Keys to the past |

Keys to the past

Chyrise Harris
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxKaren Protz poses with her daughters next to the classic car that Karen grew up with as a child.

During a Sunday afternoon drive or a quick trip to the supermarket, Karen Protz’s “MomMom” always said, “One day this car will be yours.” Protz never imagined that day would come 22 years later.

With patience, some help from her grandparents above (MomMom and PopPop), and an abnormally long game of telephone, the 1962 black Ford Galaxie 500 that Protz’s MomMom always promised her now sits in her New Castle driveway.

Since the age of 7, Protz lived with her MomMom and PopPop, whose pride in everything they owned was reflected in the mint condition of so many of their luxuries. PopPop always made sure his wife’s Ford Galaxie 500 remained in top shape. PopPop allowed no eating, no drinking and certainly no activities with the male species in the large back seat. Rarely did the car even leave the driveway, except to church on Sunday mornings and to the supermarket during the week.

When PopPop decided to sell the car in 1983, he and MomMom had only driven it 43,000 miles. Protz took her last ride in the car the spring before. Never having had the chance to buy it from her grandparents devastated her.

With other sisters and brothers in the family, Protz just thought her PopPop couldn’t bear hurting anyone else in the family’s feelings by simply giving the car to her.

Yet somehow, Protz believes PopPop helped return the car to her anyway.

In September 1995, Protz’s MomMom died, and nearly 10 years later PopPop followed, prompting Protz to make the journey back home to collect some cherished items from her MomMom and PopPop’s home. She returned to Colorado with more than she thought possible ” the original keys to PopPop and MomMom’s car.

“I thought to myself, ‘How wonderful that I at least will always have the keys to remind me of the car I was always so fond of,'” Protz said.

Unbeknownst to her, just a year later Protz would have the chance to turn the ignition in that same car.

In 22 years, the car went through three owners, telling its history to each one before landing in a classic car dealer’s lot in 2004, where Protz’s sister saw it sitting.

“She called me and said, ‘Are you sitting down?”‘ Protz said. “I remember thinking, ‘Well gosh, I’m not pregnant, and she’s older than me, so she can’t be pregnant.'”

Emotions running high, Protz took a seat and never imagined what her sister would have to say on the other end of the line.

They have PopPop’s car for sale, Protz’s sister told her.

The owner of the dealership knew about the car’s history and decided he wanted the original owner’s granddaughter to have it. He even turned down an extra $500 offer on the car to wait for Protz to show up.

Immediately after speaking with her sister, Protz hung up and began surfing the Web to figure out how she could get the car back.

“It didn’t feel real to me,” Protz said. “I just didn’t think it was happening. If you believe everything happens for a reason, which I do, I was supposed to have the car,” she said.

After contacting the dealer at Slaughters in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Protz had the car shipped directly to her driveway in New Castle just in time to show it off at the Burning Mountain Days car show last Saturday.

Now with only 65,500 miles on the car, Protz said the same smell she remembered from 22 years ago continues to linger in the red leather interior of PopPop’s car.

“It’s an old-fashioned, earthy, before chemicals and hair spray, down-home, clean smell,” Protz said.

A series of coincidences couldn’t have been why that down-home smell made its way back to Protz. She believes her MomMom and PopPop had a hand in returning the car to her.

To Protz there was no other explanation for why each owner had handed down the story of her PopPop and the car. There was no explanation for why she found the original set of keys and her PopPop’s statue of Jesus just a year before finding the car. There certainly was no explanation for why the dealer’s asking price of $7,500 matched exactly the amount of money sitting in Protz’s bank account.

“They’re up there giving him (God) pointers on me,” Protz said. “God knew what this meant to me, to get this car back,” she said.

The desire some people have for classic cars is understandable to Protz. But her desire to have a tangible memory of her grandparents outweighed the desire to have a shiny piece of American history sitting in her garage.

“I think what I get out of it is, yeah, it’s a materialistic thing,” Protz said. “It’s a car, but it’s part of them.

“They really, really believed in God,” Protz said. “And we don’t think they did all this so that I could have just a car.”

Hoping to pass PopPop’s car to her daughters Chelsea and Kendall, Protz believes after everything she’s been through with the car, keeping it in the family won’t be a problem … especially if God and MomMom and PopPop have anything to do with it.

“If you believe in God with just whatever thing you go through ” you just have to believe,” Protz said. “I think it’d be an empty kind of a shell you lived in if you didn’t believe.”

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