Henry Ford at Old Farm Road

| July 27, 2010

My grandfather Felix owned a vintage collection of car prints, a prized possession that featured all the early Fords, many of which are  physically on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The colorful prints included the 1896 Quadracycle, Ford’s first car; the 1905 Model B; 1909 Model T Touring;1916 Apperson Jack Rabbit; 1919 Model T Sedan; 1926 Wills Sainte Claire Roadster; 1962 Mustang; and others. Some two dozen works were matted in asparagus green, matching the painting on the walls, as well as his 1976 Cadillac Sedan Deville. They were framed in antique gold, decorating the back hall and stairwell in his Northfield home on Old Farm Road.

Never an opportunity did my grandfather miss to share the Ford prints with visiting family members, especially the boys, his grandsons. From the landing near the maid’s room, I eavesdropped on timeless stories about the birth of the automobile and revolutionization of industry. They discussed Ford’s business philosophy, racing hobbies, stance against labor unions, and promotion of early aviation technology – drawing a vivid portrait of the man enhanced by the art around them.

At other quieter times I enjoyed hearing how my grandmother as a young girl learned to drive the family jalopy on her family farm in Nebraska. The concept somewhat revolutionary at the time, I could not equate her gentle, ladylike demeanor to her tomboy tendencies — or fully comprehend how much trouble “Jimmy” got into by borrowing a Ford for occasional trips to town.

My grandparents lived through the period of rapid advancement in transportation: first the automobile, then the airplane. They lived in places where cars were indispensable and public transportation was less convenient – where the idea of not having a car of some sort — Ford, American Motor, or Chrysler — reigned inconceivable, from both a practical and social angle. It’s too easy to forget, living in a big city where buses carry passengers to their doorsteps, here in the superfast heyday of the computer and the golden age of information.

Referencing Our News Display, Remembering Henry Ford, Friday, July 30, in the Everett Cafe