Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pontiac--We Build Excitement

We are having a family gathering and many of the children and grandchildren are seated at the table for lunch. We are having a family gathering and many of the children and grandchildren are seated at the table for lunch. The subjects range from the mundane, the latest reports from Red Sox Nation, to semi-technical, should the kids have freer usage of cell phones at school. When all of a sudden I get Twittered. My niece, seated at the other end of the long table asks, “Can you pass the mustard please?”

Laugh if you will, and we did, but actually with several preteen children jabbering away and a couple of side conversations among adults, the table was abuzz with conversations. So rather than raise her voice above the din to get my attention she Twittered. Now really! Me tweet?

Anyhow, as usually happens when my family gathers we reminisce about growing up. The younger ones like the oft told stories and in fact they usually ask for special favorites. The subject this day was my Dad and his love for automobiles. In his youth, just before the last great depression/recession he left home for Detroit to work for Henry Ford. Funny I never heard him say a bad word about Ford, which had a terrible reputation when it came to unions.

To my Father a car was a manifestation of achievement. When you owned one it was a status symbol; you had arrived at a certain social level, a measure of success. Young readers will find this humorous because now cars are a necessity not a luxury.

Even with his experience at Ford my Father was a General Motors man, and specifically a Pontiac man. He owned a succession of Pontiacs; all purchased from the local Pontiac/Cadillac dealer, mostly second hand until my folks became empty nesters and had the extra income to purchase new ones.

The last Pontiac he owned was lovingly dusted every day, as it sat out in the driveway after we tore down the old garage. An accidental fall with subsequent hospitalization, which eventually led to a nursing home, cut short his driving days. My sister was charged with keeping the Pontiac clean and running it up to the shopping center every once in awhile to get the condensation out of the muffler.

Finally it was time to sell it off and she did, and with a heavy heart informed my father of this action. He acknowledged that it had to be done, but we could tell it hurt him, even though he knew he would never drive again. She claims he never forgave her for this action. We talked about the Pontiac almost every weekly visit. Knowing my connections to Detroit automotive, he routinely asked what was new at Pontiac. He reveled when I told him that I had driven the first Pontiac Fiero coupe around the parking lot of the Michigan assembly plant. The nursing home staff told me that this anecdote was the theme of the men’s discussion group for days.

Why this reminiscence? Well rumor has it that GM will be asked to close down Pontiac, the muscle car king of Detroit. It would have been the saddest day for my father and it is a sad day for all car buffs. Another name badge gone and with it another part of U.S. manufacturing lore.

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