Monday, March 31, 2008

Cars as Stars!

I really love the topic for the 45th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Cars as stars! I’ve enjoyed looking at old car pictures and reminiscing about all of the cars I’ve owned.

I know very little about my grandparents cars. I know my mother learned to drive by practicing up and down the driveway. I have no idea when or where my father learned to drive but he and my grandfather always owned Chrysler brand cars, or so I thought. Check out Grandpa Loved Franklin’s, it has a bit of a surprise ending. If you are trying to identify a car from an old family photo or need a good photo to fill in for a gap in your own album, be sure to check out John MacDonald’s wonderful site, Old Car and Truck Pictures. If he doesn’t have a picture of it, he probably has a link that will help.

I bought my first car in 1976 and have gone through quite a few since then. I’ve come Full Circle and it was fun looking back at the cars and the memories that they brought back.

Cars have played a big part in my life. We towed a camper for family vacations. We usually traveled by car or in the back of a pickup truck to visit my father for the summer. We love to retell the story about my mother’s Plymouth Valiant. She drove it to the plaza and parked between McDonald’s and K-mart’s auto shop. She went into McDonald’s and when she came out her car was gone! In a panic, she walked over to the repair shop to use the phone to call the police. The phone call wasn’t necessary as her car was on one of the lifts. The key to someone else’s car had worked in her ignition.

When I was learning to drive there were many that were betting I’d be the world’s worst driver. I backed a tobacco trailer into a support knocking down one of the barn awnings. The first time Dad let me get behind the wheel of his car he warned me to just tap the power brakes. After he peeled himself off of the windshield he started wearing his seatbelt if I got behind the wheel. We were at an auction once and Dad asked me to move his car. I backed it right into a clothes pole. Accidents prior to the age of 15 don't count, do they?

I now drive for a living. I never planned to be a school bus driver but I can’t imagine doing anything else. I started as a substitute driver in 1994 and looked on it as a form of community service. I now compete in the local Roadeo and work with new drivers. I am very involved with bus safety programs and I will be taking classes to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician in May. There are times when the job is sad others when it is stressful but The View from My Window makes it all worthwhile. And I never pass up the opportunity to try driving something new!

Driving Full Circle

I bought my first car when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a 1962 Buick LeSabre convertible. It needed new canvas and a few other things, and it was an ugly blue-gray but I loved it. I picked up a friend and we'd cruise to school and pick up kids hitch-hiking along the way. Gym was my first class of the day and I used to sleep in late. When I signed in, just in time for second period, I would frequently blame a flat tire for my tardiness. The tires on the car are one of the few things I never had to spend money on. My brother and other boys in the neighborhood would ask for rides down to the plaza and I'd take them - if they first agreed to push if I ran out of gas. I think that only happened once. It was in the LeSabre that I first experienced the late night submarine races ;-)

I didn't own the LeSabre very long as it required all of my paychecks and then some to keep it running. My next car was a brand new, bright red, AMC Gremlin. I no longer had to park in the students lot, I parked right with the teachers. Nobody questioned a brand new car in the lot. A Gremlin is not a large enough car to enjoy submarine races in. It sometimes seemed that the repair shop had the car more than I did. My boyfriend needed the car to get to work early in my junior year and I was back on the bus!

I graduated at the end of my junior year. I don't remember why but before graduation I traded the Gremlin for a Chevy step-side pickup truck. It was bright orange with great white detailing. I know there is a picture of it someplace but it's hiding right now. After I married in 1977 we took the truck to North Carolina to visit my father, in the spring of 1978 I think. We agreed to bring my step-sister back to Syracuse so she could visit her father. Rain was forecast so we put all of our suitcases and other belongings in plastic trash bags before loading the back of the truck. On the beltway around Washington, DC cars started honking their horns at us. One car pulled alongside and started pointing at the bed of the truck, which was on fire! I'm sure it only seemed like the beltway was 12 lanes wide back then. We finally made it to the shoulder and my step-sister had brought along distilled water for her contact lenses that we used to put out the fire. The smoke irritated her eyes and she had to take the contacts out but we'd used all of the water. Someone had thrown a cigarette butt out their window and it landed on one of the plastic bags. I had a canvas cover made for the bed soon after we got home. This was the first of many vehicles that I would lock with the keys inside.

My husband bought himself an old, ugly brown Chrysler New Yorker. It looked just like my grandfather's car. But that was OK because I wasn't the one driving it. He talked me into trading the truck for a new bright yellow Plymouth Horizon TC3. In my memory it was a hot little car. He ended up with the new car and I drove the Chrysler because it was safer with the baby. When we divorced I was quite happy to let him have the car and everything else that still had payments. This was the first car I owned that had the high beam switch on the turn signal bar. I had to get out the manual the first time I drove the car after dark.

Not being happy with the New Yorker, I sold it and bought myself an orange Chevy Monza. It was both the best and the worst car purchase of my life. It was fun, fun, fun to drive! It was very small for putting two car seats in and a two door made it hard to get the kids in and out. It was a V-8 and had been in an accident. There was also a four cylinder model and the previous owner had used the cheaper four cylinder parts to repair it. The radiator was too small so I had to keep gallons of water in the trunk. To visit my girl friend in Rochester I'd have to take a break on the Thruway to cool it down. Eventually I had the money to replace the radiator. It needed new brakes and I couldn't afford that too, so I took my first BOCES class in auto mechanics and changed them myself. While working on the car in class I met a man and we started dating. His girlfriend was not pleased! He was soon dateless. The next drawback to the car was that you could not change one of the spark plugs unless you jacked the engine up! Who in their right mind designs something like that? It must have been Cupid because John and I met just minutes after I had dropped the car off to have it done.

For our first date John picked me up in his old Dodge Dart. The car's fenders were literally held together with duct tape! He told me he had just had a fender bender in front of the park that I lived in. I was more than a bit hesitant to get in that car. It was March and the heater didn't seem to work either, forcing me to snuggle up close to him to stay warm. We kept that car for several years and called it the dump car as it was only driven on Saturdays to go to the transfer station.

What I didn't know on that first date was that he had ordered a 1982 Cutlass Ciera Brougham. That was one of the prettiest cars we ever owned. It was burgundy red with a cream color vinyl top. It had all leather interior and power everything. He must have really trusted me because he let me take it within a week of getting it. I felt like I'd just won the lottery driving such a fancy car!

While we were still dating I replaced the Monza with a much more practical, dreary tan color, Plymouth Duster. A very used Duster. The engine didn't last as long as the payments did. So John picked up another one that had a good engine but other problems and we found a mechanic to make one car out of two. I really don't have any special memories associated with the Duster.

After we were married in 1984, I generally drove the Cutlass and he drove the Duster :-)

In 1987 we bought the first of the two Dodge Grand Caravans that I would drive. We took family trips to Ontario and Florida. I was now a full time mom so I used the van running my kids and their friends to wherever they had to go. John now drove the aging Cutlass. We moved to Akron, NY in 1989 and the vans then saw lots of travel back and forth on the Thruway. (We no longer needed the Cutlass because John now had a company car.) All three of our kids learned to drive in the vans. The second van moved back to Central New York with us in 1995. They weren't fun to drive, they had no style but they were practical and served us well.

In 1997 we bought a new 1996 Cutlass Ciera. This one was not nearly as pretty as it's predecessor. I don't know what was up with the color but in daylight it looked blue and at night more green. (My son used the van to get to school and work so we had that for quite awhile too. He finally killed it and we donated it to charity.) It was in this Cutlass that Mom and I made her last trip back home to Michigan. It was the only trip we ever took together, just the two of us. On the way home I got turned around not once but twice (something I never do!) and both times we saw hot air balloons. Mom loves to chase balloons, so we did.

A few years later John and his brother worked out a swap and we traded the Cutlass for an Olds Alero. Driving was fun again! OK, it was an automatic but it held the curves well. I drove the car to mother's weekend at Wells one year and took my daughter and her friend out to dinner in Ithaca. I think this was the only time my daughter was frightened when I was behind the wheel. In 2002 we found out that we were being transfered back to Western New York. My daughter's car was on it's last legs so we gave her the sporty little Alero.

John now drives a 1999 Ford Taurus that our son-in-law picked up for him at auction. It has close to 100,000 miles but now that he's retired he doesn't put many miles on it. Hopefully we'll trade it in for something new in a year or two.

I drive a 2002 Buick LeSabre. It isn't fun to drive but it is oh, so very comfortable. We have taken it to Tennessee and Florida several times. It will forever be remembered for my one and only accident. It also has close to 100,000 miles and is starting to have some minor problems but I'm hoping to get a few more years out of it. It certainly isn't as big as my 1st LeSabre but it is much more reliable and gets surprisingly great gas mileage. I'll be driving it to Michigan in less than two weeks!

Grandpa Loved Franklins

My grandfather loved to tell me about Franklin cars. Why he chose me to talk to about them, I have no idea as I was totally uninterested. Grandpa was not a talker and I don't remember many conversations but there were several times I can recall him bringing up Franklin's. The few times I accompanied him to Onondaga Valley Cemetery to tend to my grandmother's grave he'd point out the Seneca Turnpike hill and tell how they tested the Franklin cars. The Franklin's would make it to the top when many others wouldn't. While I never had a car that couldn't climb that hill I had several that objected so I figured that was a big deal. The fact that they were air cooled meant nothing to me then but that fact stuck with me. Unfortunately nothing else he said about them did.

The Franklin was manufactured in Syracuse, NY from 1902 until 1934, a victim of the Great Depression. Engineer John Wilkinson invented the Franklin automobile and Herbert H Franklin manufactured it in his H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company. The plant was huge and filled the city block at Franklin and Geddes Streets and provided jobs for men from across the city. The Onondaga Historical Association has some good pictures of the inside of the factory in their Franklin Automobile Collection.

H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Co.
Post card image © Onondaga County GenWeb

The Franklin was a luxury car made of light weight aluminum, making the company the largest user of aluminum in it's early years. The engine was air cooled was was considered by some to be more reliable than a water cooled engine. There were several models available and they could also be custom ordered. Over 32 years 150,000 Franklins rolled off of the assembly line. The cars consistently set coast to coast speed records and achieved gas mileage that we would all love to have today.

1914 Frankin Motor Car
Image © Onondaga County GenWeb

The company went bankrupt in 1934. In 1937 the rights were sold to Doman-Marks Engine Co, the name changed to Aircooled Motors Corp. and the Franklin engine found new life as an aircraft engine.

So why did grandpa love the Franklin?

My grandparents, Kim and Mary Berry, moved to Syracuse, NY shortly after their wedding in 1922. Kim's uncle, Daniel Hollington was living there on Magnolia St. Initially Kim got a job driving some type of tanker truck but soon he landed a job as a machinist at the Straight Line Engine Co. (they made steam engines) on Geddes St, within sight of his uncle's apartment. Kim would work there for decades. Across the street from the Straight Line was the Franklin Manufacturing plant. Daniel Hollington is listed as a night watchman at the plant on the 1920 census. This is the only family connection I can find to the Franklin.

This photo from my family collection is marked, in my sister's handwriting, "Kim's car, Westvale." On the 1930 census my grandparents were renting a house on Lathrop St in the Town of Geddes, only a few blocks from where I was raised. This area is known as Westvale. There is no date on the photo so I have guessed at the date based on my father's year of birth, 1926.

Mary Berry with son Harvey circa 1928-1930
© Apple's Tree

So this must be a Franklin! Or is it? I started looking at hundreds of pictures of Franklins from the late 1920's. I found lots that looked very similar but the bumper, vents and insignia didn't seem quite right.

I knew that grandpa always owned a Chrysler as far as I could remember. I called my mom and she thought that when she met him in the 1940's he had a Plymouth so I started looking at Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth. This ad looked close.
Photo from the University of Michigan,
Automobile in American Life and Society ©2004
accessed 30Mar2008

A closer look and the bumper isn't right.
Photo courtesy of John MacDonald @ Old Car and Truck Pictures
" 1931 Dodge DH 4 Door Sedan Canadian Model
This car is owned by Dave Houlihan, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada"

My husband and son both thought it might be a Ford. Again the bumper wasn't right and the Ford insignia is oval, not triangular.
Photo courtesy of John MacDonald @ Old Car and Truck Pictures
1929 Model A Ford 4 Door Phaeton

Photo courtesy of John MacDonald @ Old Car and Truck Pictures
1930 Model A Ford Fordor

I wish I'd found John MacDonald's Old Car and Truck Pictures sooner! I started looking at pictures of other car companies. My great-aunt worked for Studebaker in South Bend, IN for years but I wouldn't have thought of them on my own. On close inspection I don't believe it is a Studebaker either.
Photo courtesy of John MacDonald @ Old Car and Truck Pictures
"1928 Studebaker Director Royal Sedan
This car is owned by Steve K. of Sydney, Australia.
This picture was taken in about 1992 at
Silverwater in Sydney Australia. Steven says
that he is the 3rd owner from new and that the
car was restored by the previous owner in 1984."

I started looking at Hudson pictures. Hudson? I'd never heard of them. Based on the front bumper and the triangular insignia I do believe that Grandpa owned a Hudson! Do you agree or should I keep searching? Not all of the Hudson's from this time period had this distinctive bumper but I haven't found any other car that did. A search found several more 1929 Hudson's with this bumper.
Photo Courtesy of John MacDonald @ Old Car and Truck Pictures
1929 Hudson Super 6

The Hudson was manufactured in Detroit from 1909 to 1954. A good, brief history of the company can be found here.

Why did Grandpa love the Franklin? I wish I'd asked him. I don't believe he ever owned one.


John MacDonald, Old Car and Truck Pictures
accessed 30Mar2008

The H. H. Franklin Club website, updated 21Mar2003, accessed 30Mar2008

Wikipedia. Franklin (automobile) This page was last modified on 19 March 2008, at 03:33. Accessed 30Mar2008

Onondaga County GenWeb
All information contained within these pages is the property of the
Onondaga County Coordinator and each contributor and author of materials herein.
Data cannot be published for profit and is for free public use.
© Pamela Priest, Onondaga County Coordinator, 1996-2006

Smithsonian, National Museum of American History; America on the Move collection website. Accessed 30Mar2008 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA.
Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 on roll 323 (Chicago City. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1920. T625, 2,076 rolls. Accessed 30Mar2008 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls. Accessed 30Mar2008

University of Michigan,
Automobile in American Life and Society ©2004
accessed 30Mar2008

Hudson - Essex - Terraplane Club, Inc
Accessed 30Mar2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I've fallen a wee bit behind here in Snowville. My mother has had a round of what seems like endless doctor appointments. There really have not been that many appointments, it just feels that way because so many had to be rescheduled due to the weather. Her medical problems have gotten noticeably worse over the last few months and it has been a bit of a battle to get her the care and medicines she needs. We finally resolved the medication issues and got the doctor to order the oxygen service she needs yesterday. She wants to stay in her own home for as long as possible and we are doing our best to keep her there. The snow is a long way from melting but spring activities and classes are filling my calendar.

1,000+ was the number of items unread in my feed reader this morning. Almost half of those were genealogy or history blog posts! You all have been busy!!! I now know how Lee felt a while back. I've missed three carnivals that I had planned to take part in and some fun memes await my attention. I hope to get caught up with everyone before I leave for Michigan next month and maybe even write a little bit too!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Spark of Interest

When I talk about genealogy to any family member other than my mother I am met either by deaf ears or lots of eye rolling. I had a slight breakthrough with my grandson, Mike, on Sunday.

When the boys arrived I asked if they knew what race had started that day and Mike surprised me by knowing that the Iditarod had just started. He's in 4th grade and they are following the race in the classroom. He had picked a musher to follow (Ryan Redington) and I started teasing him about picking someone other than our cousin, Robert Bundtzen. This led to lots of questions. As the oldest grandchild on both sides he thinks of cousins as little people that he gets to play with.

So we talked about how we're related. He understands that his Nana is my mother and therefore his great-grandmother so I explained that Nana had a sister Vivian., making her our Aunt Vivian. Aunt Vivian had two daughters and they are our cousins. One of those daughters married Dr. Bundtzen which made him our cousin by marriage. I lost him when I tried to explain 1st and 2nd cousins so I dropped it. There will be time for that. For now I'm happy that he understands that he has relatives that he's never met and he's excited that he could go to school today and tell everyone that he'll be following two different mushers. Maybe when he starts studying the Revolutionary War I can make it personal by telling him about Capt. Daniel Carlisle and several others.