Cross Country

1948-50s-005

My parents moved from the Bronx to Oregon in 1948. My father had failed to make partner in his Wall Street law firm, so he went to work for the District Attorney in Portland. While his first jobs were routine, he joined the legal profession at a good time in the West. Here, unlike the East, there wasn’t a surplus of attorneys.

Being more than short on money, my parents(I was left with my grandparents–hence all those photos of me with them) drove across the country in this car. Again, without funds for hotels, they camped by the side of the car as they went. My mother is sitting with their dog, and I can see a Coleman lantern to her side.

They were astonished on the last leg of the trip to take the Columbia River Gorge Highway which had just been completed before the war by the W.P.A.(government funded public works for the unemployed in the Depression.) It clung to the side of the gorge, winding up and down along the mighty–as yet undammed–Columbia River.

Although Interstate 80 runs along the thrice dammed river now, there are still wonderful remnants of the old highway which give access to the hikes up the gorge. I parked along it often as an adult, setting off on nearly vertical trails to the top. Fortunately, as they say, “it was all downhill from there!”

Pride of Ownership

album-b_00085a

My mother inherited her parents’ photos, and I inherited hers(which were duplicated so all four of us could have a set.) I wish I had seen this picture when my grandparents were still alive so I could know the story behind the car. I can tell this must be about 1927 because I recognize my mother in the back seat and she looks about 5 years old.

It definitely looks as if they are heading out somewhere. I love the luggage on the side of the vehicle being held by some sort of hinged gate. They were living in Cambridge, Massachusetts and then lived both in Washington D.C. and then finally in Buffalo, New York. It is likely that they were moving to Buffalo in the picture for my grandfather’s appointment as a sociology professor at the University of Buffalo. At any rate, it warranted a picture taken by an obliging neighbor.

If anyone knows anything about cars, or knows someone who does, I would love to know what kind of car this is.

Toot. Toot.

 

And She’s Off!

1948-50s-053

I have been having a wonderful time looking through all my photos for pictures of cars. It’s going to be fun sharing some of my finds. Here I am at two, test driving my first car. It is not only manual transmission, it appears to be 0 horsepower and 2 footpower. Nonetheless, I seem intent on making the best of things. I am not sure who is supervising my ride. He doesn’t look like anyone in my family, so I suspect it was a neighbor.I saw a car like this on Antiques Roadshow not too long ago, which I guess makes me an antique also!

The cars little kids can drive now are fairly frightening. They have batteries and the kids zoom all over their yards and sidewalks. I wouldn’t trust a child in one, and shudder when I  watch one in the neighborhood cruising along. Even though they aren’t my kids, I keep watching to see if they veer into the street. There was certainly something self-limiting in the car I am driving. I imagine it got pretty tiring pretty fast moving it forward in little steps.

As you can tell from my home page, I quickly turned to the three wheels of my beloved trike. It went faster with the same expenditure of energy, and the tires had better cushioning. I didn’t drive a real car for many years. But that story has to stand in line behind a lot of other great vehicles to come.

Car Talk

1948 PACKARD Brochure posted tocmp 06

I have had a life long love of cars, though you might not guess it from the minivan I now drive, but that’s a later story. I thought I would be begin to give you an autobiography through cars. I hope it gets my readers to think about all the cars in their lives. Please feel free to share your car thoughts in the comment section.

My mother didn’t know how to drive for many years. In the late 40’s they lived in New York City where a car was unnecessary. Later, they bought a car, but my father drove it to and from work. Fortunately, in the early 50’s everything could be delivered. The milk came to the door. The druggist drove prescriptions to the house. The neighbor would give a ride to my mother to the grocery store. We could take the bus downtown to shop, and the stores would all deliver our purchases.

But in 1956, now that there were four children and we lived in a more isolated neighborhood, my mother learned to drive and they purchased the amazing 1948 Packard. We called it the Brown Bomb. The best feature was the back seat, accurately pictured in the sales brochure from 1948. It was as large and comfortable as a sofa, and the front seat was equally plush.(The gear shift was by the steering wheel, so it took up no room.) After one of us won the “front seat, front seat” contest, the rest of us settled into the back with “I call a window, I call a window.” Supposedly the worst seat was in the middle, but it did provide a great opportunity to pinch or poke the sibling on either side.

The car was a perfect place to hide out, and when there was a heavy rainstorm, my brother and I liked to lie out on the two seats and listen to the thump of the rain, luxuriously ensconced on the “sofas.”   We could escape chores and demands from our younger sisters and tell each other knock-knock jokes until it was time for dinner.

When they say, “they don’t build cars like they used to,” I remember the Packard.

A Star in the Making

marc-singer

Our junior English class was so enamored with the way Mr. Sanders taught that we petitioned the principal  (“remember the principal is your pal” spelling hint) if he could teach us Shakespeare as seniors. There had never been a Shakespeare class, and there was no text at the high school. Still, Mr. Schneider said, if we could fill a class, he would order texts and run the class for us. I remain thankful that he was flexible enough to help out a class of talented and eager students.

We read our way through almost of all his plays that year. Often Mr. Sanders would have us read dialogue aloud, taking turns with various characters. It became clear, early on, that only one student–Marc–was really born to the task. He would read with enthusiasm and gusto, waving his arms around and convincing us of each character he chose. The rest of us were either in awe or convulsed with laughter over his renditions of such characters as Falstaff. A lot of Shakespeare’s comedy is bawdy, but allowable since it was classical literature. Our other classes’ coursework would have pleased Queen Victoria, but here we could enjoy “dirty” jokes.

To no one surprise, Marc Singer went on to a very successful life as an actor. We had never seen him shirtless in high school, of course. But I was constantly treated to such images as the one above from Beastmaster in the years that followed. When ever I saw a picture or reference to him throughout the years, I smiled, remembering his “auditions” in front of a group of admiring high school seniors.

On a subliminal level, I must have tucked away this image as an inspiration for my own. Take another look at the image on my “about” page!

Done In By Wallace Stevens

wallace-stevens

I guess I was feeling pretty confident, more or less, after my however tentative understanding of Dylan Thomas. I actually fell in quasi-love with him for a while and listened to the Caedmon recording of him reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The first ever paperback book store–Brian Thomas books-had opened across the street from the Central Library, and I found a copy of the Christmas tale and took it home

(As a side note, paperback books were a true rarity in my high school days. Hard cover books were relatively expensive, so the library was my main source for reading. The sudden availability of paperback books, selling for between .95 and 1.95 was intoxicating.)

However, the next poem Mr. Sanders handed us was Peter Quince at the Clavier.
Too lengthy to post here, the link will send you to the full text. Here, I was an unfortunate victim of formalist criticism. The poem centers around a text from the Bible about Susanna being spied on in her private garden by elders of the synagogue. I had no knowledge of the Bible, so the allusion was lost on me. There were numerous other references too. Context, history, allusions, and author biography were superfluous to a true formalist reading, as I understood Mr Sanders’ assignment. But the poem totally flummoxed me.

When I later became an English professor, I tried to walk a line between telling my students what something meant and leaving them completely adrift if I thought some background might help their reading. Sometimes sitting with a hard poem and no clues is just frustrating.

Let It Snow?

e_00009a

Photo of  snow storm in  New York 1948.

Well we have been bemoaning the lack of snow in New England this winter. We have had a couple of minor storms, with a few inches of snow, but nothing to remind us we live in New England. Today, we got our comeuppance with 16 inches falling at our house, and similar amounts around the state.

My husband, a “non-essential employee,” had the day off and was chomping at the bit for the snow to stop so he could go outside with his top of the line Sears snow blower. This is our third snow blower in 16 years, and we finally went for the one with bells and whistles, including a head light. Not that I have ever used any one of them! I am a firm believer in a division of responsibility at home. He gets the outside and I get the inside. So I baked bread and made his favorite Almond Granola to fortify him in the seriously cold task of moving snow.

I am in my warm house comforted by two distinct sounds. The town plow goes by about every hour with a satisfying rumble. And I hear the drone of the snow blower as my husband takes care of our home and the ones on either side of us. Thanks guys!