Dad’s Cars

1939 Chevrolet

Dad and Mom were married in 1943, but didn’t buy a car until Dad returned to Iowa when I was born in 1944. He bought a 1939 Chevrolet from Russell Horn in Dexter. You couldn’t buy new tires during the war so they had to patch the ones already on it. That happened on their way to Texas, when I was a few weeks old, and a tire got a large enough bulge on it to catch someone else’s attention.

The gas gauge didn’t work either, and they ran out of gas at night a few miles from Marfa, Texas. Mom and her infant stayed in the “C-39” while Dad hitchhiked for gas, although the first one was closed for the night. Another airman helped him out and gave him pointers about gas rationing and tires.

Mom learned to drive after I was born.

texas (2)
Dad (holding me) and Mom by the “C-39” ready to head for Marfa, Texas. August 1944, Minburn, Iowa

When the folks a newer car (always a second-hand Chevy from Morrisons at Stuart), the older one became Dad’s “pickup.”

I can remember sitting in Dad’s old oily-smelling car. The plush seat covers also held the aroma of gravel dust, and on the dash was a switch to change whether you needed a courtesy warning for city–or a commanding one when you’re on a gravel road and there someone’s cows got out. C-39 (2)

1948 Chevrolet

My parents’ used 1948 Chevy began their long-held preference for two-toned cars. This one was blue.

Mom and Dad with Joy and Gloria in front of the 1947 or 48 Chevy. Taken at Grandma’s, Guthrie Center, Iowa. Windows down and wing window ajar.

1952 Chevrolet

People around Dexter, Iowa, usually bought a Chevy from Morrison’s at Stuart, or a Ford from Hunter’s in Earlham. We cousins spatted about which was better, but everyone agreed that buying another brand of car in a town farther away was just a little uppity.

The next used car, a two-tone green (Dad’s favorite color), had a visor. Mom thought the visor was cute but Dad took it off. He said everyone took it off that model because it caught the wind and wasn’t gas efficient.

You can see the wing window between the passenger window and the windshield. It could be angled to bring in a breeze to a stuffy car, and let out Dad’s smoke from his Camels.  We’d take a drive in the evening, many drives starting at the pasture Dad had rentedm to “count the cows” he had grazing there, making sure none had gotten out.

We took our only family trip–to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills–in the ’52 Chevy in August, 1958. I was at “that age” and didn’t want to ride all that way in the back seat with my pesky little sister. That changed when Mom suggested inviting Grandma Leora along. Having Grandma ride in the middle in the back seat improved my outlook. And Dad cooperated with everything Mom wanted to stop for, even the Corn Palace at Mitchell on the way back.

Gloria and me with the 1952 Chevy at Grandma’s in Guthrie Center. 1950s.

 1958 Chevrolet

When Dad said he planned to look at used cars in Stuart about 1960, I told him to be sure to get a 1957 Chevy. But when he came home, he said he’d bought a green 1958. But when he brought it home, all Gloria and I could say was, “That’s not green!”

This must have been the car I learned to shift gears on–“three on the tree”–or a three speed transmission with the gearshift mounted on the steering column. I think this car also took all my stuff to the State College of Iowa in 1962.

1958 Chevy

1960s Chevrolet

During this time the folks had a second-hand blue and white Chevy. Haven’t put my hands on a picture yet.

1970s Chevrolet

Chevy (2)
Gloria and Dad by the folks’ first car with air conditioning. Dexter farm.

Another two-tone Chevy–green and white. First car with air conditioning, and may have been the first one with an automatic transmission. They drove this one out to Colorado when we lived there in the early 1970s.



  1. Funny – I was just thinking about my family’s cars yesterday. We’re basically from the same era, so I suppose we just may think alike, eh? 🙂

  2. Isn’t it interesting how much of a family’s stories can be told through its cars? I really enjoyed this post! I’d never heard of double-duo horns. To think, a “courtesy” horn! (Boston drivers could use one of those.)

  3. What a great story! I remember we always bought everything we could locally to support the local merchants. That was one reason we bought from Morrison’s. I believe it is still a great policy.

  4. Funny how our lives are sometimes bookmarked by the cars owned along the way. I vaguely remember the first car my folks had. The two thing I recall about it was listening to a station out of Tulsa on the radio, and driving through a snow storm. The old Chevy pickup was one we had for years. It was a gray in color pickup, and it had a gear ratio that was insane. It never got stuck. We ran it to death, then my sisters first husband bought it and rebuilt it. He still owns it..

    JR’s brother had a 58 Chevy years ago. The idea was to restore it, and enter it in car shows. Then he found out how much that going to cost. Someone else restored it.

  5. Looking at these photos are like looking at ones in our albums of days gone by. Won’t it be something when our children’s children’s look at our stored images.

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