It's a gift: The Impala in which he was born
On Aug. 29, 1985, Ed Pickering and Marilyn Langeburg were having their second child at home, 14 miles outside of Ashland. The midwives decided there were complications and they should get to Ashland Community Hospital, just in case.
They all piled into the 1966 Chevy Impala Super Sport with Ed — the Ed of Ed’s Upholstery on East Hersey Street for the last 33 years — at the wheel. The four miles on their dirt road before hitting pavement definitely kicked labor into gear, says Marilyn.
Reaching the south Ashland interchange, Ed made a strategic decision: He'd get the birthing-room-on-wheels on the Interstate, where he could open her up. He did. Rippling by the weigh station, they gasped at the sight of two State Troopers ogling their 90 mph flight, interior lights on, bare legs up in the air, midwife holding up a tank of oxygen.
“I’ll never forget the look on their faces,” says Pickering. “Whatever they saw, they knew it was an emergency and they should stay where they are, no sirens.”
Says Langeberg, “This thing could move. It’s got eight cylinders and it opened up on that freeway. I still remember the trees whizzing by.”
About the time they reached Grant Street off North Main, Langeburg overruled any ideas of getting out of the car. They pulled up Grant in the first driveway for the impending delivery and turned off the engine. Unfortunately, night was settling in and the harried father left the headlights on, so the interior light gradually dimmed.
What else could go wrong? A friend in the caravan ran door-to-door, knocking and asking neighbors to bring flashlights — pronto — which they did.
“We pushed the front seats down flat and here I am looking at all these people I never met before, shining flashlights down on the whole thing, and I’m pushing,” says Langeberg.
The baby came. Dwight cut the cord. They eventually went in the midwife’s house-clinic. They never did reach the hospital. They cleaned up, wrapped mother and child in a blanket and drove home in the Impala.
“It was a good birth,” she notes, “and people told me, 'someday you’ll look back and laugh at all this.' I said 'no, I will never laugh at this.' ”
But, 30 years later, she couldn’t stop laughing and neither could Pickering, who is working hard on restoration of that very same Chevy Impala, which he plans to give to that baby boy, Dwight, now 30 and a middle-school math teacher in Colorado.
“I was always going to give him this car, restored, but not in his teens and 20s,” he said. “I wanted to wait till he could really appreciate it.”
Pickering plans to drive the sleek, lovely Impala, white with turquoise top, to Colorado and present it on the lad's 30th birthday.
There’s something very special about Impalas, a great American car starting in 1958 — and Pickering has about 40 of them on the family spread, which he cannibalizes and shapes into “cherried out” machines worth $35,000 or so.
The car, being revived in his “Ed’s Upholstery” workplace, looked about half-done in mid-May. The dash is redone and painted, new console (automatic, on the floor), the engine completed and painted orange, rebuilt transmission and brakes and, of course, the upholstery looking like showroom. The body is scrappy but will soon be painted by a master from Pickering’s old stomping grounds in Southern California.
He’s the second owner of the car, which he got soon after it was sold from Selby Chevrolet in downtown Ashland. Its original price new was $3,700. This was back in the day when everyone knew “an Impala is a solid American car that you felt great driving down the streets, with beautiful lines and shapes. Today, you see a car and you don’t know what it is. It could be anything.”
Pickering’s dad was a bodyshop and welding teacher during his growing-up years, which were filled with memories of bringing old cars back to life — the same memories Dwight has.
“He loves the classic cars — and his birth story in this Impala has become a family legend, a story everyone loves telling over and over. I have a lot of people come in here who say they’re driving the car they had in high school, but how many guys can say, ‘I’m driving the car I was born in?’ ”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.