Bearcat

FRANKLIN MASON

April 12, 1991|By FRANKLIN MASON

What he wanted and wanted now was a Stutz, a Stutz Bearcat.

He was not young, not a ''car'' not a ''machine'' man, as they were called back then. Still he wanted a Stutz and wanted it now. He thought maybe it was due him.

He didn't drive, didn't own a car until he was middle age, 46 or 7. He wondered what he had done with his youth. Surely, he told himself, youth today could not possibly be ''carless.''

Then he surprised his middle age and bought his first car, a second-hand Olds, rather long and flashy, two-toned, red and white. It was almost as if his youth began to flare, flame in middle age. But it did not last. The Olds gave way to smaller cars, capable and a little dull, but they got him there.

Now he wanted a Stutz. Or maybe what he wanted was to go back to the Thirties. He knew the Thirties weren't all good, still he liked them, liked the Baltimore Thirties.

He was just out of City College, the high school they called college, a spanking new building them. Carless, he walked in the Depression and found what jobs he could. Carless, he looked into books and the theater.

Every week he went downtown to the Maryland Theater. They had a repertory company there called the University Players. They came down from Cape Cod and played here for two seasons. They had everybody there, unknowns, and then everybody went on to be famous. But most, most he remembered two: They were young, almost as young as himself, sometimes they played bit parts, sometimes lead parts, and sometime opposite one another.

Yes, they married here, Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda. They married here in the hotel just adjacent to the theater. But plays delayed the honeymoon, but there was one -- or almost.

And so back to the Stutz. For $75 Fonda purchased a Stutz Bearcat, a two-tone blue. In front of the theater, the University Players saw them off, off in the Stutz on their honeymoon.

What he wanted now was a Stutz Bearcat.

And the Fonda Stutz wasn't the only Stutz back then.

Back then, who else was there in Baltimore, or nearby? At La Paix, in Rodgers Forge, in a Victorian house. Scott Fitzgerald. Scott Fitzgerald had a Stutz, a Bearcat, a blue one, a second-hand one, too.

He didn't know Scott Fitzgerald, or only very, very little. He didn't know Fonda and Sullavan but felt almost as if he did. He saw them every week on stage.

He worked downtown in books, in Hochschild's, and sometimes Fitzgerald came in. And once, too, he went to 1307 Park Avenue and met Fitzgerald there. He took books for him to sign. It was part of his job.

So they both had Stutzes, Fonda and Fitzgerald. He wished he could have seen them in them, Fonda with Sullavan, Fitzgerald with Zelda. He knew them only so little.

Yes, he would have to get a Stutz, buy a Stutz, drive a Stutz. He'd ride in it and think of other Stutzes of other days.

That was what he told himself. But he knew he really wouldn't, knew he'd never get one, buy one, never drive a Stutz. Nowadays, wherever would one get a Stutz?

Still he liked to think so, think he might get one. Still he thought maybe one was due him. It would be good to drive a Stutz in Baltimore. Others had done so. It would be good to think he might do so.

Franklin Mason is a retired Evening Sun copyreader.

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