As I have written before my grandparents George and Rose Meyer had to raise their family of five children during the Great Depression and then on into WWII. It wasn’t easy and they learned to make do with what they had. The following is another story written by my mother about a car they owned during that time period.
OLD HARD PAR
by Jeannette Meyer
“Where is Daddy?” I asked my Mom. I was a very little girl at the time, but I had noticed my father wasn’t sitting at his usual place for the noon meal.
“He’s gone to town to pick up a surprise for us,” replied my Mother.
I wondered what the big surprise would be. Dolls were always my constant companion and my number one priority. I decided the surprise was probably a new doll for me.
Late in the afternoon my Dad arrived home driving a new 1926 model, 4 door sedan, Dodge car. My Mom, brother and older sister were examining the car.I was waiting to receive my new doll.It never entered my little girl consciousness to understand or notice that this was a “NEW” car.
I finally asked Mother,”Where is the surprise?”
She looked at me and said, “Honey the new car is the surprise!” I can still remember how disappointed I was when she told me this 1926 Dodge was “IT!” I was just so sure it would be a new doll and what was so great about a car anyway? I watched as my mother and big brother examined the car enthusiastically but I had totally lost interest in it and went back to playing with my old doll.
How could a little girl ever dream that this car would have to get us from “here to there” for far more years than was ever intended? In 1929 the stock market crash on Wall street occurred. Accompanying that was the great loss of jobs all over the United States, eventually catapulting us into the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
All during the late twenties and the thirties this car was our mode of transportation. It’s dark blue, real leather upholstery was the most irksome covering. In the heat of a Wisconsin summer it go so hot you’d stick to it when you sat down. In the winter it felt like sitting on an ice cube. Mother remedied that situation by putting a cotton blanket over the cushion.
At one time the Dodge had a self starter, but as the years rolled along it finally failed and Dad had to crank it up to get it started. Sometimes it wouldn’t start at all.
In the late thirties by brother John dubbed it ” Old Hard Par.” I don’t know where he got that phrase but it certainly was a most fitting name.
The car grew older and so did we. It was the only means of transportation we had to get anywhere. Dad wouldn’t take the horse on the highway at anytime except in the winter when the snow became to deep for auto travel.
During those dreadful depression years no one traveled far. It was a big event to get to Fond du Lac 18 miles away or the fifty miles to Milwaukee. Except in warm weather, one wasn’t apt to travel very far because the car had no heater. Furthermore, Old Hard Par wasn’t up to it a lot of the time. I remember many times getting ready to go somewhere, only to be disappointed and have to stay home because Old Hard Par wouldn’t start. Even worse, one time we got stranded on the highway in ninety degree heat and had to await rescue.
How I wished Mom and Dad could afford a new car. The Great Depression was still stalking the land, so that was out of the question.
On Dec. 7th, 1941, we were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. World War II was declared. Now only a few cars per year were built. Old Hard Par just had to keep on keeping on. Second hand cars became ridiculously over-priced even if you could find one. We felt lucky to be allocated enough gas for our needs. New tires, were almost out of the question. The Japanese had gotten control of our rubber supply. The little there was went for the vehilces of the armed forces.
About this time the inventive genius of our engineers came up with synthetic tires. Those were scarce, too, and really not very serviceable. Every trip Mom and Dad made to town had to be a necessity. We didn’t know how long the war would last and people in the country absolutely had to have some means of transportation to get supplies from town.
World War II rumbled on and do did Old Hard Par. By this time it made a terrible noise everytime the motor ran. We always knew when Dad, in Old Hard Par, came within two miles of home because we could hear it. It had a noise totally unlike any other automobile. It became a family joke to see who would be the first to announce, “Dad is on his way home.”
If we kids had chores to finish while he was gone, this knowledge gave us loafing time. We always had enough time to gather together the necessary tools for whatever job we were supposed to finish and look industrious by the time Dad drove into the driveway.
I am sure it was an answer to the fervent prayers of my parents that Old Hard Par outlasted the war and we could finally buy a new car.