Monday, June 9, 2008

Family Automobiles XVIII

Laurel has sent me some family car photos that solve a couple of mysteries. There are two photos of the Ford V8. It turns out to be a 1933 sedan with no trunk and an encased spare tire mounted on back. The pictures are both of a "skijoring" expedition on a snow-covered road north of Paw Paw Lake. One shows the front of the car with three boys and Dad. The other shows the rear with Dick and I holding skis..I well remember having to drop the rope and fall down to avoid straddling a mail box. If I hadn't I probably would never have been able to have children.
Another photo shows a gaudy two tone, two door sedan with big tail fins and a full length curving double chrome strip.. Googling led me to identify it as a 1959 Chrysler Saratoga which I frankly don't remember. Mary Floro does. It would have been the successor to the 1951 Pontiac Convertible. Perhaps Pat does also.
Laurel also sent two photos of 2nd Lt Allen W. Woodruff in 1918. A handsome, dashing looking young officer. No wonder Genevieve fell for him. They will go in the Memorial Day Project notebook along with Dad's 1918 Army Registration which Allen found on the Internet.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Living off the folks

Have you heard what Mother said one time when John was living at home? "I wish John would get married, I'm tired of ironing his shirts!" The quote is from Elaine.

I am reminded by that quote how nice it was to always have the Paw Paw Avenue house and Mom's cooking to return to when it was vacation time from college, furlough time from the Army, post-war readjustment time, unemployment time, post-graduation time or when working locally. I don't remember contributing much if anything toward the grocery bill. Certainly didn't help with taxes, utility bills, home upkeep or laundry etc. As for housekeeping we were a big, fat negative, I am sure. My guilt is somewhat assuaged by the fact that I helped Dad a lot with the War Surplus business when I was around. Dick was the only one who left the nest in a timely manner when he married Mary. But then he built his own nest right next door with all the baby sitting and entertaining-the-kids privileges etc etc that went with the location. But that payed off the folks with decades of grandchild happiness. I think the third happiest person at my and Elaine's wedding or John and Jacques' wedding must have been our liberated Mother.

Family Automobile Slideshow

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Family Automobiles XVII

Just imagine what 102 Paw Paw Avenue looked like in November of 1950. Jim and Elaine were engaged. John was home from college. Dick and Mary were married and had two kids. Pat Ryan came to go deer hunting and Dick and Jim and Allen were getting ready to go deer hunting. That meant that at various times and sometimes all at once the following vehicles were parked on the driveways and yard.: The folks' 1940 Chrysler, Dick's 1946 Chevrolet, my 1946 Jeep, John's 1947 Studebaker, my 1949 Kaiser, Dad's truck, whatever Pat was driving and two trailers (plus Dad's War Surplus customers). Must have looked like a used car lot.
Jim has scanned a number of the automobile photographs and will be sending them along.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Family Automobiles XVI

There are at least three old photos of what appear to be family cars but with no inscription or clues as to what they were. One is a big four door sedan  The photo shows Dick standing by the car and there is "1928" on the back which would make him about 5 years old. It has big wooden spoke wheels and a luggage rack with a suitcase on the running board.. I think the picture is from a trip to a Diamond Lake in Canada perhaps during a visit to the Shanes in the UP.. I have this memory of Dick and I on a dock at a lake with fishing poles with open safety pins for hooks and Dad trying to sneak a dead fish onto Dickie's hook. I saw a story in the local paper about antique cars with an illustration that indicated it might be a Chevrolet. A little Googling led me to a car collector's website with a photo of a 1927 Chevy Landau Sedan.  Except for having steel disc wheels instead of wooden spoke wheels it is a dead ringer for the Dickie car. I have Emailed George Shane asking whether it might have been a Shane family car but have received no reply. The trip from Watervliet to the Soo would have been made in the 1928 Model A.
Another is the photo of Genevieve in 1921 at South Bend when she lived with the Wellington family.  It is an enormous, shiny two door coupe with huge windows and big wire wheels. It looks like a luxury car that the Queen of England would be waving at her subjects from. Mom standing beside it is made to look like a little girl. MYSTERY SOLVED! I Googled and Googled and Googled vintage and antique cars trying Packard, Cadillac, Auburn, Dusenburg etc.looking for luxury brands with no luck until I remembered Henry's Michigan History article about the family trip to the Soo in 1919. (Family Automobiles III) He told about having to get off the trail to make room for the West Michigan Pike Tour and that most of the cars were Packards, Cadillacs, Pierce-Arrows and Peerlesses. Of those four the Peerless was the only one I hadn't checked so I Googled Peerless and found an ad for a photograph of a 1921 Peerless and Bingo! The photograph was of a touring car but it was obviously the same make as the Wellington coupe. The body shape, the trim, the fenders, the wire wheels and the white sidewall tires are all the same. It was a product of the Peerless Motor Company of Cleveland which was known for building high quality luxury vehicles which were so good that their owners seldom bought new models. That led to the company's downfall and in 1931 they got out of the car business and switched to brewing Carlings Black Label beer when Prohobition was repealed......
The third photo is of a shiny, black touring car with a cloth top and wood spoke wheels with very light colored tires almost like white sidewalls. No chance to identify the driver whose face is in shadow. In age it looks like the circa-1915 Dodge and National but it may be from the early 1920s. I am going to continue fooling around to see if I can identify it.
Another mystery is the Allen and Genevieve car after the 1928 Model A and before the 1936 Plymouth. I have no photos but I think it may well have been a Ford V8. When I wrote in "Grandpa's Stories" in 2004 about learning to drive in the hay field I said the car Dad drove from the office and let Dick and I drive was the Ford V8. I have Googled Ford V8 and the 1933 or 1934 Ford V8 2-door sedan could well fit what my mind's eye sees both as to what we rode in to Three Oaks all those Sundays and what Dick and I drove in the hay field.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Family Automobiles XV

The Nova got traded in for a 1994 Mazda 626 LX6 A which despite its Japanese heritage was made in Flat Rock Michigan.( Don't ask me what 626 LX6A stands for, maybe that it had a V6 engine). It was in Elaine's name but she didn't drive a lot after we moved to the River House and I began driving it more and the Caprice less. When it came time to trade it in for the Buick (see below) it went to Joe instead (thanks to Grandma Stock). Joe rear-ended somebody and pretty much totaled it so that is the end of the Mazda story.
Our next-to-last family car was the 1999 Buick Century Custom Sedan, color Bordeaux Red Pearl, puchased from a nice lady salesperson at Glenn Buege Buick on south Pennsylvania Avenue..When you  transition from a hot V6 Mazda to a Buick Century you are pretty much admitting  that you have joined the Senior parade. It's story is the scariest of all. Elaine and I were heading east on Saginaw Avenue which is one way and five lanes wide and if you drive at a constant 40-45 miles per hour you can make all the green lights all the way across town The traffic flows on that street like a river of cars. This particular day we were just crossing Cedar Street (one way southbound) and approaching Larch Street (one way northbound) with a green light in our favor when immediately to my left front I see a guy running across  traffic, just missing the car in the lane to my left. I remember instantaneously thinking a lot faster than I can say it "I hope I don't hit that guy!" then BANG he bounces off my right front fender and I can see him in my rear view mirror flying in an arc and landing in the street in the right hand lane. As quickly as I could I pulled off Saginaw into the parking lot of a Quality Dairy and the lady who was to my left that missed him pulled in right beside me. I got out prepared to go back and see the victim but police and an ambulance were already there and a policeman was approaching us. The lady immediately told the policeman and a police lady who had joined us about the guy running across the street and her close miss. Meanwhile they are scraping the guy off the pavement and into the ambulance but it did not leave right away (we were only a few blocks from Sparrow Hospital). They took our statement and told us to go on our way and report to our insurance company. Shaken, Elaine and I returned home and called Norma, our long-time insurance person. She told us to talk to no one except the AutoOwners adjuster and that she would get the police report as soon as available. We did as we were told and never even tried to find out whether the guy was hurt or alive or dead. Months later our concerns were relieved when we received a copy of the police report that said the guy was fleeing from the Sunoco Station on the corner where he had committed "retail fraud", whatever that is, so it turned out we had done a good thing when we stopped a fleeing perpetrator by bouncing him off our Buick. The insurance damage assessor estimated the damage to our car to be in the amount of $1,076 and we received a check made out to us and Glenn Buege Buick. I thought that amount was outrageous for repairing what was really a minor dent in the right front fender so I never got it fixed. When we bought our 2004 Malibu Maxx we sold the Buick to Granddaughter Jonna for the offered trade-in price. She is still driving it and the "perp dent" is still there. When I informed Norma that we had sold the car but had never used the check she told me to send it to her. It wasn't long before we got a new check just made out to us. Her explaination was that our trade-in price was probably reduced that much because of the dent. I didn't argue. So it turns out that you can make a profit out of hitting a guy in the middle of the street at 40 mph. We declared a "family dividend" and shared the windfall..
Our present and probably our last family car is a 2004 Chevrolet LS Malibu Maxx. In the last 4 years we have only put on 20,000 miles. It is a slick car. Four doors and a hatchback. It has every gadget imaginable. The rear seats tilt, flop and slide and the passenger seat flops down. The driver's seat and steering wheel will do everything but blow your nose. It has a fancy sound system with CD player that never gets used because I think it could be an unsafe distraction for an 86 year old driver.. There are a lot of little controls and buttons that I never touch and a built in computer that will tell me a bunch of stuff I don't really  care about knowing..I never touch a light control because everything is automatic and I avoid driving at night. Its color is Silver Green Metallic. It is still a virgin. Not a nick ar scratch.
NEXT: Mystery automobiles

Monday, June 2, 2008

Family Automobiles XIV

The most luxurious car we ever owned was the 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Medallion 2-door coupe. It was the demonstrator at Bill Snethcamp's Lansing Chrysler-Plymouth (now Dodge), cream colored with power everything and an 8-track stereo system. It had genuine leather seats that really cradled the butt and back in style. We loved the 8-track (I still have all the tapes and an 8-track sound system built into the Map Room at the River House). For example, on  trips going up some scenic mountain road we would be playing "Theme from Rocky".full blast. In fact, I'm going in and play it right now for old times sake. ..................There, that got my toes tapping and blood circulating!.
Elaine's little red Chevette: Elaine's pet car was her 1980 4-door hatchback from Shaheen Chevrolet. Cost $5500 + tax and title (wrote a check). Air, automatic, vinyl bucket seats, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM Stereo. A really neat little package. It was her run-around-the-neighborhood-go-to-garage-sales car. Eventually we sold it to a family as a car for their daughter to commute to Sexton so we often saw it on Pleasant Grove Road.
The replacement for the Chevette was a 1987 Chevrolet Nova CL Hatchback. Didn't pay cash for it since they offered 1.9% financing. The biggest story about the Nova took place the first hour we owned it. We bought it from Pres Kool Chevrolet in Okemos. We caravaned home, I was in the '86 Caprice (see below) and Elaine was driving her new Nova right behind me. We took a circuitous route to avoid main highways and expressways and are coming north on Logan wanting to get onto Mt Hope but there is no left turn at Mt Hope so you have keep going north, pull through the median, left turn onto south-bound Logan and then turn right at the Mt Hope intersection. A fairly tricky manuever. So I turn left onto Logan with Elaine following but here comes a car speeding south down the left lane and they have to stand on the brakes to keep from hitting her which pisses them off. There were four punks in their 20s in the car, two white and two black, and they start tailgating Elaine and yelling at her mostly with the F word. I am seeing all this in my rear view so I pull over a  lane and slow down until they are right along side me and then I start shouting and gesticulating at them. That allows Elaine to escape on down Logan and they stop and one of the guys in their back seat jumps out to confront me. I had my hand on the window button prepared to trap his arm if he reached in and drag him a ways. He was all bluster and I apologized sort of and that was the end of it. I caught up with a shaken Elaine about a block down Logan and led her  home.
The only car I ever owned that I saw the odometer turn to 00000 was the 1986 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Brougham LS which we bought in Grand Rapids. It was a great riding, powerful, luxurious car The back of the passenger compartment had been modified by a custom shop to give it that limousine look. I was stopped at stop lights by buyers who wanted to ship it to the Middle East to sell to rich Arabs who wanted big, fancy American automobles. I received several letters from dealers who wanted it for export. I mounted a CB radio one-hander with the box in the triunk and a big whip antenna and had a trailer hitch mounted. When I retired from the State we bought a Jayco Popup Camper. Elaine and I had a couple of memorable camp outs at State Parks on Lake Michigan. I wish we had had more. We also set it up at Sleepy Hollow so Ken and Joe and Jon and Adam could each have father-son campouts. In its old age I offered it to Adam and got a liuke-warm response which suprised me..It turned out he thought I wanted to sell it to him. When I told him it was for FREE he quickly agreed. Eventually Adam was off to New York and didn't need a car so somehow it passed off to Jason (step Grandson-in-law) who eventually put a sign on it in his front yard and that is the end of what I know. It may still be on the road. 
NEXT: The rest of the Jim & Elaine cars.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Family Automobiles XIII

The next car needed to be large (to haul Boy Scouts) and air conditioned (Elaine's orders) so we bought a huge Ford LTD Country Squire Station Wagon (white with fake wood paneling) with a luggage rack on top and 2-way tailgate. It cost $4138. It was so large that Elaine never drove it. The LTD figured in one of our family's saddest episodes. The Boy Scout  troop was scheduled to take a week-long canoe trip at the Region 7 Canoe Base in northern Wisconsin. All the preparations for the trip were in place (George Voorhis was going to be the second adult on the trip) when a couple days before we were to depart Jim broke his collar bone in a nightime bicycle accident. Well there was no way a kid with that kind of injury could paddle or portage a canoe (although we tried to figure out one) so the LTD full of Boy Scouts pulled away for Wisconsin with my boy (the only reason I was a Scoutmaster) standing at the curb waving goodbye with his one good arm. 
The Country Squire started to develop some rust problems and was pretty large so we traded it in for a 1973 Plymouth Satellite Sebring, a two-door with vinyl bucket seats with a center arm rest and a vinyl top. A sporty looking car about which I don't have many good memories. The vinyl seat on the driver's deloped a big split and one time it stranded me on an expressway off ramp.
Elaine needed a car so we shopped around thinking we wanted a Chevrolet Nova but while at Bud Kouts we looked at a new sub-compact import, the 1973  Honda Civic. As sort of a joke I decided to fold up my lanky body and try to sit behind the wheel. To my surprise I fit just fine as did Elaine so despite my misgivings over buying a Japanese car we bought it. Bad mistake. It turned out to be a real lemon. It was our first front wheel drive car and we enjoyed its ability to pull through snow but we were always having to replace the muffler and had other problems. We sold it to Jon Tury (Karen's new husband) and I don't think it lasted long in his care.
Speaking of Karen, there is a story to tell about a car nobody in the family ever owned. She was looking to buy a car for herself and she looked at a Ford Fiesta at Max Curtis Ford and thought she might want it but wanted to look at other cars. Anyway she gave them $50 (presumably to hold the Fiesta temporairily?). She decided to buy a Chevette instead but the Max Curtis salesman refused to return her $50. Learning of this I got a description of the salesman and decided to visit him myself. I wandered into the sales room, spotted the culprit, and started to look interested in a car over at the far corner of the sales room Of course he immediately approached and asked if he could help me. (I was about twice his size). I put my arm around his shoulders and in my full intimidation mode informed him that I was Karen Woodruff's father and I thought it might be a good idea if he refunded her the $50. He rapidly agreed and said Karen should drop in any time and get her money back.
She did buy a brown Chevette (which I think eventually got traded in on a van for the pottery business) but I remember a story she told about herself with a certain amount of pride. In those days we all had Citizen Band Radios in our cars and "Handles". I was the "Gas Man", Elaine was the "Rummage Queen" (but she geneally refused to talk on the radio), Jim was "Spiker" (for his volleyball prowess) and Karen was "Miss Q (cue/KEW) for her theatre connections. The story she told was about driving on the expressway into Chicago and hearing the truckers she was passing sending the word down the line on their CBs "Check out the 'Beaver' in the brown Chevette!"
NEXT:More Jim & Elaine family cars.