“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake.”
- Francis Bacon

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The death of General Motors - Saying Good-bye to a chapter of my life and history

I was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan at a time when muscle cars we common, drive-in's were the place to go on a Saturday night and a car hop would serve your food through your car window...and you didn't have to drive away! A few six packs of beer in the trunk of a car was absolutely sinful and no "good girl" ever let a guy get to second base on the first date. Kids had a curfew and bad boys were called hoodlums or hoods. They wore jeans, white t-shirts and put gel in their duck tail haircut.

We'd baby sit for extra money, wash cars in the drive-way, sit down with our parents for meals and enjoy, really enjoy, watching Lawrence Welk, Bonanza, Father Knows Best and The Ed Sullivan Show. Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school and boys had to tuck in their shirts. Mostly, you walked. You walked to school and home from school and you carried your books. You carried your school lunch in a brown paper bag and ate it because there weren't machines in school to provide pop and candy and chips.

When I heard on CNN that General Motors had filed for bankruptcy a tear formed in the corner of my eye...and then two and then three and then four. My son (the one who owns the car in the photo) happened to be at the house and thought it was silly for me to be so sad about the demise of the "old" General Motors as I knew it - as I grew up with it. I explained to Jeff that my sorrow wasn't so much for the company but for what it represented to me and to millions of baby boomers. Drag racing on street corners. The Mustang. The GTO. The Corvette. The Pontiac Bonneville. The 409. The Chevelle.

It was a grand time. People without a college education made a good living and attained the American Dream. Their kids were expected to do even better in life, and they usually did, too. But now, at least in Michigan, that life, that kind of life...it's history. It will be written about in books and shared on old film and mentioned wistfully around picnic tables on the 4th of July.

Just as I listened to my father and his buddies reminisce about World War II, my generation will look off into the distance and talk about cars and easy money and a life-style that our children may never see, at least not as easily and with so little effort. The young people these days don't have a clue what it was like to have a car weigh nearly 5000 pounds, dent instead of crack and chip and gasoline that was 38 cents a gallon. It's all a fairy tale to them. But to me...it was a magical time...the last time America felt footloose and fancy free and me, well, I got to live it. That, dear friends, makes me happy and sad all at the same time. With the bankruptcy of our automotive titan, a part of America's past died.

Good-bye, GM, I'll miss you...not the building but I'll miss what you did for me when I was growing up in Saginaw, Michigan. Your money and jobs provided an exciting time in American manufacturing history...a time when I was a kid...a time when there really were Happy Days and a kid with a high school education could end up on the right side of town with two cars in the garage, 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat and...the marriage lasted until death do you part.

BTW, the little dude behind the steering wheel of the car is my grandson, Benny


My Crafty Little Page said...

Bye,bye Miss American Pie. Drove my chevy to the levy but the.......

well said, Mimi. End of an era. :( Nancy

Eclectic Pink Rose said...

Great post Mimi!! and cute little driver too!
♥ Teresa

The Pink Birdhouse said...

Great Post!!! So many of your childhood memories are the same as mine, even though I was from NJ. Didn't life seem simpler then, more fun, filled with wonder some how! Thanks for this post, I loved reading it. I read about this in the newspaper over here in Germany, by the way, so it seems to be even effecting the people here! Debby

Lisa said...

You know I'm not in your area but I get sad every time anthing American goes under or is sold over seas. It really shouldn't happen but we apperantly don't have excutives in this country that work they just rake in money until it's time to bail and whole cities full of people have to move to get work. It's almost scary. I'm sorry I know you are much more attached!
Hugs, Lisa

Diane @ Four Paws and Co said...

Well said Mimi! Jeff's car is awesome & brought back some teen memories. Hugs for Benny! ☺♥☺ Diane

RobinfromCA said...

Great post. It's so true that it's not just the company itself but what it stands for. A time of innocence, families and believing that you have to work hard for what you get. I'm sad for our kids and grandkids.

bj said...

You must have grown up somewhere about the time that I did. I was a teen in the 50's and it was the best time of my life...
General Motors is far from being dead, tho, girl....they will make a comeback and be stronger since they can write off all their debts. We never ever should have bailed them out in the first place. We can kiss that money goodby, for sure. GM SAYS they will repay it...but...I've got my doubts..Oh, yes, GM isn't near dead yet.
My first car was a 1956 chevie and, boy, did I love it....since I've been grown, tho, Fords have been my cars!
Great post, dear one!
xo bj

MISS PEACH ~(^.^)~ said...

Mimi it is so sad that this great country can not continue on as we have know it to be in the past. You have said it so well...you are a fine wordsmith. That we have had the chance to live through this part of history will forever be written in the heartstrings. Hold tight to the memories...the form our being and define our lives. I pray for our future generation...our grandchildren.
Soft hugs from Miss Peach...(here is a tissue)

bj said...

Just me again...thanks for stopping by.
When I go back in time and relive my time in the 50's and 60's as a young thing, I can remember being able to spot a car a block away and knew what kind it was. A ford, a chevy, studeabaker (yep..one of my boyfriends had one of those ugly things)...then, as time marched on, there became more than a few chevies, fords......to me, I think that is when "the good ole days' was left behind.
I hope, that when GM does regain their footing, they don't produce so many different kinds..in fact, on one of their recent ads on tv about rebooting, it is mentioned there will be less and smaller cars.

Oh, yes...I, too, well remember the street drag races, the drive-inns, for my crowd, the old wooden -floored skating rink..getting together to make fudge and popping corn...when the only worry I had was what I'd wear on a my date for Friday night.
Well, it's been fun going back in time with you....Take care!

Short and Sweet said...

Great post and every word is "right on". I lived it, too, but all we have left are our precious memories. The television shows that you mentioned were so important in our home at the time. Ah,let's not forget the Patty Duke Show too. What about "baby doll" sleepwear, the flip, the princess phone, etc. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Betty (picture circa 1954) said...

The world sure is changing and I don't like it either.

I remember how annoying it was to listen to my grandmother talk about the nickle loaf of bread. Now I find myself talking about grocery shopping for a family of four for $25 a week back in the early 70's, the three cent postage stamp, etc., etc.

And I hate what the Internet is doing to my daily newspaper which keeps getting thinner and thinner. I'm afraid it's going to disappear completely
one of these days. I must have my daily newspaper with my morning coffee.

Yes, times are changing.

Claudia said...

I feel the same, Mimi. Born and raised in Dearborn. Many, many of my friends' parents either worked for Ford or GM. So, so sad and definitely the end of an era.

LaVerne said...

Oh how I loved this post...so true and so melancholy... we were so lucky to have been born when we were and to have had the memories of those wonderful times...thanks for the trip down memory lane. LaVerne

Shopgirl said...

With Tear Filled Eyes I Thank you for this post. I am so glad that you shared. I have felt bad ever sence the news came. I had two 55 chevy's with my husband, and they were lovely. I can still smell the seats. We would drive down Bellflower blvd on Saturday nights to show them off. No fear!
Big Hugs, Mary