cars and the courtship

The love affair began with a 1939 Buick convertible. The only hitch for Marion Nicholson? Her father bought it for her brother, not for her. For the “car-mad” young woman, it would be the start of a decades long passion for many cars.

When she was 24, she bought her own, a new 1950 Mercury Coupe. “My friend said she wanted a baby, a house and a husband. I wanted an apartment, a fur coat and a car.” She was told she drove like a man, she says with a hint of mischief.

Marion Nicholson is tiny and elegant. She plucks from piles of photos on the coffee table as we speak, 51 years of a marriage with husband Tom before her. Notes in hand, he watches from across the room, immaculately dressed in vest and tie. His attention to detail reveals the engineer he was before retirement, arriving here from England in 1953 with Avro.

Before they met, Tom and Marion were crisscrossing the country in their jobs. Marion was teaching grades one and two before moving into administration, steadily trading in cars every few years, loving both the luxury and the freedom. She ticks through the cars that came before Tom – the Mercury, a 1954 Ford, and the 1956 Buick hardtop she had when she met him.

In 1958 at a dance, Marion says Tom made a beeline for her across the dance floor. Tom mulls over the word beeline. She confirms it was a beeline, and he acquiesces. Love at first sight? “I’d been in love 3 times. From age 20 to 30, I had many romances. But Tom was the last,” she says factually. “I wouldn’t give him my number that night. I thought he was responsible, a great dancer and quite good looking, but he wasn’t sure what his prospects were. He let me talk while we danced. I like to talk while I dance.”

From bits of information that night and a directory, Tom found her number. Mutual love bloomed, their temperaments finding a rhythm that would last a lifetime. “I told her if she wanted to get kissed, she had to quit smoking,” says Tom. Marion quit smoking. “I realized I could always get another cigarette. He saved my life.”

On a trip to Muskoka Sands from Toronto one summer, Tom’s 1955 Ford Fairlane rolled to a stop. “I always had my tools with me, and that car had a straight 6. Very easy to work on. Marion sunned herself on the rocks, and I fixed the car. An hour later, we were on our way. I think she liked that I could take care of things.”

Marion hands me a picture from that trip, the two of them smiling inside a cottage. “He thought something else was going to happen on that trip. It didn’t.”

Any favourite car? “We had a 1974 Ford Maverick. Marion quite liked that one.” Marion gives him a direct look. “A Maverick? My favourite was the first Cadillac we had.”

“But we took that Maverick twice to the east coast!”

“Well, I enjoyed the east coast,” comes the dry retort.

There’s a big difference between a Ford Maverick and a Cadillac. Now long retired with just one car, I ask how they reach agreement.

“I learned long ago it is easier for me to drive an expensive car than for Marion to drive a cheaper one,” he laughs. Unsurprisingly, it is Marion who haggles and buys the cars. She’s itching to replace their current 1999 Cadillac Seville; she’ll likely get her way.

They speak in tandem, yet never over each other. Their words braid around the stories they tell, gentle corrections, tiny asides, patience and passion in equal amounts. “I’m dramatic,” says Marion “and Tom is not. He’s a few years younger than I am. Always go for a younger one,” she tells me quietly. I leaf through a stack of cards. Each one, more than 51 years worth, filled with original poetry from Marion to Tom.

For all the talk of cars and courtship, it’s these words of poet John Newlove that Marion slips to me as I leave:

“…the greatest beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing.”

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18 responses to The cars and the courtship

  1. Pat says:

    I love this article, Marion is my kind of girl. They remind me of my Mom and Dad, who fell in love during WW2, and my Dad drove a 1934 Ford V8 Coupe. Mom learned to drive in that car. When they married in 1943, they had $75 between the two of them. They didn’t care, they had each other, and stayed together 68 years until Dad died at 97. Nice return on a $75 investment?

    • Lorraine Lorraine says:

      They are awesome. The things Marion said that I couldn’t write….funny, funny lady. She gave me a hat. Whenever she’s dressed up, she wears a hat. She has so many, they have their own room. She sat there looking at me, then announced “I have a the perfect hat for you” and up we went. She perched a fedora she bought in Paris on my head, and said, “now, you wear that to your conferences where all the men are. We’ll get you one yet.”

      • Pat says:

        You would look awesome in a Fedora! Wear it.

      • Sandy says:

        I wish I could wear hats.
        Have tried on many because I think they are awesome, but I look goofy.
        the guy in the hat store said that the right one just hasn’t found me yet…..I have my doubts it ever will.

        Will we get a pic of you in the fedora? I bet it looks great.
        Do you have a leather jacket and boots to set it off?

        • nursedude says:

          One needs a trenchcoat to go with a fedora. Not sure what kind of boots would go best.

          • Lorraine Lorraine says:

            I do not wear hats well. I asked her if she had any cowboy hats. She looked at me quizzically:)

            Whether I wear the fedora or not, I know I’m going to treasure it.

          • Kerry says:

            Brogans with a steel toe cap go with a trench coat and fedora (unless you’re a flasher) .

          • Roz says:

            Lorraine. Put the fedora on and take a selfie and send it to me. I’ll let you know how it looks. Maybe choose a nice pair of glasses and sandals to go with it!

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