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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 1

[Sequentially post-dated from July 17, 2007.]

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,my dad and mom were 12 and 11: two Junior High kids that barely knew each other's names. Ten years and two months later, they were married and headed for a Washington, D.C. honeymoon in Dad's '39 Ford. A week later they settled into a small three-room apartment just a few blocks from the high school where they fell in love.

Doesn't it feel strange to consider that a "1939 Ford" was no older in the year 1951 than a 1995 model is as I write today. My daughter drives a '95 Saturn, and it doesn't seem that old to me. But the thought of ’39 Ford in the Fifties, sounds old. Oddly enough, there is another reason that this car did not look that old on the road...

In the 40's, the world my parents and their parents knew was hanging by a thread. During WW II, progress on the domestic front took a back seat to "doing without" for the war effort.

The 1942 cars models were in production when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but those car designs did not change for the duration of the war. The auto plants were converted to military production and while a few cars were still being made each year, they were in fact the same car as the year before.

If your family was among the few to buy a "new" Ford in 1945, it was a 1942 Ford. If you bought the new Ford in this second picture (circa 1948), it was a 1942 Ford with only a slightly different grill, which still looked very similar to the 1939 model in the first picture. Not until well after the war (1949) did Ford begin rolling new designs off its Detroit assembly lines. So in that sense, in 1950, my dad's '39 Ford looked as "up to date" as a 2004 model might look today, but all that was about to change.

In the next few years Detroit quickly made up for lost time by completely skipping a decade of gradual change. After hunkerin' down and pulling together through the Great Depression and a global war, America wanted to...needed to...see some signs that the best of the 20th Century was yet to come. Seemingly overnight, it was as if beautiful metal butterflies emerged from the drab cocoons that had been sitting by the curb.

I was born in 1956. By the time I was old enough to know what a car was, many of them had the lines of a rocket. Ours, of course, did not. The six of us were still piling in and out of that '39 Ford—by then 20 years old. Dad was driving a Bell truck to and from work and a newer car was just not in the budget. I later learned that it was in that old Ford that Dad taught Mom to drive, and that was the car that brought home the Duncan Phyfe.

This is the story of their first year together—before any of us kids were on the scene. It will take a while to get to that part of about the table, but stories about life and love are a lot like life itself. It’s best not to hurry such things… to take it slow as if you’re strolling as you read.
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Originally posted Wednesday, 7-11-07. Moved for sequence with Part II.

14 Comments:

Blogger the walking man said...

Tom I am tagging you just as Donnetta tagged me. if you have already been tagged to bad...consider it homework in the summer.

You have to go to my blog for the rules of the game and to keep it going...so tag you're it.

12/7/07 8:12 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Interesting story about the 39-49 Fords Tom, that was a piece of Detroit history I didn't know.

I think the radical design changes of the fifties though came from returning veterans who had seen so many new things and with the newly in place GI bill they were looking to re-make the world of automotive design and take it away from depression era and war era cars, looking for a more futuristic look.

I'll give you a hint about our age difference though, I am the fourth of five, my oldest sister was born in 1950 and my father enlisted in the navy in '36 where he stayed until '45 and graduated college with his PhD. in Chemical Engineering in '51

13/7/07 5:57 AM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Tom: Granny and Grandpa also had some kind of old Ford. It didn't have a backseat so my brother and I had to stand behind the driver's and passenger's seats. Duncan Phyfe-we had one of those, too. And I just bought a tiny table at an auction not too long ago.

And, looking at the Walking Man's comment about his age--I'm old enough to be one of his sisters!

Donnetta

13/7/07 5:41 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I look forward to the rest of the story because I don't have the slightest idea what a Duncan Phyfe is.

13/7/07 6:59 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM,
Wow. That took longer than I thought it would. I want you to know that is the first time I followed through on one of those.

Your thoughts on what prompted the new car designs are exactly right. We were ready for a new ride. That's what made the Fifties so cool. If you read my "Tagged" post below this one, you'll see that I was also the fourth of five kids.

Donnetta,
I see you had something to do with all this "tagging." I hope to trace back some of your readers. They seem to be writers. So you know what a Duncan Phyfe is. Dr. John will remember when he sees the picture.

Dr. John,
I hope to post that story this weekend. You'll recognize what it is, but maybe didn't know it by that name.

13/7/07 11:31 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Always thought those models had more personality than cars today.
Thank you for stopping by my blog.

14/7/07 5:25 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Bernita,
They were eye-catching. This Ford Fairlane is actually conservative compared to some of the "winged" and "finned" designs I remember, like the BelAir and Caddy. My Grandma K.had a black Mercury Comet she rarely drove. It wasn't very colorful, but it always looked new there in her garage.

14/7/07 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

You just reminded me that my family had a car similar to these when I was a kid. Wow. That goes way back.

14/7/07 11:50 AM  
Blogger EA Monroe said...

This is an interesting post, Tom. I remember kids having the old 39 Fords -- even did a post about riding in one with a kid delivering newspapers! My Uncle David had one, too, and was he every proud of it!

14/7/07 2:30 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Oh, I am missing so much... I love to keep up with your "stuff"! I am going to read every word that I have missed as soon as the wedding is over. I am not so "knee deep" at this point and I am enjoying the parties, the friends, the families and this precious time with Katherine. What a blessing... keep me in your prayers.

14/7/07 9:19 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Rhea,
I've been trying to think of when we got rid of that car. I don't remember. I do that when I was four or five we had a VW bug and then a VW "bus" and then a Plymouth Fury II, Dodge "Valiant" and Ford Country Squire station wagon.

E.A.M.
This one was not "cool" it was just old. The cloth "headliner" sagged down in the back seat. =)

Nancy,
You're not missing anything that won't be here after the big day. Enjoy every moment between now and then. A little hint that made it a special week and not just a special day... we had Julie's sister's family stay and "vacation" with us the days after the wedding. It was good to have company and things to do and family to "unwind" with... And after all this preparation and anticpation...there is a lot of unwinding to do. =)

14/7/07 11:59 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

I love those old Fords. I remember when I was about four years old, my Uncle Dave and Aunt Molly had one, and I loved the texture of the seat covers.

15/7/07 8:54 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Those photos bring back memories for me of watching my dad pull into our cinder driveway after work in one of those cars.

The GI bill was a terrific thing for the returning soldiers. I know of many men who were able to graduate from college as a result of the GI bill. My husband was one of them. He served in the Air Force during the early sixties. Thanks to the GI bill, we were able to buy our first house too. It was a three bedroom ranch and we paid $15,000 for it.

Okay, Tom, I have finished my "8 random facts about myself" post at my blog.

16/7/07 10:07 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Josie,
Do you remember how the dashboards were hard with all sorts of pointy knobs and things that would never be considered "safe" nowadays? Of course, back then a "child safety seat" was something you hung like a hanger on the front seat--putting the child at the perfect height to miss the dangerous dashboard and fly directly into the windshield. (I used to sleep on the back window's ledge and wave at policemen who would wave back.) My how times have changed.

SQ,
My father-in-law went to college on the GI Bill. That was a great and well-deserved program. Just think that $15,000 could probably sell today for about $170,000-200,000. Scary!
Glad to see you kept the "tag" alive so far about half had time to do it. It does take some time to think "randomly."

All,
I've gotten a little bogged down and haven't yet finished Part II, but it's in the works.

17/7/07 2:55 PM  

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