“Boy, the way Glen Miller played.— Those Were The Days (“All In The Family” 70s TV show theme)
Songs that made the Hit Parade.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great,
Those were the days.”
The elegance of the old car sitting quietly before me was spellbinding. It waited quietly to be documented in photos on a brisk Saturday morning last week as I studied the piece of automotive history to capture those images. At the same time, I was intrigued by the countless historical events and many personal family moments no doubt shared with its owners the 83-year-old Cadillac had survived.
Patterns of sunlight wrapped around the car’s stylish lines still wearing black paint appearing as the same finish applied at the factory more than eight decades ago. The sleek look, long majestic hood with chrome spears, and large radiator shell adorned with a chrome ornament resembling a feminine figure with arms and hair flowing in the wind evoked timeless imagines of the 3,800 pounds of beautifully styled steel cruising the highways. Even at rest, the majestic automobile centered in my camera’s viewfinder appeared fluid and graceful.
The year that this Cadillac 60 Series sedan rolled off the assembly line, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic on May 27. The engineering feat of the iconic bridge was accomplished at a cost of $35 million, almost $664 million in today’s dollars.
Unemployment continued to drop in 1937 as the country was beginning to see an end to the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States. Elected in 1933, he would serve until his death in office in 1945 becoming the longest-serving president in U.S. History and commonly remembered as F.D.R.
A 1937 60 Series Cadillac from General Motors ranged in price from $1,445 to $1,885 in 1937 ($21,310 to $34,020 in today’s dollars) depending on options. Annual household income averaged $1,780, a Ford or a Chevrolet sold for about $760, and a gallon of gas could be bought for 10¢.
As for options, air conditioning, automatic transmissions, or power anything were still some years into the future. Customers could, however, pay extra for things like wheel trim rings or full wheel cover discs, whitewall tires or a fender well metal tire cover that was not only stylish but also provided additional trunk space. After-market add-on radios were introduced for automobiles by Motorola just seven years prior in 1930. The first radio offered as a factory option in the U.S. was in 1933 by the Crosley Motor Company, but not by Cadillac even in 1937.
Saturday’s photography subject rolled on white wall tires of the 3.5-inch wide variety popular in the car’s heyday. It also sported the optional full wheel cover discs priced at $37.50. And it wore one of the add-on under dash Motorola radios from the period with a matching speaker mounted out of sight under the dash. It was powered by the three-speed, floor-shifted, manual transmission, and 332 cubic- inch 125 horsepower flathead V8 motor that it was born with.
After close to two hours of photographing and admiring the historical vehicle that had lived part of its life in a museum, I had about 175 frames “in the can,” as we used to say in film days before the can became a disc.
Packing up my camera gear, I still tried to imagine where the car may have traveled, who it may have transported, and what kind of lives its owners had lived. Did they cross the Golden Gate Bridge? Did they listen to F.D.R.’s Fireside chats on the radio, hear the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor, or enjoy a Glenn Miller song as they drove along?
I did all of that and more, at least during a few minutes of fantasies on a chilly January morning, imagining life in a time when those were the days.
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(To get a closer look at this timepiece or to call it yours and park it in your garage, contact Chrome Reflections Motorcars, 3698 East Marshall in Longview, Texas. Call 903-399-8014 and they are on Facebook.)
Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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