In 1989, my father bought a brand-new, gray, Mercedes Benz 300SE sedan. It was huge — two-and-a-half tons and nearly 17 feet long. He paid $52,000 cash for it.
This was way out of character for my fiscally cautious father (and mother). They had had lots of cars over the years, but none so glaringly ostentatious.
This was a man who served a career in the Navy, including duty in World War II and Korea. He was married to a woman who had worked her way up from office secretary to purchasing chief for a large school district. They never — ever — wasted money.
So why did my father buy that car?
He bought it to drive over 3,000 miles across the country – from San Diego, California to Norwich, Connecticut, to attend his 50th high school reunion.
My father was the son of Greek immigrants who struggled to get their family through the depths of the Great Depression. Money was always scarce.
A member of the Norwich Academy class of 1939, my father had to work as the janitor in his own high school. He resented that his whole life.
Now was his chance to show off. The car would make a statement about George Dillon. The janitor kid had triumphed.
When the time came, Dad and Mom left San Diego for Connecticut on their long victory lap east.
A few weeks after they returned, my mother told me what happened.
It turned out that living in Southern California for nearly 40 years had convinced my dad that true affluence in America was owning a luxury European car.
However, according to my mother, that turned out to be a West Coast notion. In the Northeast the mark of opulence was driving an All-American Cadillac or Lincoln.
My dad sold me the car a few years later at a substantial discount. I was a Southern California kid, so I was impressed.
David Dillon is a full-time Manzanita resident and has lived on the north Oregon Coast since 1994. He helped found the Hoffman Center in 2004 and served on its board for 16 years. His artistic passions are writing and cinema.