I have always been interested in cars. All kinds of cars. When I was young, I would entertain myself by trying to identify automobiles as they would pass by when I was with my parents on a family trip. For example, I would say, “’41 Oldsmobile sedan.”
This chatter was irritating to Mom and Dad, so I was encouraged to keep this little game to myself, and it wasn’t easy.
From 1941 to 1946 the automobile industry in the U.S. was totally involved in the manufacturing of jeeps, tanks, trucks, and other machines for the government, in support of the war effort. This meant that whatever vehicle folks all over the U S. were driving in 1941 they were still driving in 1946.
To this day, when I think of old timers around town, I visualize them in their automobiles during those years. I will name just a few here.
Pappy Clark, 1935 Packard convertible that formally belonged to the actor Leo Carrillo. Eunice Forsythe, my Sunday School teacher, had a 1929 Model A Ford sedan. Nellie Smith had a Model A Ford jalopy with a homemade bed and no top. This combination of woman and car would be an interesting topic to write about some day. Maie Ellis had a 1940 Dodge and Mr. Popejoy, a 1940 Plymouth. There was a Dodge dealership in town in those days.
Josephine Kelsey had a 1935 Chevrolet coupe and Barbara Crandal had a 1937 Ford coupe. She was our neighbor and the daughter of Strangler Lewis, the famous wrestler who lived on a ranch here in the 1930s.
There were what seemed to be dozens of 1936 vehicles running around town during the war years. I was told that the year before was a banner year for the lemon industry, which is probably what caused the influx of 1936 models. Tires and tubes were of very poor grade back then, so it was always a good idea to keep a hand pump, tire irons, a jack, some small hand tools, tube patches, a lug wrench, and a spare in the trunk. Every one in the family knew how to handle road emergencies, which were common. There were a lot of unpaved roads to drive on, which didn’t help.
My Dad owned a 1931 Chevy coupe when the war broke out. It was also about the time that he started Story’s Dairy, so all during the 1940s it was our family car, our milk delivery truck, and hauled grain and hay for the milk cows to just name some of the things it did. I learned how to drive in it. It had to be rebuilt a couple of times. My Dad did not trade in his vehicles very often, but in 1948, he purchased a used 1939 Chevy 4-door, then we had two cars. (For the next 20 years we called the 1939 Chevy the new car).
Many times when a family’s old family car quit running, it would just get parked out back somewhere. It was easy for a young person who was just learning to drive to obtain one of these vehicles for next to nothing and get it running again for their first transportation.
For many years, there was just one officer of the law in town and he really didn’t bother drivers too much as long as they were not driving recklessly and causing problems. There was a war going on and those that were left in town were busy making a living. Some protocol was overlooked I’m sure.
I know that I was busy working on the dairy, which involved driving long before I was old enough to get my driver’s license.
Another interesting thing around town was to see the tradesmen – such as plumbers, carpenters, welders, and such – convert their autos into all-purpose vehicles.
I am guessing that the car identification game that I played as a boy probably does not happen much anymore, if at all, because cars all look too much alike now and there are several models of each brand.
The Fallbrook Historical Society presented a special program a few years back about the town and the importance of the vehicles that were involved in its progress. A video of that program is available for anyone to view at the main museum. Come visit the Fallbrook Historical Society museums (Rocky Crest Rd. at Hill St.) where a wealth of information is in store for you.
Remember: “To know where you are going, it’s best to know where you have been.” — hiSTORYcally Yours, Jack Story.