Thursday, January 31, 2013

Granddad’s Last Car

I don’t know what automobile my paternal grandfather first owned. Since he still traveled to some pretty remote places, as he built rigs in the oilfield, he rented horses and buggies well into the automobile era. At home, he had a buggy and a horse named Cody, but I don’t know whatever became of the horse, or when. The earliest car I ever heard of Granddad owning was an eight passenger Buick. I believe it was of the late 20’s or early 30’s time period. With him and Grandma, five kids and Grandma’s sister who lived with them, they needed every seat. I believe it was what could have been properly called a “touring car.”

Being a rig-building contractor, I know that Granddad had a few trucks along the way, but the vehicle that I remember him driving was a 1949 or so 88 Oldsmobile with a “rocket” back end. That was in the very late 50’s and very early 60’s. It was medium blue and had been purchased to replace a green one like it that was totaled by a drunk one evening as my folks drove it to a Grange meeting. That was ’55 or ’56 and I was home in diapers, with my aunt as baby-sitter, or Mom said I would have been thrown into the dash and killed. As it was, she hit the dash hard enough to break her dentures.

By the time I was old enough to notice anything, Granddad was no longer the physical power-house he had once been and had settled into a very unwelcome retirement. In fair weather, he often sat in the front yard in an Adirondack lawn chair, waved at the neighbors as they drove by and swatted flies with the swatter that accompanied him nearly everywhere he went by that time. When the boredom got too much for him, he climbed into the Buick and went to town.

Most folks driver slower and slower the older they get. Others can’t judge their speed and fly along like bats out of Ohio. Granddad did both. I suppose it depended on his mood, or how he felt. Sometimes, he’d be just poking along and suddenly take off like he was going to a fire. Occasionally, it would be the other way around. He was one of those drivers with whom you felt safer looking at his rear bumper ahead of you than his front one in your rear-view mirror.

He normally went to markets, grocery stores and hardware stores that were run by older fellows whom he’d known for years. There, he’d shoot the breeze for as long as he thought he could, without wearing out his welcome, before going to the next place. After making his rounds, he headed back out into the country to once again aggravate or terrorize the neighbors with his driving. When home, he’d back the car into an open stall of the barn where it would sit until his next jaunt. That’s where it sat the last year of his life, as he lay bedfast in what had once been the parlor of his home. Dad may have taken it out a few times to keep it limbered up, but I don’t remember for sure. I suppose it was probably sold to help pay expenses after he died. It sure would be neat to have the old car today. My cousin found a picture of that model on the internet. The link is below. © 2013,2096/1949-Oldsmobile-Rocket-88_photo.aspx


Ralph Goff said...

Now thats my kind of car. Olds introduced their first "rocket" V8 in 1949 and it was a serious contender in the horsepower race that really took off in the fifties.

Gorges Smythe said...

Granddad knew how to pick 'em, Ralph.