Getting far in your first car


Your first car can take you places. Just ask Sheridan College professor Mary Ann Maruska. Her first car took her from Indiana to Canada and on the road to full Canadian citizenship in 1970.

Maruska, 62, teaches design fundamentals, information design and communication design in the Bachelor of Design Program while also teaching a general education course on creative thinking in the Department of Humanities.

As she bids Sheridan adieu at the end of this semester, Maruska reflected on how she got here, literally.

She currently drives a 2007 sage green Volkswagen Rabbit that she has had for six years. Rewind to her first car: a dark green Volkswagen Beetle made in the ‘60s.

“I hadn’t actually made that connection until now,” Maruska said laughing as she paints a picture of the almost identical cars of her past and present.

The car wasn’t exactly purchased by the then-19-year-old student so much as it was acquired through marriage.

“Before he was my husband he was my boyfriend. He drove a motorcycle and sold the motorcycle to buy this car so we could date, then we got married,” she said.

She explains how “it was not a very safe car,” describing how the floor was “rusting out” and can’t remember if there were seatbelts. “I’m not sure if they were mandatory yet or if we had them,” she says.

One year, she drove home to Indiana for Christmas with her then-husband, at night, and recalls having the windshield ice over because there wasn’t enough heat on the front since the motor was in the back.

They had to stop, get out and chip off the ice from the frozen windshield, although she wanted to turn back and go home.

All the same, she liked that car. It was with this car that she learned to drive a stick shift.

“I remember driving around a parking lot [in Indiana] at night and trying to learn to do the shift and the clutch and starting and stopping. Finally, we got pulled over by the mall security guard and he said ‘if she hasn’t learned how to drive it by now, she’s not going to’.”

Maruska, finally getting the hang of the standard car, ended up driving the Beetle from Indiana to Canada just after she got married in the ‘70s, following her husband who was driving a U-Haul full of their wedding presents ahead. The two were granted landed immigrant status at the border.

She ended up as a waitress at a restaurant in Toronto near U of T and remembers a time she took the other waitresses out in the Beetle to the Homer Watson Museum near Kitchener. It was winter and she recalls going up a “long icy, snowy driveway” and getting stuck.

“It’s not your standard run-of-the-mill American car,” Maruska said of the Volkswagen Beetle. “I love this car. It’s got a wicked little turning circle. It’s very peppy but solid at the same time.

“I just think it’s really cool that my first car brought me to Canada,” she said, adding that she is now a Canadian citizen.

She admits there may be a deep-rooted connection with her current car mirroring her first. “It symbolizes adventure and new beginnings,” she said jokingly, “And the colour green is good too.”

Maruska is in her last semester of teaching at Sheridan College.