First, last cars have memorable stories

by Sonja J. Keith

Charlie DeBoard’s first car and his last car are both memorable but for very different reasons.


His first car – a 1960 two-tone Comet – was purchased in 1962 from Smith Ford in Conway. “Dad bought it. I worked at Kroger (then located on Front Street) to pay for it,” he said.

Charlie and his family lived on Oak Street in a house next door to the family business – DeBoard Radio and TV. “I kept that car for three years until a tornado hit and turned it to rubbish.”

A faded newspaper with a photo of what was left of the home is all that Charlie has left of his first car. He recalled on an April day in 1965 that it was “storming real bad.” Arriving home from his job, he parked under the carport. “It had been hailing so hard I was going to protect my car.”

While Charlie was sitting in the car, his Dad – for no apparent reason – walked to the back of the store and saw the tornado approaching. “We saw a house rise up and explode. It was just amazing.” Charlie ran to alert the neighbors, and his dad went inside to get Charlie’s mother.

“We jumped in the family station wagon to try to outrun the tornado . . . we got two blocks,” he said. “The whole thing was over in five minutes, but it seemed like it took forever.”

The family turned around but did not get far. “There was stuff everywhere,” Charlie said. “We walked back to the devastation…We lost everything in the tornado.”

When they arrived back at what was left of their home, Charlie was not concerned for his car – which had been flattened – but for his missing dog. “What saved him was he hid under my car. That’s where we found him, still hiding.”


Many years later, Charlie’s wife, Susan, surprised him with a special present on his 65th birthday – his dream car, a 2011 BMW Z4. 

Susan planned a trip to Germany for the couple to celebrate the occasion, but all Susan would tell Charlie about the trip was that he needed his passport. On this trip, they were joined in Munich by Susan’s brother and his wife, Bill and Susan Farris.

On previous trips, Charlie and Susan and the groups they led would visit the BMW factory/museum. At the factory, the two couples were escorted to an upstairs room with an elaborate buffet breakfast. “I thought this is probably the best tour I’ve seen.” Next, they were taken to a room with an elaborate table with a built-in computer that showed different photos of a car. The guide told Charlie, “Here is your Z4.” 

In disbelief, Charlie looked at his wife and asked repeatedly, “Did you get me a car?” In German, she told the guide that the car was a surprise birthday present.

Charlie and his group were taken to an outside area overlooking a rotating carousel. “He pointed and said, ‘There’s your car.’”

Still in disbelief, Charlie was presented with the keys and the car, which he drove for the remaining two weeks on an “absolutely wonderful trip.” The car was shipped to Conway, still carrying its German license plate, which Charlie has framed.

Charlie had thought the trip was his birthday present. “Little did I know what was waiting for me at the end of the trip!”