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A lifetime of automobiles


I grew up as the third of four boys in a very mechanical family during the post-World War II era, surrounded by things mechanical, from tractors and farm machinery, to trucks and automobiles. I cannot remember when I did not have a profound fascination with automobiles. Consequently, as my wife Kay has noted, most events in my life are “earmarked for memory” by what automobile my family owned at that time. Here are the times of my life, marked by automobiles.

The first car I remember was not a car at all, but a 1949 Studebaker ¾ ton pickup, which served as my Dad’s farm truck and as the family car. I remember the intricate packing it took to get Mom, Dad, three boys and one girl into the cab of the Studebaker.

I don’t think it took my Dad very long to figure out that the truck wasn’t going to accommodate our family, as the next family car I remember was a 1949 Plymouth 2-door.

This car made a great impression on me, as I went to Peebles & Jones Chrysler-Desoto-Plymouth in Frederick, Oklahoma to help my Dad pick it out. As I recall, the trip was close to Christmas, and the Plymouth on the showroom floor was wrapped in cellophane wrapping paper and adorned with a large Christmas bow. The Plymouth wasn’t such a big car, but I remember that it appeared cavernous, when compared with the cab of the Studebaker.

In 1951 Dad took the Plymouth back to Peebles & Jones and traded it for a larger 1951 Desoto 4-door. This was a real road car, and I remember our family taking several trips in the Desoto. Its most impressive feature was the hood ornament, which was essentially a small chrome bust of the explorer after whom the car was named. The face, however, was made of amber glass or plastic, and I think it had a light inside. It may have only reflected light, but it was impressive to a 5 year old. This was about the time that James (my brother 2 years older) and I began to develop great skill in telling one car from another. My Mom would keep us occupied by simply asking us to tell the make and model of cars we would meet on the road. This was serious competition, and I remember several arguments over such things as whether a certain car was a 1949 Ford or a 1950 Ford. (The only distinction I remember was that the 1949 had pull out door handles, and the 1950 had push button door handles.)

In the winter of 1954-55, while taking a trip to Calera, Oklahoma to visit relatives, we were involved in a car wreck which severely damaged the Desoto, including popping out the back window glass. Though later determined to be a total loss, the car was still drivable, so we drove it about 60 miles back home, in very cold weather. I remember Mom piling lots of blankets on the three boys in the back seat and I remember still being very cold all the way home. Before leaving the Desoto era, I should note that two major events occurred during the family’s ownership. In 1954, my little brother Stanley was born, and I vividly recall transporting him and Mom home from the hospital in Hernando’s tender care. The other event was the marriage of my sister Janet in 1954, which was wonderful, because it was held in our living room. I remember sneaking into the dining room and swiping party nuts from the refreshment table.

Although Dad had purchased new cars up until 1955, he changed his strategy with the purchase of the family’s first used car, a pristine 1952 Chrysler Saratoga.

To be continued.

David Barnett Contributing Columnist Barnett Contributing Columnist

By David Barnett


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