Danny & Brenda Berry
1954 Ford Ranch Wagon
Since the loss of our son Shelby family & friends have been the center of my life,it’s not to say that before his loss they were not,but myself as I’m sure many others let the distractions of this world take me away from what is important Love,Hope,Faith,Peace,Compassion and Fellowship with others.
On Friday evening my son Cody & his girlfriend Meredith came down to Pigeon Forge Tennessee to spend the Shades of the Past Rod Run weekend with my wife and myself.After we got their bags upstairs and they freshened up a bit it was Family time,off we go into Gatlinburg,to Pam’s and my favorite restaurant The Peddler Steak House we wanted Cody and Meredith to share a great steak dinner with us…now it’s not cheap,but it’s a once in a year event and the food is awesome.We walked and shopped downtown,Cody and me had the taste test at Ole Smokey Moonshine,I did not know their where so many ways to flavor “White Lighting”,now a trip into Gatlinburg is not complete unless you stop by Fannie Farkles for the best and biggest corn dog in the world…Shelby loved this place every year when he came down for the Fall & Spring Rod Run this was a must stop and I see why.
Saturday morning came quick with such a fun Friday night,now it’s time to fill my backpack with our Shelby’s Hot Rod Roundup V8 award,T-shirt and the rest of our goodies along with a lot of information on Suicide Awareness & Prevention for today’s lucky Roundup pick.Every year at Shades if you attend regularly you’ll see the normal cast of characters back for another great weekend in Tennessee,but for me their are some that just stand out…Danny Berry A.K.A HotRodPrimer on my favorite Hot Rod Forum the HAMB is that person.
Now I have never met Danny & his wife Brenda but being a HAMB member I have seen and read many post by Danny one thread he started was really interesting and inspiring…that was the build of his wife’s 1954 Ford Ranch wagon,but it’s the story behind the build that’s so Kool.My Roundup pick for the second day of the Shades Run is their wagon and I can’t wait to sit down with Danny and hear the story behind the wagon and his Family.
Here is that interview with Danny & Brenda…
Mark; What got you into Hot Rodding Danny?
Danny;Mark,my indoctrination into the world of Hot Rods was by my mother of all people,,a little back story will make that statement clear.
I grew up in the rural South and our family didn’t have many luxuries but my Mom impressed on me the importance of reading and on 12 birthday she bought me a Henry Gregor Felsen book.
I got lost in the world of imagination and dreamed of the day I might own a Hot Rod,,big dreams from a kid who’s parents had a 56 Chevy sedan delivery as their only mean of transportation,,that was dad’s work horse.
Mark;When did you get the bug?
Danny; I guess I was 12 years old when the bug bit,,and bit hard!
The effects have been mixed,after all these years I have to say I am still obsessed with hot rods,I have never owned a new car but have owned many late models,but they are just transportation,,nothing special.
Brenda & I were married in 1972 and we are still in love to this very day.
My Wife & children are very important to me and they come before any of the toys.
When our twin girls were small they traveled all over the Southern States in the back seat of many hot rods.
This obsession has introduced me to most of my life long friends and my other friends and family outside the hot rod & custom car community don’t get it but they understand my obsession.!
As I mentioned earlier,God blessed us with twin daughters and they were like all kids,,good most of the time and other times caused us to shake our heads.
I will start with our daughter Melinda,at 18 she got involved with a guy and got pregnant,,thru the grace of God and a strong support group she gave us a beautiful granddaughter.
About two years later a friend of both my daughters in high school ask her to marry him,,he explained the he loved Melinda & our granddaughter,,they were married shortly there after and everything was going good for them.
Melinda was in school taking nursing and doing well then she learned she was pregnant with the second child.
A few months later,my mom,after fighting Cancer for 18 years finally succumbed to cancer,,a devastating blow to all of us but especially the girls.
Exactly 4 months after my mom died my father passed away and with Melinda being 7 months along she didn’t have a dress to wear to a funeral but one of her friends offered her one of hers,,on the way to pick up the dress a woman ,on drugs and driving a stolen truck crossed the center line and hit Melinda’s Honda head on.
The Honda caught fire with Melinda,our unborn grandson & our 3 year old granddaughter in the back seat,,,the driver of the truck ran from the scene.
A off duty fireman pulled Melinda & my granddaughter out of the car just before the car was completely engulfed.,,had it not been for Milton,a man I have know for years,there would have been 3 more people to morn.
Needless to say,,this was one of the hardest times in my life,I remember telling the Good Lord, “I know I have big shoulders and I know my mom use to say the lord don’t put more on you than you can handle,,but I can’t hold the world up all by myself”
I just remember feeling at ease as soon as I muttered those words.
My daughter spent almost a month in the hospital,,sever brain damage,a broken leg ,several facial lacerations that required plastic surgery.
Due to all the trauma and Melinda’s personality,bipolar disorder her marriage failed,,to this day she can’t hold a job and depression is a constant.
Melinda has a boy friend and although they are not married he is very dedicated to her and loves her regardless of her problems,,I guess I got long winded with that question.
Her son lives with his father and her 16 year old daughter is now living with her other grandparents.
Our other daughter is Melissa,,she is married and helps us at the Flower Shop and she gave us a beautiful granddaughter,,Veda
I meet Brenda when she was 13 years old,the day after Christmas 1966,,a friend and I were riding around in his dads VW and we saw these 2 girls walking down the street,,Brenda was wearing Yellow Bell bottoms and the other girl could have had 2 heads and I wouldn’t have noticed!
We stopped at Burger King which was right next door to her Grandmothers Flower Shop and they were sitting in a 1964 Barracuda which belonged to her uncle.
Trying desperately to figure out a way to approach them a kid came riding his bicycle through the parking lot and I noticed he had a big canvas bag with “Anderson Independent & Daily mail” emblazoned across it,,I told my friend, David to follow him,,I guess the kid thought we ment him harm because he was peddling fast & hard.
I rolled down the window and yelled that we only wanted to buy a paper,,paid him,,drove back down the street to see Brenda & her cousin getting out of the car,,David rolled down the window and I leaned forward and said”Wanna by a paper?”
“NO”..not one to give up easy,,I said “That’s OK we just wanted a excuse to met you”.
We have been married for 41 years,,we have had our ups and downs but she is my best friend! And you know she loves the old cars as much as I do.
This is a link to the entire build of the wagon.
Danny;I’m a realist,I can’t change the past,but I sure wish I could have spent more time with my children,,I worked 60 hours a week for many years,,I have made up my short comings with the Grandkids.
Oh yeah,breaking my leg on a old Harley,,does that count as a regret?
Mark;Yes…What was your first car?
Danny;believe it or not,a 1932 Ford 5 window coupe.
Mark;Kool…is their a story behind that first car?
Danny;The story….because I’ve told it so many times….
Back in 1962 we had a neighbor that lived behind us on a corner lot,,Mr.Burton was his name,,never knew his first name and from the time I was 11 years old I cut his grass during the summer.
He drove a 53/56 Ford truck to work he had some kind of accident and walked with a bad limp that’s probably why I cut his grass.
Anyway,I would go to his barn and get what I needed to do his yard work,and there half covered with a old canvas army tent was a 32 Ford 5-window coupe,
I always looked forward to entering that sacred tomb each summer until that day in early June he told me that my services were no longer needed,,,he explained that he was moving up north to live with his sister,,,he ask me did I want the lawnmower to go into business cutting other folks yards,,,I gladly went to the shed to retrieve the mower and gaze one last time at the coupe,,which had not moved the whole time we lived next to him.
I ask him was he gonna drive the old car to his sisters or pull it,,,His answer was,,No,son,I’m gonna have to sell the old gal,,,with that reply,,I fired back how much?
His answer was already established because 75 bucks came back as quick as I asked,I’ll buy it,I said.
He looked at me and said we need to talk to your dad,,,not wanting my dad to say no,,,I told Mr.Burton I would talk to dad tonight when he gets home from work.
The next day I sat outside Mr. Burton’s front door,,it seemed to be forever,,but I knew he worked second shift and I didn’t dare wake him up,,It just might screw things up.
Around noon he exited his house and ask how long had I been there and if I had discussed the sale with my dad,,I told him I just came over a few minutes ago and dad said it was ok with him,,,,
BTW,,I never once said a word to my dad,,I really didn’t need the money,,I robbed my cigar box and with my grass cutting money,birthday money and my entire life savings I had enough money and some change,,enough money to buy the coupe and fix it up,,,Hey ,I was 12 years old,,,I didn’t know what I do today.
So,,I handed Mr. Burton my hard earned cash and we proceeded to unearth the coupe,,man,That car was nice,,original black paint,flathead V8,and all 4 tires were shot and rotten,,,but I had the biggest grin on my face as I fought with all my might trying to guide it as Mr. Burton pulled it behind his truck across his yard into my parents side yard.
I was the happiest kid in the world for about three hours,,,,
Mark;Ok…why only three hours?
Danny;That was when my dad got home,,,,the first words out of his mouth was what was that junk car doing in our yard?,,,from there it got ugly,,,he called Mr. Burton,,,woke him up,,remember,,2nd shift,,he was a little more than annoyed,,he and dad got into a debate about not clearing it with him first and that I was 12 years old and had no business with a car and for him to come and get it out of his yard,,and if he wanted to,,,keep the money Danny gave you for lying to us both,,,and he would take care of me,,I knew what was gonna happen,,they don’t call this part of the country the Bible Belt for nothing.
Heavy on the belt,,,,long story coming to a end,,,Mr. Burton gave me my money back and had a big laugh,,,a few days later both he and the car were gone,, never to be seen again,,,,
Mark;Hey you and me both raised on the belt,did you and your Dad ever talk about this purchase again?
Danny;A few weeks before he passed away the subject came up again,,he said I sure hope you find a ole’ coupe like that one someday,,,,I told him,,it was probably a good thing he didn’t let me keep it,,I would have made a hot rod and gotten myself killed in it,,he smiled and said,,Nobody will ever know son,,we can’t go back,,but if I could,,,I would let you keep that car.
All you guys got is my word on this tale,,,all the players are deceased,except me,,,nobody knows the where the 32 coupe ended up,,,but I’m willing to bet the owner ain’t 12 years old!
Mark;What do you do for a living?
Danny;After I sold my business several years ago I was able to finally retire,,retirement really didn’t work for me long,,but I did take a year and just catch up on everything around the house I never had time for when I was working,,I remodeled part of the house,built a new shop and pored a lot of concrete.
About this time Brenda was working at a flower shop and the owner was ready to retire,Brenda wanted to own her own shop,,she had worked for her grandmother and mother in flower shops all her life,,so I offered to back her endeavor and I help her where I can,,delivery’s or what ever needs to be done.
Mark;Do you have any hope of doing anything else in your life?
Danny;Not really,I am thankful that I have been able to accomplish most of my goals in life,,just a little time in the shop makes me happy.
I am humbled….what do you say to a story like that,we all have troubles,tragedies and times we fill that the world is just going to end,but it’s the good times the good memories that keep us going,some folks struggle with those times and can see no light in the day…..but it’s up to us just to be their love on them,pray for them,be compassionate,share your compassion and a tear.
Danny & Brenda I know you much better,we shared our life stories with each other and you shared a cold bottle of water with me on a hot day…I love you both very much,I appreciate and respect you both.
God Bless my new friends,please let’s stay in touch and continue to share ourselves with each other.