We Were an Oldsmobile Family

I continue to write about my father's family through my grandfather's large photographic archive. Repeated tagging, reviewing and sharing of these photos has allowed me to see our family patterns in surprising ways, like how my grandparents used their money to purchase automobiles and travel and snap pictures.

They were devoted to one American car brand.

Cars and photography seem to go well together in the United States. We traverse the country by auto, get out at some known or unexpected vista and take a photo or ten. Our family was no different. My grandparents and father, then later my grandparents with my aunts and me, drove all over Colorado and New Mexico, Mexico, Texas and Michigan.

All motoring was done in Oldsmobiles. Three different Oldsmobile 88s moved them through their lives for more than 30 years.⠀⠀

The first instance of their Oldsmobile devotion can be found in the photo below. My father and grandmother prepare to go skiing and have loaded their skis on to the ski racks of their Oldsmobile 88, possibly a 1950 model. ⠀

Color photo of Jon Allen and Fabyan Watrous, Climax Colorado, circa 1953.
My grandmother on the right and my father behind her. Possibly in front of the Climax Molybdenum Mining Co. hotel. They are preparing to go skiing. Climax, Colorado, ca. 1953

A few years later my grandparents bought a brand new Oldsmobile 88. The importance my grandfather felt about the car are on full display in the below photograph. He photographed this car as on object in its own right more than any other car he owned.

My grandmother, father, Scottie the dog and my grandparent's 1955 Oldsmobile 88. Shot at Maroon Lake, elevation 9585 feet. The Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado are behind them.
The car makes a prominent appearance, almost as a member of the family. In the 1950s America ruled the world as the only superpower, ascending to this spot while Europe and Asia rebuilt after the depredations of war. The exploding US economy lifted many people into the middle-classes, including my grandfather. His employer, Climax Molybdenum Mining Company paid him well. He used his salary to reflect his class aspirations. The Oldsmobile 88 reflected his class standing, hopes and dreams.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The last Oldsmobile my grandparents owned I recall with the fondest and sweetest of memories.
W R Allen Photography Robin Allen Oldsmobile Delta 88
Robin Allen in the back of an Oldsmobile Delta 88, circa 1973 or 1974.

My aunt Robin sits in the backseat of an Oldsmobile Delta 88 Hardtop Sedan (1973?), the final Oldsmobile in the Allen family. Summers spent with my grandparents and my aunts Deb and Robin are intertwined with riding in this car. I recall a spacious tank with a sleeping area in the rear window fit for a kid.

Robin agreed. "That behind the backseat area was coveted. You could lay back there and watch the stars." At night the stars seemed endless, whether we were driving in Colorado or down to New Mexico.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Deb added, "The stereo speakers were there and we loved listening to the radio." Deb also shared that when she, Robin and my grandparents moved from Leadville, Colorado to Durant, Michigan, the Delta 88 led the way in a summer snow storm.

"We left Leadville on July 4 driving and it snowed that day."⠀

I find this type of family history detail fascinating. Somehow knowing it brings me closer to my now deceased grandparents. Were they still alive I would want to know why they chose an Oldsmobile over a Chevy or a Ford. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Living as I do near Detroit, this a question of utmost importance.⠀

More of my grandfather's photography can be found on Instagram.


Umberto Tosi said…
Love these photos! Your post evoked old memories for me! I learned how to drive when I was 14 behind the wheel of my father's 1953 Oldsmobile 88 4-door sedan. He was a field broker for canneries in California's Central Valley in those days and bought a new Olds ever two years. I got my learner's permit at 14, and he "let" me chauffer him up and down the Highway 99 and along farm roads making his calls on growers during the summer season, while he napped or listened to boxing matches on the radio. Many thanks.
Griselda Heppel said…
I had to google Oldsmobile because I couldn't believe it was the real name of a car. When I began your post, I took it as a nickname for vintage cars. I have now officially fallen in love with this brand and I'm not surprised they mean so much to you. Each of these cars looks comfortable inside as well as stylish.

And what stunning photographs - your grandfather was an artist as well as a car enthusiast.

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