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   Sat, June 14, 2003



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COMMENT





Memories glittered with gold
By By BRET HART


I was driving past Ernest Manning high school yesterday and I remembered my first car. It was a gold \'66 Cadillac Brougham de elegance.

I got it in \'74 -- after it had been pillaged by my dad\'s wrestlers.

It idled with a bad case of the shakes, making me feel instantly sorry for it.

I can remember the first day I saw it parked in the back yard at the Hart house, all shiny and new. I\'d play in it, pretending to drive, until my dad needed it to go off to parts unknown on yet another adventure.

Eight years and hundreds of thousands of miles later, Stu handed me the keys and said, \"Go ahead and take that gold Caddy that you like ... but don\'t drive it like your brother Smitty.\"

Smith was accountable for most of the dead Cadillacs scattered like tombstones around Stu\'s yard. If those cars could talk, they\'d tell stories of Stampede Wrestling\'s giants, midgets, strongmen and freaks all packed in like sardines frantically racing down the highways of Western Canada in what was always a hell ride in horrific weather.

It didn\'t matter to me the car shuddered at what it had been through. I was 17 and it was a car.

The brakes were a bit touchy. In the days before seatbelts became smart, I can remember picking up my friends Wilk and Jim. I pulled up to my first stop sign and they both flew over the back seat and landed in the front.

The tires had no treads left whatsoever. No spare. No jack either. And the seats had custom upholstery by Jack The Ripper.

I loved that car. The radio worked fine.

I became convinced the car had some sort of mystic power because it always started in the worst weather and somehow managed to get me where I was going, much to the surprise of my friends.

Because I was on the wrestling team, I was bestowed with the car keys over my older sister Ellie, who had just got her licence. One winter day, I parked it alongside Stu\'s house just outside the dungeon with the keys in the ignition. One of my friends picked me up and took me out for a while. When I came back, the car was gone! For several days, Ellie and I had many a heated exchange over who took the car, each of us accusing the other, with my dad refereeing. Stu looked out the window and motioned for us to come take a look at what appeared to be tire tracks running all the way down the front of the yard ... past the road ... a knocked-down fence post ... hanging barbed wire ... tracks leading almost to Sarcee Tr.

With Stu leading the way, we all headed down the big hill in search of the gold beast. Lo and behold, there she was! Appropriately parked with a broken axel -- in the garbage dump!

My dad gave me an annoyed look and said, \"Didn\'t you put the damn thing in park?\"

Luckily for me, when Stu got inside it, he could clearly see it was in park.

The old car seemed at peace, content it had finally reached its final resting place. The poor thing wouldn\'t get off that easy. It was hauled back to the house and was up and running, in a manner of speaking, within a day or two. My dad often relied on the mechanics at OK Tire on 17 Ave., who would roll up their sleeves like surgeons and will his battered cars back to life.

So much happened in that car -- most of which isn\'t fit for print.

A few years ago, I handed the keys to my gold \'86 Lincoln Mark VII over to my oldest kids, Jade and Dallas, and within a year it was a tombstone in a graveyard, too. No doubt they made their own memories.

Now my youngest daughter, Beans, has her learner\'s licence and she asked me what car she\'ll be able to drive. I jokingly told her we\'ll drop by Stu\'s and see what\'s not on blocks.