Detroit Wheels

Another sepia Saturday...
When I was growing up I became aware of the special relationship my father, Nelson, had with his cars. They all had names, for one thing, all taken from the "Uncle Wiggily" children's book series. For years, the secondhand family Chevy (1955, faded blue) was known as "Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy the Muskrat Lady Housekeeper." I did not find this unusual at the time.

Here are a few shots of my father on his family farm in Livonia, Michigan (near Detroit), in the 1920s.

He was born in 1918, just before the end of the Great War. Here he is in his buggy with his bear.

His first car. Note the old ad on the side of the chicken shed. I understand that many drivers in those days wore outfits like this to keep the mud from splashing their trousers...

His first tricycle almost looks homemade, but he certainly seems happy with it. He appears to be in the side yard of the Bentley Bros. store (see previous Sepia Saturday entry).

Here's a slightly later model. His baby sister Margaret seems to have inherited the old one. In the background is the International delivery truck, "Bosco," that belonged to the store.

I have no idea who's behind the wheel. Perhaps Uncle Clyde's wife Gladys. Through high school my father drove eggs, milk, and live turkeys for Clyde (who was the Turkey King) to customers around Wayne County.

But Nelson for now really had his sights set on the Marmon.

By the time he got to drive it, it was knackered, and among other things had no brakes but reportedly required you to throw a concrete block tied to a rope out of the window in order to stop. I don't know whether he had a name for it, but "The Bad Pipsissewa" would probably not have been inappropriate.


  1. What a great set of photos of wheels. I can imagine the brick break as they had to do whatever it took to make things work. Great blog.

  2. The The Bad Pipsissewa reminds me of a Russian Lada I used to own! I also had a name for mine...!
    Great Post & Photos Sir!

  3. What a delightful series of photographs! I love the one of your father with his head thrown back in joy on his little tricycle. What a moment to capture! I have never known a person who named their vehicles that I didn't like. Ours is called Frances.

  4. Wonderful post with such delightful pictures!

    The first car my husband and I owned was called Nasty Red.

  5. Some very nice photographs Sean. I particularly like the first tricycle shot. So natural.

    My first car was a Morris Minor. I didn't have a name for it, unless it let me down which, in fairness, it rarely did.

  6. I love the idea of naming your vehicles! We've never done that, even with my husbands love of vehicles that goes back many generations!

    Had to laugh at the concrete block on a rope. My uncle was just telling me how his aunt would open the door and drag her foot on the road to stop her old car!

  7. We had an old faithful Volvo we fondly called "Old Red". Gosh, I loved that car.

    I also love how your father is yelping out with obvious glee in the tricycle pic!

  8. great photos and I like that he named his cars..creative names that he could find in a book, too. I name our vehicles, the newest, our HHR to tow behind the motor home is the Grey Goose, not for Howard Hughes nor for the vodka, just 'cause that's what I thought of.

  9. That is a wonderful series of photographs. Cars provide such marvelous historical markers, and I have always given my cars names : it is the least they deserve.

  10. These are fabulous photos! I would argue that your father is not merely happy with his trike, but deleriously so!
    He reminds me of a pipsqueak Pontiff in that second shot.


  11. Neilson was certainly a man on the move. And what a hansom little guy he was. I've never been on to name my cars, but my wife always has.

  12. Sean, these are pure joy! LOVE them. (Can't help thinking how Doc Air would've loved them too....)