VW Beetle’s extermination looms, stirs more memories

Winter Harbor residents Dan and Jane Keegan acquired their 1969 VW Beetle a couple of years ago on a whim while visiting her nephew in North Carolina.


Conversation piece

By Dan Keegan

Our Beetle represents a bit of nostalgia for my wife, as she had one as one of her first cars in college. She tells stories of running out of gas as her model didn’t even have a gas gauge. It simply stopped running and you had to pull a lever, which activated a reserve gas supply, giving you about an extra gallon of gas which would get you to a gas station based on the miles per gallon these old VWs achieve.

Beetles were simple to maintain and my wife recalls how she was able to make certain repairs herself with a few simple tools.

Whenever we drive the car around town, people smile and when we’re stopped, they will come up to us with their personal VW stories. It seems that almost everyone over age 40 or so has a personal VW Beetle story to tell! Either they had a Beetle, a relative had one or a friend had one.

Our Beetle is a bit unique, as it’s an automatic stick shift. That means you have to change gears manually with a floor shifter, but there’s no clutch pedal.

The bug’s design was quite unique with the engine in the rear unlike most cars today. Young people just don’t get it when they see us dump our grocery bags in what they think is the engine compartment. We drive away looking at them in the rear view mirror and have a silent chuckle! In so many ways, it’s truly fun to drive and we’re very glad we acted on our whim.




Gouldsboro resident Renae Newman was 16 when she learned to drive in Winter Harbor. Her late father, Bob Newman, taught her how to drive in the family’s stick-shift VW Beetle. She’d already breezed through driving school in an automatic vehicle.


Sticking to it

By Renae Newman

After retiring from the U.WS. Navy, Robert Newman worked as the housing manager at the Winter Harbor Navy base.

We grew up as a military family and money was tight with six people in the household. Dad had retired from the U.S. Navy and was employed as the housing manager at the Winter Harbor Navy base. He saw many sailors come and go from Winter Harbor. A lot of them had vehicles when they were stationed here, but when they were reassigned sometimes they couldn’t take a vehicle with them.

So, here is where Dad got involved. To supplement his income, he would buy the cars from the departing sailor and work on them to make sure they were in good shape to resell. At one point we had either three or four VW bugs in the driveway. There was a cobalt blue, chocolate brown, metallic orange and a pale yellow one a few years later.

So one day, Dad decides I need to learn how to drive a standard. We lived in Gouldsboro and our land included some wooded areas that eventually came out in Byron’s field. Dad and I set out for the field. I just couldn’t get the hang of it! The clutch and the shifting … Many times, it stalled as I just wasn’t catching on. Dad’s voice got progressively louder and his patience was being tested.

I’m not sure how long we were up there, but I knew soon that I’d had enough. I got out of the car and slammed the door. I proceeded to walk home. I got home and Mom asked me how the lesson went and where was my father? I said I had walked home and as far as I knew he was still up in the field.

I don’t know when it happened, but there came a day when I learned to drive a standard. I remember getting gas at the old Young’s Market on my way to school or work. It was 29 cents a gallon in 1976!

I wish Dad was still here to share my story. He passed away in 1984 only two years after retiring from the housing manager job. He was the best dad and I hope he knew how much I appreciated his effort to teach me to drive that car.

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