Wednesday, January 20, 2010

20 January 1956 “Come away with me, Lucille, in my Merry Oldsmobile”

merry oldsmobile sheet music The famous song of 1905 made that first statement that the auto had arrived and was to be ingrained into the culture, the very courting procedures, of the modern man. In fact, many treatise were written against the auto, as it now allowed young courting couples the ability to leave the drawing room with auntie overseeing their ‘courting’ to who knows what. And, without the fear and need of a pair of horses, a couple ‘going out for a drive’ could certainly lead to all sorts of ‘nefarious activity’. And, indeed, the young ladies of the last centuries turn were to know a freedom of which their mother’s could never conceive, as the lyrics tell us:

Verse 1

Young Johnny Steele has an Oldsmobile
He loves his dear little girl
She is the queen of his gas machine
She has his heart in a whirl
Now when they go for a spin, you know,
She tries to learn the auto, so
He lets her steer, while he gets her ear
And whispers soft and low...

Verse 2

They love to "spark" in the dark old park
As they go flying along
She says she knows why the motor goes
The "sparker" is awfully strong
Each day they "spoon" to the engine's tune
Their honeymoon will happen soon
He'll win Lucille with his Oldsmobile
And then he'll fondly croon...

Chorus

Come away with me, Lucille
In my merry Oldsmobile
Down the road of life we'll fly
Automobubbling, you and I
To the church we'll swiftly steal
Then our wedding bells will peal
You can go as far as you like with me
In my merry Oldsmobile.

Here is some early footage from 1909 and the famous song sung by Billy Murray:

A long way away from my day, here in 1956. Watch as Bing tells us the attributes of the modern car.

In one of my 1956 copies of The American Magazine, I found this rather interesting map. It shows how over 80% of what goes into our automobiles are produced here in this country with a breakdown of every state. Click on each picture to read it full size. Interesting stuff, indeed.

automaking 1956 1auto making 1956 2

It’s an odd thing, the automobile. It is that old ‘two-edged sword’: it has given us a lot and equally cost us a lot. The ability to ship things quickly can be a boon, but did we not have the train? And, with the ‘truck farming’ of the post war years, did that not begin to lead to the eventual downfall of local farm? We didn’t NEED to rely on the farmers in our area. Yes, it made food cheaper overall, but at what cost to the majority of we the people? The cost to the environment and to the eventual misuse of the very animals we need to survive?

The speed to get one to the hospital, the ability to allow others to reach towns and schools. These seem obvious positives, and yet, with the age of the car firmly set decades past, we are probably the most physically unconnected we have ever been, though digitally we do well I suppose. And of course, as Lucille in the song knew, it gave us ample opportunity for ‘courting’.

I wonder the future of the car. I wonder at what we have given up for its convenience and of course to build up a few more ‘new moneyed’ families at the turn of the last century who, with their wealth and upgrade from their own class, only wanted to ‘buy their way into’ the old money world. The cheap affordable modet T for the common man put Ford and his heirs into the drawing rooms and families of the ‘old guard’ safely above the ‘common man’.

Imagine the world when cars did not exist, but we had the railroads. Transportation of goods and peoples was possible, yet the small towns and rural areas still depended upon their own neighbors.

I am not saying one way or the other: the car is good, the car is bad. The car, as it is, is merely an object devoid of any traits save what we have given it. But, how we have used it and where it has lead us? And in the strive for the wealth of those behind their production, the loss of jobs to our own country. Yet, even that coin has two sides. The unions in the beginning may have been asking for a ‘fair wage’ for their workers, but then in THEIR greed did they lead to so many benefits and such high wages that they helped to lead the way of overseas production? When was enough is enough for any of us. Do we, as humans, always follow the line of reason, “More more, I want and deserve more” and never, “Well, it is pretty good now, let’s maintain and grow with what we have?” I suppose, it is not human nature.

It all comes down, again, to personal responsibility and the simple act of just thinking and considering. If we can, we modern people, look about at what we do daily and the ‘tools’ we use and ask ourselves why? or Hmmm, what was it BEFORE this and what MAY COME AFTER? We might find ourselves making different choices, or in fact MAKING choices at all.

Yet, here snug in 1956 America, I can be happy for the car. I am sure after seeing this commercial, hubby would not deny me my own car for my committee meetings and such. After all, as the ad told me I was a ‘prisoner in my own home’ before.

Here in 1956 I can smile and look to the future knowing the following generations shall have it better than me. And, certainly, they shall make the right choices to allow ALL people to have a better life, right?

So, rather you are in 1956 or 2010, stop a moment during the day, and look at your ‘tools’. My Kirby vacuum, my modern electric range, my car, much faster and more comfortable than that old Model T I learned to drive in! The TV, why I can get news and have a show on in the evening to enjoy before they sign off air for the night. And look at those growing grocery stores! All that food, frozen for my convenience, and so many meals and desserts premade to give me more time for myself!

You there, in 2010, yes you! Look at the phone in your hand, the microwave at beck and call, the 2-3 cars in your drive, the TVs, computers, the iPod in your ears, entertainment for you, the machines that tell you where to drive and turn in your cars, the seats with their own video machines to keep little Johnny entertained while he is strapped in back there. Let’s all stop, just for a few minutes, and look around at our day. Are we better off? Is there a better or worse? Are we using our ‘better’ things the best way we can? And HOW will these ‘improvements’ help the future generations?

Have a lovely day, Apronites, and don’t forget to stop and think today. And remember the world before the ‘Merry Oldsmobile’.

13 comments:

  1. "Assests ALWAYS come with liabilities. Unfortunately, humans tend to ignore liabilities until it is too late." Pastor W. of my church.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. I see a lot of ladies on the blogs who say that the dating really changed with the coming of the automobile (these ladies are really into "courtship" dating, where the couple does not go out alone much). Very interesting.

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  3. The first home my parents purchased was a "cape cod" style in a post WWII housing development. When first married, my mother did not know how to drive, because she grew up in around Queens, LI. When very young, there were many street vendors and walking to shop for "necessities" was not a problem. They had sidwalks to walk the two miles to buy day old bread. They had access to the public transportation and used it at a young age. When she was a teen, she came home very late at night and walked a good distance to her home. She was not afraid, for there was little to be afraid of. My father had a car, a leaky pre-war older vehicle. This was their only transportation.

    We lived only 13 miles from Newark, NJ, but my mother, as well as the other women in the neighborhood, were very isolated. The hours my father worked prevented her from dropping him off and picking him up from work, unlike the women who transported their husbands to and from the train station twice a day; they usually worked in NYC. It was beyond an inconvenience to take the available public transportation, that required multiple buses for "local" shopping. It was a nightmare to drag two pre-school children and grocery shop! I remember taking the trains to Newark to shop at Kresge's department store.

    My daughter and family spent six months living in Helsinki, Finland. They have a great transportation system within and directly around the city. Unfortunately, it was a challenge shopping with two pre-school children with a stroller in tow *and* grocery shop. If you wanted to travel outside of the city, what could be a thirty minute drive, took two hours!

    Car ownership has been a controversial topic for a while now. I did not set up the system, nor make the rules. I will not feel guilty for owning and using our very frugal (as much as we can in our state) vehicles--not that you are even suggesting this. Why? Safety and thrift. It is not the 1950's any longer. It is impossible to "stock up" on a sale when you are limited by public transportation, even with a shopping trolley. Wise stewardship is important, and we use our vehicles frugally and wisely.

    My parents generation tried, in their own way, to make life better for their children. They looked at life based on their experiences and social norms of the time. Their children did not have the same experiences and social norms, and viewed a "better life" for their children differently. Surprisingly, in my case, we raised our children with a more "old fashioned" approach, but it is impossible to be isolated from popular culture/norms of the day. How "improvements" help future generations in rather subjective. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The first home my parents purchased was a "cape cod" style in a post WWII housing development. When first married, my mother did not know how to drive, because she grew up in around Queens, LI. When very young, there were many street vendors and walking to shop for "necessities" was not a problem. They had sidwalks to walk the two miles to buy day old bread. They had access to the public transportation and used it at a young age. When she was a teen, she came home very late at night and walked a good distance to her home. She was not afraid, for there was little to be afraid of. My father had a car, a leaky pre-war older vehicle. This was their only transportation.

    We lived only 13 miles from Newark, NJ, but my mother, as well as the other women in the neighborhood, were very isolated. The hours my father worked prevented her from dropping him off and picking him up from work, unlike the women who transported their husbands to and from the train station twice a day; they usually worked in NYC. It was beyond an inconvenience to take the available public transportation, that required multiple buses for "local" shopping. It was a nightmare to drag two pre-school children and grocery shop! I remember taking the trains to Newark to shop at Kresge's department store.

    My daughter and family spent six months living in Helsinki, Finland. They have a great transportation system within and directly around the city. Unfortunately, it was a challenge shopping with two pre-school children with a stroller in tow *and* grocery shop. If you wanted to travel outside of the city, what could be a thirty minute drive, took two hours!

    Car ownership has been a controversial topic for a while now. I did not set up the system, nor make the rules. I will not feel guilty for owning and using our very frugal (as much as we can in our state) vehicles--not that you are even suggesting this. Why? Safety and thrift. It is not the 1950's any longer. It is impossible to "stock up" on a sale when you are limited by public transportation, even with a shopping trolley. Wise stewardship is important, and we use our vehicles frugally and wisely.

    My parents generation tried, in their own way, to make life better for their children. They looked at life based on their experiences and social norms of the time. Their children did not have the same experiences and social norms, and viewed a "better life" for their children differently. Surprisingly, in my case, we raised our children with a more "old fashioned" approach, but it is impossible to be isolated from popular culture/norms of the day. How "improvements" help future generations in rather subjective. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very true and, as you said, I was NOT saying one way or the other "car ownership bad, car ownership good". I do think, however, in say, our great grandchildrens' time the choice of rather to have children in tow on a bus or take your car may not be an option. For, if it is true (and it seems to be from all I can see of history) we alwyas view what 'normal and forever' is in about a three decade circle. Life in our parents time into our grandchildren is about the scope we view and consider this will' always be the way'. Of course, history tells us different.
    Again, I think the problem today about debates over environment and personal safety and community growth is often 'tied up with emotion and moral notations'. There is not right or wrong good or bad wiht the earth on a very general term. It will keep spinning and growing and rather we destroy it, ignore it, or work with it IT has no feelings nor actual responses (other than its global changes but they are not an emotional response as if the planet is saying to us,"do this do that")SO that said, I think it silly and really just a 'tool' that media uses to tell us to be on this or that side of the 'story'.
    However, it is a fact (regardless of emotion or belief) that certain factors are true. There is only a finite supply of oil. Emissions from things such as cars, factories, even recycling itself is a very large pollutant. There will be an outcome. The 'earth' doesn not 'consider' it good nor bad as the earth does not consider at all, it just is.
    So, when the time comes, whenever that is, and there is no more oil, and then electricity etc unless we find other solutions, such choices may NOT be relevant.
    But, what I do like is that we (For I, too, have a car and certianly use it. When we lived in the city I was able to go without it's use but it was set up for such transportation)can make choices to use our cars less etc. Though, I really feel that actual production and the making of electricity uses up MUCH MORE fuel than middle class people with cars.
    So, it is all just interesting to note and watch. I mean there is really nothing we, the little apronites can do for the big picture, but I like that we can think, consider, and adjust our own lives to the little picture.
    I certainly wanted no one to feel guilty about their car.
    And really this post was about that map and how once over 80% of what was in a car was produced in OUR country and now very little is still made here. In fact, I find this rather funny, there are some hondas and bmw's that have plants here that make MORE of their car in this country from us labor than say a Ford or GM. AGain, not a value judgement, just a fact.
    I think that is why I get discouraged with the big cable 'news' channels. They feel that presenting facts not enough. INstead there has to be hours of people telling us their opinion or what they 'think' of the situation and then assiging good or bad to things that quite frankly are just facts. I think news died, really, with Walter Kronkite.
    I think that is why sometimes I laugh when I do see a debate about such things and people become so heated. It again makes me think, "Where have all the grownups gone?" For to shout, rant and scream, "This is what I think!" while not listening to another or considering the situation at hand by the FACTS (which are there in actual reports) is just another momemnt of our "ME ME , Look and listen to ME! I'm important". It really can merely be laughable, for what else can you do?
    So, I hope no one thought I was trying to make anyone feel guilty about anything. I was simply showing actual commercials, maps of actual production.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I remember my Grandma telling me about how her father and his old Ford Model T car. She was a farmer's daughter, and they didn't own a car probably till the late 1920's.

    I know my own grandfather who worked from the time of age 12 in grain mills etc., he saved his money and the first thing he bought was not a car but a horse and cutter. I have a picture from 1928, showing my Grandpa at age 16, with his hat jauntily on the side standing next to his sleigh and horse. How proud he was of that.

    Even in the fifties, my grandfather would take a horse and sleigh (complete with jinglebells), to take my dad, and his two sisters to their one room school house.
    (their car was stuck in the barn, and the snow was too high to get it out)
    So although the car played a tremendous role in this era, the horse still had some significant value for many years, and in the rural areas the old fashioned sense of community was still intact, just as it is today.

    My father was an autoworker, as is my brother and my husband is now laid off, I'm hoping he will get called back, it's hard to see so many in my community hard working men and women out of work. I just want my hubby working locally so he won't have to travel so much to find work.
    Henry Ford actually started the middle class with his five dollar a day work day, at a time when most were only earning 2.50 a day.
    He wanted to lower the price on his automobiles so the common man could afford them. (I read his autobiography). :)

    What I miss the most from my hubby working at the auto plant, is not the high wages, the benefits etc., it is the ability to have a steady paycheque, to have security and to plan for the future. His good paying job enabled me to stay home and help to raise my boys........I do work now part-time, and he travels alot to work (sometimes two - three hours away), when work projects are available.
    Even with his university degree, it's hard to find work.

    I can honestly say about the autoworkers in my area, they are decent, hard working individuals who contribute to the United Way and other local charities. I love my community and have to say I would never wish to live anywhere else in Canada. :)

    I can walk down a sidestreet in the morning, and just about everyone will wish you good day, or good morning :).......

    Mom in canada


    Mom in Canada

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  7. Mom in Canada-the more I hear of your comments the more I want to move to Canada. I am not sure, but we American's always have that sort of 'common joke' about good naturedly 'disliking canada or thinking canadians simple'. I am not sure where it stems or why. I have come to wonder if it was put about so we would not realize how you are a nation of freedoms and sensible taxes that allow healthcare and inexpensive college education. I don't know, what I do know is whenever I have been to canada, it has alawys been beautiful and the people nice. I remember the first time I was in Toronto and was amazed at how clean the subways were. When I traveled through Quebec I was enamoured of the feel of the 'french countryside' and the openess and neighborliness of its people. Friends of ours have a summer home in Nova Scotia across the harbor from PEI and it is SO beautiful up there in summer and the small town is a thriving little town full of happy people. I have a great grandmother that was French Canadian, and I wish I could somehow evoke her rights of citizenship upon myself.
    You have every right to be proud of your country. I am sorry for the auto business. I hope no one thougth I was making a judgment on it or rather or not you own cars. I had no idea this topic would come off as 'hot' as it seems to. I just thought it interesting to see how few of the automobile is actually made in the us anymore and also how the early song of Merry oldsmobile told of the change of the auto as the century was beginning.

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  8. 50's Gal,

    Of course no one thinks your making a judgement on rather or not one should own cars :)

    I do know that many farmers in the fifties in rural areas still heavily relied on horses and the one room school house my dad went to in the fifties is still very much there :)

    I am just happy you didn't take offense to me being pro auto workers :) I can't help it, it's so strongly in my blood.

    My favourite place to go is Huron County Ontario is truly "God's" country, beautiful in the fall, rolling peaceful hills and the folk up there are down to earth.....it's where I visit my 90 year old Grandma.

    Sure my Canadian city does have it's share of problems (especially downtown), but I live away from that area, my home is situated amongst well established 1950's neighbourhoods which haven't changed much since then, rolling green lawns, well maintained exteriers, actually my mom grew up a few blocks where I live now.

    In this smart part of my city, it feels like a village, everyone knows everyone else, and those who grow up here stay. I met my husband in Gr. 1- we were in the same grade 1/2 split class, my little man (who is in junior kindergarten), is best friends with a little boy- we went to grade school with his father, who also happens to be our dentist.

    Most know my MIL who works at the corner store bank, I could go on but you get the jest of it- it's such a small town feel in a big city.......I don't know much about Toronto, too big for my taste.

    But I've been to Nova Scotia, Quebec, New Brunswick,PEI, love it and as far west as Banff Alberta- the best part was driving through the wheat fields of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    But in many ways we are very much like the Americans, and I would be the first to confess I know more about your politics than I know about mine :)

    Momin Canada

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  9. I didn't know you had French Canadian blood, 50's gal!! I'm from Montreal and currently live on Long Island with American hubby. He adores Canada! I must say I miss it. My uncle spent several weeks in hospital due to a brain annerism. I can't begin to imagine how much it would cost here. He had no bill.

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  10. Yes, very little I am afraid. It is on my mother's side, as is France French blood and my grandfather was very proud of it. He had that very french look, in his stature and noble nose. I could always picture him in an 18th c. french painting! My mother, however, did not bother to learn French at her Grandmother's knee and always regretted it, as did I as it woudl have been passed down. So, if you have children you MUST make them bilingual. You speak french your hubby english and then they will have no accent to their languages (except a canadian one to the French, but no worries there)

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  11. "...the ability to allow others to reach towns and schools."

    We have letters from dh's aunt to his father while father was in Korea, telling of her living in town to attend high school. The small one-room school 1 mile away only went to 8th grade.
    Father had a car, stored here on the farm while he was at war. His letters tell his father (Grandpa) to remember to start the car from time to time and even to drive it once a week so the battery would stay charged. He was so proud of that car and we own it now, stored away for safe keeping (??). I'd like to see it out being driven and admired. Perhaps someday.

    Up until about 15 years ago, folks out here in our rural neighborhood, were still very conscience of only going into town when errands could be combined. There was no running into town (8 miles away) for one errand. Dh & I still think that way to a certain extent, but he is not as rigid as he used to be. I think he regretted not being able to participate in some activities while in high school, because of the extra driving his parents would have had to do. Very few teens owned their own cars until they had a job and could afford to buy one. And then they purchased a used one, within their means.

    Also, my grandmother, never learned to drive. As late as the late 60s/early 70s, we would take the bus to the "big city" (about 20 miles away) for shopping. Both she and my aunt utilized the bus and did not have to "bother" others for transportation. I think of what an asset public transportation would be nowdays. The daily train, or bus to the city. Less traffic on the highways and interstate. Mail and deliveries sent would less then load on the mail carriers.
    Or maybe I'm imagining a delivery system through rose-colored glasses.

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