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Hippie VW Mechanic during the "Back to the Land" movement in Maine

Peter Duston

I co-owned my first VW in 1958, while a soldier in Germany. After a brief AWOL stint to go skiing in Austria, we couldn't get it started on a farmer's frozen field. The farmer towed our '53 back to the road, with his horse and wagon, where we could finally jump it. The farmer couldn't believe that Americans would sleep out in the zero degree night - we had to be Russians (who had just ended their occupation of Eastern Austria). Taking an overseas discharge, I stayed in Germany, where I dated the VW dealer's secretary. I even took a job sweeping floors at the dealer in Heilbronn, but eventually moved back to the states.

My first wife and I returned to Germany in 1961 as the Berlin Wall was going up. We bought a '51 Beetle and toured all over Southern Europe, with our brand new baby girl snug and warm in the well behind the back seat. I worked security for the American "Committee", keeping Soviet and East Bloc agents out of our compound - these were the "hot' days of the "Cold" War.

Back home in 1963, we bought a '56 bug and, as you can see in one of the photos, we had "his" and "hers" bugs. My wife was an aspiring jazz singer and would drive her combo to gigs with the full bass sticking out the cloth sunroof. We have owned many VW's since, including a camper. We are skiers and you can see the factory ski rack for bugs. Beetles are great in the snow.

After "dropping out" in the early 70's I came to down-east Maine with the Hippies and became known as Washington County's "finest" (and only) VW mechanic and am still working on two '72's and a van. I have a barn full of parts if you have any interest.

We now drive modern VW's and Audi's. Over the past 30 years, I have hauled my family, scouts and students in various buses since our first '56 in 1965. My latest is a nice rust-free "88 Vanagon. With Facebook, many family, former students and friends send me every VW photo they find on the web and I have an amazing collection of memorabilia. In our family, with every new grandbaby, they get to play with a toy beetle to keep the family tradition going.

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