Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Family Automobiles IX

Cars of the '30s and '40s:
I think the folks had a car after the Model A and before the 1936 Plymouth but I can't find a photo or remember it. (we kept the Model A for several years as a second car). I have this vague memory of the three of us in the back seat of a car  going to Three Oaks every Sunday to visit Grandma and Grandpa Woodruff who were living with Aunt Mary. It was boring! "Are we there yet?" etc etc. At some point Dad would lose his temper and reach around and swing at us. The cunning kid was the one who could anticipate when this was about to happen and duck so that his brother would get the cuff. It couldn't have been the '36 Plymouth because it was a taxi cab model with space in back for jump seats in front of the back seat. We used it for hauling raspberries to the Benton Harbor Fruit Market. Dad wouldn't have been able to reach us
A car of significance to our family but not owned by us was the 1935 Ford V8 four door convertible owned by my roommate at the Beta House, Bob Zimmer. I borrowed it whenvever family visited (they would come out by Streamliner train from Chicago to Denver). That car was FAST. I could do a whole chapter on things we Betas did in that car and another brother's '35 Ford V8 Roadster. I have photos of Mother and both brothers in Zimmer's car up in the mountains on various visits.
An unusual car of the '30s was the Baby Austin. As I remember, Dad bought one for driving to and from school after the Model A was gone (don't remember why or when). The so-called "Baby" Austin was the Austin  7,"...a vintage car produced produced from 1922 to 1939 in the United Kingdom by the Austin Motor Company. It was one of the most popular cars ever produced there....its effect on the British market was similar to that of  the Model T Ford in the USA." It was really a mini-car. It was so small and light that the guys at school would do such things as pick it up and carry it up and leave it on the coal  pile by the boiler room..We had to chain it to a tree like a bicycle. This foolishness plus consistent carburator trouble caused Dad to get disgusted and get rid of it.
Another car was the 1939 black two door Chevrolet bought as a company car when Dad got in the oil business. When oil was discovered in Bloomingdale in the late 1930s Dad picked up some leases and backed by Uncle Brown and some of his rich Denver friends drilled a few wells, a couple producers and a couple dry holes. I got a summer job working on an oil drilling rig and drove that car to and from Bloomingdale every day. Worked the 4PM to midnight "tour" as it was called. I was a "tool dresser" who helped the driller. There was a lot of sledge hammering. I wasn't very good. Made $1 per hour. Considered very good wages in those days.The boom didn't last very long but it pointed me towards a career as a petroleum engineer that eventually shifted to geology.
THE family car for many, many years was the 1940 Chrylser Windsor, Hawaiian blue with wide whitewalls, two door, six cylinder with the shift lever on the steering column. It served all the functions of a family car from numerous trips around the country to a date car for all three of us boys to pulling house trailers from a manufacturing plant to dealers. It had to last all through World War II when the automobile plants were producing planes and tanks and guns instead of cars. I have photos of it in the snow at deer camp with a trailer behind, with two canoes about to leave for our 1948 canoe trip to Western Ontario, with me in my varsity sweater (only one stripe) leaning out the driver's side window, and next to Dad in Nashville on his way to Florida with Mother and two other women in 1941.
NEXT: Post-war cars of the '40s

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