Gear Head Tuesday – The Man Who Loves Packards (Part II)

Gear Head

1956-Packard-Ad-01

Last week we left off where I had swung from elation to despair when I received the letter from Studebaker-Packard rejecting the design for a new Packard I had drawn and hoped to sell them. I thought that I could accomplish two things – see the revival of Packard and fund the escape of myself, my mother and my siblings from my increasingly tyrannical, violent and mentally-ill father. I wanted to escape from him in Colorado and buy a parcel of land in my maternal grandparents’ home town of Tulia, Texas and have a home built on that land. It never occurred to me, then 13 years old, the difficulty of accomplishing all of this. The difficulty began with persuading Studebaker-Packard to buy my design.

60 Packard

This was the design for a new Packard I tried to sell to Studebaker-Packard in 1960.

Far more detailed than the drawing I showed last week, I had the complete car drawn out – front and rear views, a design for the upholstery, instrument panel, and door panels. I wanted to become a car stylist. I knew about Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I knew this was the place to go to become a stylist.

This Packard drawing was my first complete styling exercise where I drew out all of the major components of the car. I felt confident I could persuade Studebaker-Packard to launch the car. I envisioned myself going to South Bend to oversee the revival of Packard. Big dreams for a 13 year-old!

After Studebaker-Packard rejected my design, we escaped my father – for a time – and we went to Tulia – but it didn’t go as planned in my big dream.

In Wheatridge, unemployed and, in his increasingly unstable mental state, unemployable, eMpTy whiled away his days on useless projects in a shop in the barn on the property on which the house we were renting was located. The barn was sited on the slope of a hill. The shop was below the barn. The owners of the house, barn and property lived in another house on the former farm. The couple was retired, the man had been incapacitated by a stroke. They no longer used the barn or the shop. My father camped out all day every day in the shop, nursing his grudges against my mother, me, and “all the people who were out to get him.” He kept an arsenal of loaded guns close at hand; a hatchet and an ax were always a fast grab away from his hands. He had to be “prepared to defend himself from his enemies” when they crashed through the heavy wooden door of the shop “coming for him.”

Before we were forced from the nice home we had on Xenon Court in Wheatridge, we had acquired a pet dog that was a cross between a chihuahua and a pekingese, a female I named “Bitsy” because she was an itsy-bitsy dog. Unfortunately both for her and for us, the dog had all the worst attributes of the chihuahua breed – nervous, ill-tempered and ready to bark at anything that moved. eMpTy developed an intense disliking of that dog. He began calling the dog “Bitchy.” Despite his attitude toward the dog, she was mated to another “Peki-huahua.” In the resulting litter of pups, only one survived. We named this pup “Snuffy.” Unlike his mother, he was a friendly, lovable dog.

Not long after we moved into the shack of a house on the former farm, “Bitsy” disappeared. We never learned what her fate was, but we were certain eMpTy was behind her disappearance.

Snuffy

We had a little dog named “Snuffy” my father knocked unconscious.

Snuffy slept in a cage in the shop under that barn. Something happened to that dog that knocked him unconscious. We never learned what happened, but we knew eMpTy was behind it. After spending at least a week unconscious but still alive, the poor little dog recovered consciousness. After that, every time eMpTy came near him, he ran away. Why eMpTy would harm this good-natured dog was always a mystery to us, but we had no doubt that he was behind it.

Before moving into the house on the former farm, when I needed a hair cut, because we had so little money, eMpTy would cut my hair. I’m sure he was trying to kill me. He would tie the sheet used to keep the hair off my clothes around my neck to tight I had trouble breathing. My face turned blue from lack of oxygen. I would beg him to loosen the sheet; he always refused. Then I began refusing to let him cut my hair. When I needed a haircut, I would ride my bike up Youngfield Road to a little shopping center and pay for the haircut from my paper route earnings. eMpTy was furious that I would no longer allow him to strangle me while getting a haircut from him. He would use the electric razor with a lot of unnecessary force, banging my head with it and scraping my scalp.

When we were living on the former farm property, one night eMpTy came into the house from the barn in a rage, an ax in hand, screaming at my mother and me, blaming us for all his woes. He hit mother in the face with his fist and threw the ax across the room at me. I was able to dodge the ax and run outside. The ax blade buried itself in the wall. Mother somehow managed to escape while he was chasing me. That left my two sisters and my brother – ages 11, 8 and 5 – inside. My mother and I ran about a quarter of a mile to a neighbor. The police were called and eMpTy was arrested.

A call was made to my grandparents in Tulia. My grandfather, my aunt Susie and two of my mother’s brothers rented a truck and drove to Wheatridge to move us out. Mother was able to have my father committed to a psychiatric hospital. The neighbor graciously let us sleep there until we could get packed and out of that house.

In addition to the rented truck, we rented a trailer which was hitched to that smoky old ’50 Dodge we had acquired.

On the long drive from Denver to Tulia down U.S. 87, shortly before midnight on the outskirts of Lamar, Colorado, a tire on the trailer blew out. That caused the trailer to overturn and very nearly caused us to wreck the Dodge. My mother somehow managed to keep the Dodge in her control and we were able to stop. The intent had been to drive straight into Tulia, but now we had to find a tire for the trailer. We rented a motel room and the next morning began seeking a tire for the trailer. It was Sunday in sleepy Lamar and those were the days when most businesses were closed on Sundays, especially in a small town like Lamar..

We had breakfast in a greasy spoon that was open along U.S. 87 that Sunday morning. The movie “Exodus” had been released and the theme song to the movie had become quite popular. I wanted to play it on the juke box that was in the restaurant. Mother was opposed to me doing so because she thought the song would be junk – she didn’t care for rock ‘n roll at all – and she thought this movie theme song would be of that genre. I remember my grandfather gently chiding her – “Let him play it! It can’t be THAT bad!” She was pleasantly surprised that it was actually good music.

In the motel, I lingered in the shower for a long time. I remember thinking “I’m going to wash Denver and eMpTy off of me!” When I dressed and went outside, to my delight, a Dover White and Danube Blue 1956 Packard Four Hundred hardtop had arrived in the parking lot. Just as I had carefully examined every inch of that ’55 Packard Caribbean in the parking lot of the King Soopers store in Denver in 1959, I studied this beautiful ’56 in as much detail. The owner noticed me studying the car. He came out and said, “I see you like Packards.” I excitedly replied “Yes!” He told me he and his wife had been to a gathering of Packards and Packard owners and were on their way back to Denver.

56 Packard 'The Four Hundred'

A ’56 Packard Four Hundred was in the parking lot of the motel in Lamar, CO. I studied it as intently as I had studied the ’55 Caribbean I had seen in Denver.

The local sheriff helped get a place open that Sunday morning so we could get a tire for the trailer. I paid for the tire with money I had earned on my paper route. We unloaded the trailer to check its contents. Almost anything breakable had broken in the overturn. We re-loaded what wasn’t broken into the trailer and finally resumed our journey to Tulia.

It was a great relief to be safely in Texas and away from eMpTy. I encouraged mother to leave him in that psychiatric hospital as long as possible. If I never saw him again, it still would not be long enough an absence …

We were scattered around town, staying with different relatives. Mother, a Registered Nurse, went to work for Dr. Burke. We were able to rent a modest home on North Hale Street in Tulia.

eMpTy was nothing if not persuasive. He was on his best behavior in the hospital and campaigned to the staff that he had been unjustly hospitalized. While working that angle, he began hammering mother with pleas to let him come home, promising to reform. Mother was of that generation of Southern-born women who grew up in church believing that divorce was a deadly sin. As bad as my father was, she would not consider divorce. That said, it is doubtful that divorce would have kept this man away from us. He was the type that would track us down and avenge the wrongs he imagined we had inflicted on him.

To my everlasting chagrin, mother allowed him to join us in Tulia. To this day I recall the knot my stomach tied itself into when I learned he was coming home. I was very angry with mother for this. I began considering how I might move out. I wanted to go to Detroit and try to find work in a car styling studio and live with a relative of my mother who lived in Detroit – like an auto company was going to put a 14 year-old to work! (But this was the same kid who was confident Studebaker-Packard would buy his Packard design!)

eMpTy came to Tulia and, promises to reform broken almost from the moment he walked through the door, picked up where he left off in Colorado terrorizing the family. Late one night my mother’s muffled screams woke me. eMpTy was always a physically strong man and he was using his strength to hold a pillow on my mother’s face with one hand while strangling her with another. I burst through their closed bedroom door. This distracted him enough that mother was able to jump from the bed. eMpTy had lunged at me, but when he saw mother up, he turned his anger once again to her. The house had wooden floors. He knocked her to the floor and began kicking her down the slick wood floor of the hallway, breaking several of her ribs. He kicked her all the way down the hall from that bedroom at the end of the hall to where the hall joined the living room. There he began strangling her again.

I went to my bedroom and got my .22 caliber rifle out and loaded it with hollow point expanding shells. I ran down the hall pointing my rifle at him. I held back from firing it, afraid of hitting my mother. eMpTy left off trying to kill my mother and came after me again. I ran down the hall, managed to get the window in my bedroom open and jump out. He was too big to get through the window and had to go back down the hall, through the living room and out the front door. It gave me enough of a head start that I was able to hide, aided by the midnight darkness, in some tall shrubs in the yard of the neighbor to our north. eMpTy gave up chasing me and returned to beating my mother in the house. She was too hurt from him kicking her down the hall to manage to escape. Bleeding from scratches all over me from the shrubs, I woke the neighbor when I knew eMpTy had gone back inside. We called the Sheriff, Daryl Smith, whose daughter had married one of my mother’s brothers. Daryl came and arrested eMpTy who was once again packed off to a psychiatric hospital. He should have been charged with attempted murder. I’ve never known if I did the right thing by not shooting my father. It seems to me that if I had shot and killed him – I intended to pump every shot I had in that rifle into him – it would have cut short years more terror this man inflicted on our family. On the other hand, I would have it on my conscience that I had killed someone, even if it had been classified as justifiable homicide. There was just too much motion in the struggle between eMpTy and my mother for me to be confident of my shots and, fearful of hitting mother instead of him, I flinched.

With eMpTy once again locked up in a psychiatric hospital, life in Tulia was calmer – not to mention safer. I got a job as a bagger in a distant cousin’s grocery store, Rogers’ Superette. Little did I know then that would be the beginning of what became the major occupation of my life – the grocery business.

I continued to dream of a Packard revival and of becoming a stylist. I painted the Packard script logo and red hexagon on the cover of my school notebook, boldly labeling it “Paul’s Packard Studio.” Given my affinity for Packard, I still followed intently what was going on at Studebaker-Packard. In the fall of 1961 with the new car introductions for the 1962 model year, I was thrilled at what Brooks Stevens had done for the Studebaker Hawk.

I wrote last week that even as young as age four, I had a sense of style – recognizing on that visit to the shop at Kiker’s Packard in Plainview, Texas that the “bathtub” Packards of 1948-1950 were not as handsome as the previous Packard Clippers. In the same way, while I thought – and still think – that the 1953-1954 Studebaker Starliner hardtop coupes are the most beautiful car ever designed, I have never liked the heavy “B”-pillar on the Starlight version of Robert Bourke’s landmark design.

'53 Studebaker Champion Starlight

I’ve always felt that Studebaker erred by offering both a pillared coupe (above) and a hardtop version of Robert Bourke’s coupes for ’53-’54. The “B”-pillar is just too thick on the pillared version. The sight lines are much cleaner on the hardtop.

'53 Studebaker Commander Starliner

The ’50s through the late ’60s were the era of the hardtop coupes. I’ve always felt that Studebaker erred by producing the pillared coupe when the pillar less hardtop was such a handsome car. But Studebaker was often a study in being at once brilliant and blindly stupid. As a case in point, the year they introduced the car that gave them a fresh start just as they were about to be forced to close, the Lark – they decided not to offer the Hawk as a hardtop, but only in the pillared couple version. Although the body shell was in its seventh season in 1959, Bourke’s design was so good that it was still a very handsome hardtop. I have long been of the opinion that Studebaker could have sold thousands more Hawks as a hardtop than they did as the pillared coupe between 1959 and 1961. They should have kept the 289 V-8 in the Hawk in the supercharged form of ’57 -’58, too, and marketed the car as a hot hardtop – which it was!

59 Hawk

Compare and contrast – ’59 Studebaker Hawk (above); ’58 Studebaker Golden Hawk (below). The hardtop version is much more graceful than the pillared coupe version. The pillars were just too thick on the coupe version and spoil the flow of the lines, making the rear windows look too small.

1958-Golden-Hawk

When Sherwood Egbert arrived at Studebaker, he hired Brooks Stevens to fix the passenger cars and Raymond Loewy to design the sports couple that became the Avanti. Stevens worked a miracle on the Hawk – with no money with which to work miracles. Stevens turned the Hawk back into what it should have been for the last three seasons – a hardtop. The resulting ’62 Gran Turismo Hawk is still one of the finest designs of the era.

62 Studebaker GT Hawk

1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk – Stylist Brooks Stevens, with no money, worked a miracle on the car, its body shell dating to 1953. It is often assumed that Stevens lifted the roof line from the Ford Thunderbird. In fact, he lifted it from himself, having used it on a Willys in South America before applying it to the Hawk. 

Still dreaming of a Packard revival, I immediately saw how Stevens’ new Hawk could also be a Packard. I drew one out – but this time, I didn’t try to sell it to Studebaker-Packard. I knew that a Packard revival wasn’t going to happen when, in 1962, Studebaker-Packard dropped the Packard name. I had flashbacks on that summer six years before when I heard on my grandparents’ radio that Packard was closing and I went out, crying, to wax my grandfather’s ’37 Packard.

1962 Packard Hawk idea

This was my 1962 Packard-ized Hawk. I would re-shape the grille into a modern adaptation of the classic 1934 Packard Twelve grille. I would add the sweep spear trim to the sides and make the taillights more like the “cathedral” taillights of the ’55-’56 Packards. The trim running around the “C”-pillar would have the traditional Packard crest and the wheel covers would have the beautiful red cloisonné center Packard had used on its top-of-the-line cars in the ’30s and ’40s.  

The respite from eMpTy didn’t last long. Soon he was back in Tulia. He couldn’t find a job. No one in Tulia, small town that it was, would hire him. His reputation preceded him. His father was a farmer near Olton, Texas. My grandfather hired him. He stayed at my grandfather’s farm during the week and came to Tulia on the weekends. I was never happy to see him come home and always relieved when Monday came and he left again for Olton.

When he was home, he continued his verbal abuse of my mother and me. He accused her of having an affair with Dr. Burke. He was so insistent about this that it drove her to quit working at Burke Clinic. She found work with another local doctor – and eMpTy started the same accusations about mother and her new employer.

East of Tulia on Farm-to-Market Road 1318 was a caliche pit that was no longer being worked. Many parts of the Texas panhandle have caliche deposits which are mined and the caliche is used as road beds. Many locals used the abandoned caliche pit as a target practice range. eMpTy, always toting guns, would take my brother and I out to that caliche pit for target practice. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was one of his intended targets. He kept maneuvering to get behind me to shoot. With him behind me with a gun, I would move a ways beside him so that I could keep him in my peripheral vision. I always had to move to his right, keeping him to my left. I have almost no peripheral vision to my right. I am – thanks to him – blind in my right eye. When I was eight, I was hit in my right eye by a bass fishing lure with two sets of treble hooks on it. eMpTy had cast his line out. It backlashed and hit me, blinding my right eye immediately on impact. So now, in the caliche pit,  I absolutely did not trust him being behind me with a gun and I had to keep him to my left so I could keep an eye on him. I was sure he intended to make me an “accidental” gun victim. He would try to get behind me, I would move. He would try again and I would move. He yelled and cursed at me to stay where I was, cementing my belief that I was his intended target. I quickly tired of this maneuvering and would go to the car, which would make him furious. He would curse and shout at me to “get back out there and learn to handle (my) gun like a man.” I knew better. After about three episodes of this, I refused to go with him any longer.

The introduction of the 1963 cars in the fall of 1962 brought the new Buick Riviera to market. This car is among the best designs ever to come out of General Motors – or any other manufacturer. It is one of those rare designs that is so good that it still looks good 54 years after its introduction. Still hoping to become a stylist, and still longing for a Packard revival, I saw in that Riviera a modern adaptation of Packard’s beautiful 1934 Twelve Dietrich convertible. It seemed to me that a version of the Predictor grille would fit nicely in the center of the front and that the pontoon front fenders could be adapted to mimic the grille just as Packard had mimicked the grille in the shape of the headlights on the ’34. I drew out this version (below the Riviera photo), but I also did a charcoal sketch that came out much better than the pencil drawing below. Sadly, I no longer have the charcoal drawing.

63 Buick Riviera1963 Packard Twelve idea1934-packard-1108-twelve-dietrich-convertible-victoria

34 Packard headlight

34 Packard Twelve front

In 1963, I was attending Tulia High School. On Friday 22 November, I was sitting with Jody White, Kelly Clower and Peter Overgaard in Jody’s red and white ’58 Ford Custom 300 at lunch hour just before Algebra class. We were drinking cherry schnapps Peter, our high school exchange student from Denmark, had brought. We were listening to the powerful AM station KOMA in Oklahoma City when the news came that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

I worked in a grocery store all through high school. I don’t remember why I quit working for my cousin in his store, but I next moved to Griffith’s Food Town. It was here that a meat cutter, Warren, who owned a ’57 Studebaker Golden Hawk also worked, Naturally, I was fascinated with his beautiful white Golden Hawk with its gold interior. There wasn’t a Studebaker dealer in Tulia at that time and Warren wondered out loud one day where he could get a shop manual for the car which he had recently bought. He was amazed when I told him to write the Studebaker service division at 635 South Main Street, South Bend, 27, Indiana. He was shocked that I knew the address off the top of my head. I’m shocked that I still remember it! It was in Warren’s Golden Hawk that I drove 100 miles per hour for the first time.

57 Golden Hawk

The first time I ever drove a car 100 m.p.h. was in a Golden Hawk like this one.

My next move in the grocery business was to Littlejohn Bros. sited on “Dip Street” in Tulia.  Sometime in 1964, eMpTy got a job in my home town of Lubbock selling Plymouths and Chryslers at Fenner Tubbs Chrysler-Plymouth, so we moved back to Lubbock.

My senior year in High School was at Monterey High in Lubbock. Continuing to work in the grocery business, I landed a job at the Furr’s Supermarket on 50th Street. I became the frozen food clerk. Computers were in their infancy in those days. There were no scanners at the checkouts. Any computer a grocery company had would have been a ponderous main frame in the corporate office. There was no scanner data from which to know product movement. If you wanted to know what was selling, you had to keep accurate order records and do a running inventory in your order guide. Taking a page from my high school economics class, it occurred to me that I could use my order records for my frozen food and a slide rule and calculate how much space to give an item based on its sales. Doing just that, I re-set my frozen food cases according the the movement and diminishing return calculations I had done. My store manager, Wayne Griffin, a small, wiry man with the disposition of a rabid chihuahua dog, was impressed and gave me a 20¢ an hour raise.

While I liked the grocery business, I still harbored dreams of becoming a car stylist. As it was my senior year in high school, it was time for me to begin thinking seriously about where I wanted to go to school after my graduation from Monterey. I wrote Art Center in Pasadena, the school that is famous for developing car stylists. I got an application packet from them. I was not surprised that eMpTy did everything he could to quash my desire to go to California to Art Center. He flatly told me that he would not contribute one nickel to my going to Art Center. So after I graduated, I piddled around Lubbock for a time, half-heartedly taking a few classes at Lubbock Christian College and then a few at Texas Tech.

Still drawing cars, I did a sports car design that drew upon the sleek, clean-lined Italian sports cars of the late 1960s as inspiration. Always dreaming of seeing one of my designs in production, I fished around, unsuccessfully, trying to find a way to get it into production.

I had gone to work in a supermarket that had opened in a new discount store in Lubbock. This store was operated by the now-defunct Ideal supermarket chain based in Liberal, Kansas. They had a store in the K-Mart in Amarillo and they were planning on opening a store in Canyon, just south of Amarillo. Canyon was home to West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M). I saw in this my opening to get out of Lubbock and away from eMpTy, who had taken to stealing drugs from pharmacist friends from his days as a drug salesman for Wyeth. He also combined his drug-taking with alcohol. And his abusive ways continued.

At the tender age of 18, I was made the Assistant Store Manager of the new Ideal Supermarket in Canyon. I got out of Lubbock as fast as I could! I began attending West Texas State, thinking I wanted to be an English major – but I hadn’t completely given up on going to Art Center to become a stylist.

Ideal had over-reached by putting a store in Canyon. The store wasn’t doing well, and I instinctively knew it never would. I knew I needed to get out of the Ideal in Canyon.

Safeway had stores in Amarillo. In January of 1969, I went to work for Safeway. I saw in Safeway an opportunity to get to Pasadena and Art Center as Safeway was a California-based chain and had numerous stores in Southern California. I tried to maneuver a transfer to a store in Pasadena in Safeway’s Los Angeles Division. If I could make my way to Pasadena, I felt I could at long last get into Art Center.

I was too young and inexperienced – and lacked a mentor in Safeway – to navigate the bureaucracy to snag a transfer to the Los Angeles Division. However, I did find a career home in Safeway. In short order, I was promoted to Assistant Store Manager, I ran a store for a time and then became the Merchandiser for the Amarillo District of the Oklahoma City Division. The Amarillo District Safeways had been laggards for a long time.

In 1957, Safeway bought the local Amarillo chain, McCartt’s. They made the mistake of keeping Morris McCartt and appointing him District Manager. He set about to run the stores down with the intent of buying them back. Safeway finally figured out what was going on and fired McCartt. I landed at Safeway just as the Corporate Office in California determined it either was going to make that District work or close it all together. It was an exciting time. As District Merchandiser, I re-set every store in the District – 13 of them. With the freshening up we gave the stores in the re-sets along with an aggressive pricing campaign, the District began to grow. The store I had managed got a first a full scale remodel, then it was replaced by an entirely new store. We opened new stores in other Amarillo locations and in Lubbock, Borger, Pampa, and Levelland, the first new stores in the District since 1965 – ten years.

Next I was promoted to Merchandising Manager for the Oklahoma City Division. The division had been run since 1956 by Earl Templeton. He had a penchant for pinching pennies and not building stores in the Division that had the amenities that Safeway stores had in most other areas. For example, only one store in the entire Division of 71 stores had a delicatessen and only three had in-store bakeries. Our competitors were eating our lunch in Oklahoma City. Templeton’s frugality played in the difficulty the Amarillo District store had as well. Just as the Corporate Office recognized that it needed to either fix the Amarillo District or close it altogether, Corporate recognized that Earl Templeton needed to retire. He was persuaded – in that way that Corporations have of persuading – to retire. Working under the new Division Manager in Oklahoma City, I helped launch programs that moved the Division from dead last in the 21 Divisions Safeway operated at the time to one of the fastest-growing Divisions in the company.

This attracted the attention of the Corporate Office and three years later, I was promoted to the Corporate Office where I developed marketing programs and new items for Safeway’s private label program. At the time, the company operated 103 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and several plants in Canada as well, producing over 3,000 of Safeway’s Private Label items. Looked at as a food processor rather than as a retail supermarket chain, Safeway was the 12th largest food processor in the world at the time. The company operated milk plants, ice cream plants, soft drink plants, a vegetable oil refinery, bread plants. There were coffee roasting plants in San Francisco and Dallas. A plant in San Leandro, California made jams and jellies. There was a soap plant in Oakland, California that made liquid and dry laundry detergent, dishwashing compound and bar soap. A household chemicals plant in Norwalk, California made window cleaner and other housekeeping products. Dry dog and cat food and charcoal were produced in plants in the midwest. There were cookie and cracker plants in Joplin, Missouri and Van Nuys, California. Cheese was cut and packaged in Carthage, Missouri and Durand, Wisconsin, which also made processed cheese slices and powdered milk. Spices and powdered drink mixes were packed in Fremont, California. Several of the milk plants produced yogurt and cottage cheese. The company made mayonnaise, viscous salad dressing (like Kraft’s Miracle Whip) and pourable dressings. It was a vast empire and I ran the marketing operations and new product development programs for it.

I drank. I drank a lot. I became a full-blown alcoholic, and it cost me what had been a brilliant career at Safeway. The way the company was organized at the time, I was three steps from Chairman. That is not to suggest that I would have ever become Chairman, because I would not have. The Chairmen of the company had, correctly, come out of the retail side of the operations. With the exceptions of Magowan père et fils, they had been District Managers, Retail Operations Managers, Division Managers and then President and finally Chairman. As my path with Safeway took me up the merchandising and manufacturing side of the company, there was no way that I would have ever been considered for either President or Chairman. That said, until alcohol took me down, I had come a long ways from a highly dysfunctional family in Lubbock, Texas.

I lasted until the company went through that horrendous leveraged buy-out in 1986. Had I not ruined my career with alcohol, perhaps I would have survived the vast downsizing of the company that came with the leveraged buy-out. But my drinking gave the company the reason it needed to cut me loose.

In 1969, I had correctly seen Safeway as my ticket to California. I escaped – physically anyway – from eMpTy. That childhood I had, of which I’ve only related glimpses of it here, took its toll on me. I would often wake up screaming in the night, having nightmares that eMpTy was trying to kill me. In fact, it still happens from time to time, though far less often now.

I haven’t taken a drink since 24 March, 1989. I made it to California, but not to Art Center.  I recovered but Packard didn’t.

The one constant in this story is that as a kid I loved Packards and I still do. Now, in my 70th year, the sight of a Packard excites me just as much now as it did when I was a kid.

5682-maltese-grey-naples-orange
“Theater Organ Man’s” 1956 Packard Patrician Touring Sedan painted in Maltese Grey and Naples Orange. Both of those colors were standard Packard colors in 1956, but not in this combination. This combination should have been offered – it looks great! Behind the ’56 Patrician is his ’55 Four Hundred hardtop.

6 Comments

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  1. Whoa! Words don’t work after a story like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another brilliant piece. Nothing wrong with your memory. I wish mine worked like that. A shame that you have all that pain to draw from. Many of my friends have Packards, but between the 10’s and 30’s. We are in the Pasadena area.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An amazing rise out of such a childhood. That is success no matter how you spell it. And yes a love for cars does transcend many woes. I was never as involved as you, but I will forever enjoy seeing a ’50’s car. To me they were things of beauty. Loved the pencil projections.
    Thanks for a good sour/sweet story…. An interesting read!

    Liked by 1 person

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