Saturday, August 05, 2006

The great Auburn sedan-

In 1935 Uncle Dave met the girl of his dreams at a family wedding in Spokane.

How was he to court her from 135 miles away? The old Dodge Senior was on its last legs and was not a fit image for an up and coming young merchant.

Times were tough. Wheat was pennies a bushel. Many who had lived high in the twenties lost their farms and businesses in the depression of the early thirties. Grandfather B had rented part of the store building to the Salvation Army. Daily, clients would arrive seeking food and clothing handouts. Many in Cadillacs, Packards, and Pierce Arrows.

People who had money were wary. Banks went broke as loans were not met and collateral sank in value. Banks that remained solvent were closed by government order. Contrary to rumor, Baker Boyer Bank did close but was allowed to cash paychecks of public safety workers through an alley entrance accessed by a buzzer.

In this environment grandfather B went shopping for a new car. I personally remember sitting in a 1934 Chrysler "Airflow". The car that was too radical in design for its time but was the design inspiration for generations of future cars.

The auto purchased was a 1935 Auburn. Asking price started at $1800.00 the car was purchased for about $800. List on a Ford was about $500. The price doesn't indicate the heritage of that car. It was designed by members of the team that designed the Dusenberg luxury sedan. "It's a Dusy!" was a phrase that meant exceptional in anything.

The gearing and powerful Continental engine made the Auburn a speedster. In an era when "Going 60 miles an hour" was an expression meaning throwing caution to the wind, Uncle Dave was able to coax speeds of up to 90 miles an hour along the narrow twisting roads leading to Spokane and back.

And the car was a beauty. A styling standout even today. A featured vehicle at classic car shows.

Uncle Dave won his bride and brought her to Walla Walla. Now on their own, the new couple was allowed the personal use of a 1936 Dodge pickup whose daytime mission was transporting wool and preserved or fresh killed animal skins.

In 1941 Grandfather B. now retired was enjoying his two favorite passtimes, playing pinochle and fishing.

As to fishing, it went like this - Grandfather would be up at dawn cooking himself an omelete to be rolled in waxpaper and taken as a lunch with a thermos of coffee. Driving far out on a sandbar at the mouth of the Walla Walla River he would reach the banks of the Columbia and his favorite fishing hole. (Before McNary Dam flooded the area) He would drag on his hiphigh waders and set a wooden chair in the shallow water to sit on till a fish cared to bite.

A man of quick flareups of temper he had infinnte patience in hooking and landing a fish.

One day he returned home from a tranquil morning of fishing. Grandmother Risa seeing the car covered with schmutz from the river and sandbar and grandfather getting out of the car with a smelly sack of fish lost it. She yelled "How can you treat our lovely family car like that?
That is a job for a truck."

Grandfather disappeared back into the the driver's seat. At Becker Motors he was granted a trade in value of $175 for the Auburn on the purchase of a brand new 1941 Dodge pickup truck.

I don't know if that preserved domestic tranquility but as we have seen the collector price of that model move to over $200,000 we have wondered about the economic rationale.


Blogger Danny Barer said...

Another great story. Somehow, I don't think the loss of the Auburn in favor of yet another pickup would have fostered domestic tranquility. More likely, Great-Grandmother learned not to come between a man and his creel.

8:19 PM  

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