“Harry’s Waterloo”

 

Grandpa’s Wheels

Harry’s big yellow “Caddy”

Wedding night farewell

Harry loved his automobile. When I married into the Nagin family he was driving a big yellow Cadillac El Dorado convertible. Elayne and I drove off in it on our wedding night. A year later he traded it in for an even bigger four-door Sedan DeVille. For Harry, a big Cadillac was a salesman’s best prop. What better way to impress his customers? Matzos must be a great product if its salesman can afford to drive a Cadillac. In later years, when he retired, he downgraded somewhat to a Chrysler, which he drove every day, whether to his health club, his Shrine meetings, or on errands for his wife or his daughters.

Harry was a world-class grandfather. Our kids, Cindy, Dan and Tom worshiped him, as did Corrine’s children, Alex, Lisa and Claudia.

Whenever and for whatever he was needed, Harry Nagin and his Cadillac were always on-call. Sunday morning breakfast at their favorite restaurant with his grandchildren was a tradition in their early years.

He had a wonderful calming manner and was completely non-judgmental. Problems they couldn’t discuss with their parents found a wise and sympathetic ear in their grandfather. He was certainly one-of-a-kind. Hopefully some of those remarkable qualities have been passed down to his grandchildren, and their progeny. The Noble that was Harry Nagin lives on. I’m sure of it.

Shortly before his 92nd birthday my father-in-law’s love affair with his car was challenged when the State of California beached Harry Nagin. It’s a sad story. Harry was required, as were all seniors at the time, to update his driver’s license periodically. His eyesight was OK, and he breezed through his written exam at the Motor Vehicle Department without error. Unfortunately however, the driving test itself was Harry’s Waterloo.

“We only have one problem Harry”

It was my father-in-law’s right turns that did him in. Invariably Harry, by force of habit, consistently veered left prior to making a right turn when approaching an intersection. It was a habit he had developed after all those years driving big Cadillacs with whitewall tires.

It was the testing officer who figured it out. Harry was protecting whitewall tires that no longer existed.

white-walls new-01

Don’t scrape.

Disappointed? Of course… but never discouraged. Harry Nagin vowed to teach himself to make the correct right turn. After the required waiting period, and hours of practice, Harry returned to the Motor Vehicle Department to re-apply for his license. Once more he easily passed the vision test and the written exam. Luckily he found the same sympathetic road test agent. Once again he proved that he possessed all the required driving skills until it came to that damn right turn. Somehow, some unseen power gripped Harry, and sadly, he flunked again.

A month later he failed the driving test for the third and last time. At age 92 the State of California might just as well as castrated my father-in-law, when it took away Harry Nagin’s right to drive a motor vehicle.

Belle had given up driving a few years earlier because of her eyesight. Sure, there were the taxi companies that had special rates for seniors, however not even an Uber would have filled the void. The backseat wasn’t for Harry Nagin.

Though his daughters and neighbor friends offered to drive him anywhere, it wasn’t the same. Six months following the loss of his vehicular freedom, a long dormant melanoma was discovered. That and other serious symptoms of aging ultimately reunited Harry Nagin with his beautiful stable of Cadillacs, where every road is a one-way road and all the cars have whitewall tires.

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Addendum

Annual family Christmas party

We still try to set aside Belle’s birthday, December 24th, for our annual Belle Nagin family dinner at our home in Malibu. The guest of honor is always Elayne’s flamboyant 90-year-old Aunt Rose Weiss joined by her sons, Cary and Brian. The youngest attendee last year was a babe in arms, newcomer Alex Koper IV, the family’s first great-great grandchild.

Keeping track of Harry and Belle’s large and evolving families is a job for a genealogist. Elayne tried to keep score as they burgeoned, but I’m sorry to say that I’ve pretty much lost track. My kids and I try to stay close to her sister Corrine’s children, Alex, Lisa and Claudia, and her grandchildren and we see Lou Nagin’s children, Jerry and Suzie and their progeny from time to time. Where is Elayne when I need her?

Lou and Ida Nagin’s kids and grandkids

“We’d live the life we choose… We’d fight and never lose… Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.”

For many years the Nathanson, Nagin, Koper, and Harris families, together with many friends and relatives, celebrated Mother’s Day with a big picnic in Rustic Canyon, a beautiful park in the hills above the Pacific. “Those were the days my friends, I thought they’d never end…”  Please enjoy.  [Click Here]

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