The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

February 22, 2014

Michele Mikesic Bender | Playing the name game

— So, did you decide on the ‘popcorn dress’  for the church dinner?” asked Judi, my Communion Lady.

“No, I think the ‘hydrangea dress’ might be better,’’ I answered.

“You name your clothes?” Denise’s jaw dropped.

“Well, it just sort of … happens,” I explained.

“I mail-ordered the ‘popcorn dress.’ First time out of the box, my date spilled a whole ‘choke-a-horse-size tub’ … extra-butter, of course ... right in my lap!”

“Shout cleaned every last spot,” Judi added.

“And the hydrangea print dress is just mesmerizing.

“Actually,” I said, “I started with cars.”

 “Julie,” a 1930 Model A Ford, belonged to one of my dad’s friends. She introduced me to radiator caps, running boards and rumble seats – slices of automotive history.

Every car didn’t have enough character to earn a name. The dealer said my first car was “lime gold” but other friends insisted “gold.” I don’t do controversy.

When you’re just starting out behind the wheel, you spend time “riding on the rims.”

Neighbors and friends labeled my ’72 Dodge Charger “The Wonder Car.” Everyone wondered what would fall off next … a windshield wiper, the antenna.

One day the car lurched and thudded. My pal Jeanie and I inched along, waiting to see what would happen next. Nothing did.

 “See? We’re still moving. Whatever it was, we didn’t need it!”

 I bought “The Hulk,” a ’73 Chevy station wagon, in 1979. It was big, green and ugly, but got me through two horrendous winters, bless its little battery.

By 1987, I was married, and my husband enthusiastically tried to convince me to try an ’80 Cadillac Coupe de Ville he’d seen. He had a pickup, so it would be primarily mine.

Me, driving a Cadillac? I DON’T THINK SO! Cadillac folks dine at the country club and listen to opera. I prefer drive-up windows and love the Ronettes.

We bought the car, and it grew on me. A rich shade of burgundy, it had a plush velour interior and a trunk capable of transporting a rhinoceros. With a 142-inch wheelbase, it had the turning radius of a Carnival cruise ship.              

A fancy, self-service car wash had just opened nearby. I stuffed a handful of change in my pocket. Prewash, under spray, foam brush – that sounded like something I needed to try.

The Ronettes wailed “Be My Baby” from the 8-track while the brush fascinated me, spewing tons of thick, luxurious, pink foam from the hubcaps to the roof. How cool was this?

Suddenly, time was up. Insert additional coins for rinse.

My pockets were empty. And not a soul was around.

My  mom lived nearby. Picture a massive Cadillac creeping along, shrouded by a coating of Pepto-Bismol colored suds, heading for Mom’s garden hose. We held a private christening. The Caddy, which had been immersed in oil and water, was now named “Bubbles.”

“Stop daydreaming!” Denise said, laughing. “Pick your outfit for tonight.”

“OK. My ‘Carmen Miranda skirt’ and my gold coin necklace,” I announced decisively.

 “Don’t you usually wear your pink ruffled blouse with that?” asked Judi.

 “Yes.” I smiled.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee. She can be emailed at


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    So, did you decide on the ‘popcorn dress’  for the church dinner?” asked Judi, my Communion Lady.
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    “You name your clothes?” Denise’s jaw dropped.

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