A Driving Force

The final page of the July/August 2017 Popular Mechanics devoted to “Great Unknowns” attempts to answer this question: “At Big Car Company headquarters, does every employee drive that car?”

The answer: Pretty much. PM cites one GM plant communication manager who said after 40 years she has blue blood:  “I’m extremely loyal to my company…” and poses the question that if people see a non-GM car in your driveway “What does that tell them? That even though you work there you don’t think their vehicles are worth purchasing?”

Very likely, but that did not bother my father who worked at the Chevrolet/Fisher Body Plant in Janesville for 44 years yet never owned a General Motors vehicle in his life. During the years of my life he drove only Plymouth automobiles to and from the plant to our home, a distance of about 23 miles. In chronological order, those vehicles were a 1940 sedan, 1953 Coronado Blue Belvedere, 1956 Briar Rose Belvedere, 1963 Blue Valiant, 1968 Turbine Bronze Satellite, and (after retirement) a 1976 Silver Cloud Fury. He also owned a 1936 Harley-Davison motorcycle which he drove to Janesville during the warmer months.  Not concerned in the least with what people thought of the Plymouth automobiles in his driveway, he would openly tell neighbors and friends, “I see how GM cars are made five days a week. That’s why I buy cars made by Chrysler.”

The entire tone of the piece in Popular Mechanics is that employees are “strongly encouraged” to cruise the streets “propelled by the hand that signs the paychecks” and those that do not are banished to less convenient parking lots. My father stood his ground, maintaining his Mopar allegiance to his dying day. Any derisive comments from his fellow workers about his mode of transportation and the prejudice he endured during the war years because of his German heritage may have deepened his independent spirit. Though only 5’7” tall and weighing under 140 pounds, he stood tall in the eyes of his son who inherited his nonconformist disposition.

American celebrates Independence Day this month, something my father did every day of his working life. One Key verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has personal significance because it always reminds me of one special man: “Land of the free and the home of the brave.” As long as my father lived, our humble house was indeed home of the brave.

 

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