Most of you know how I like to bring up my grandfather and his Oldsmobiles, but you may notice how I rarely mention my grandmother when discussing cars. There’s a good reason. My grandmother never owned a car because she never had a driver’s license.
(Their street in Southie, early 1950s)
When my grandparents were first married and living in South Boston, he was teaching her to drive. Unfortunately, one day when my grandfather’s car was parked at the bottom of a hill, a parked truck’s brakes gave out, and it rolled down the hill into my grandfather’s car, severely damaging it. Nana was spooked by the incident and never got behind the wheel of a car again. For the rest of their 53 years of marriage, they were a one-car couple. In addition to raising five children, my grandmother was often working multiple jobs for many of those years. She had to rely on walking, public transportation, and rides from friends and family until she retired from her final job as my great uncle’s secretary in her early sixties.
That didn’t stop Nana from liking cars and having some opinions regarding them. She was not a huge fan of small cars, as she felt that they weren’t as safe or comfortable. She also preferred vehicles that weren’t particularly high or low, as ease of entry was important after her hip replacement. Despite this, there was a yellow Mazda Protege5 we would frequently spot over at Castle Island (a popular walking spot in South Boston) that Nana would always joking say would be her first car. Yellow was her favorite color.
(My grandfather’s actual ’97 Eighty-Eight, in its final years)
Had my grandmother driven, I picture her driving a Buick or Oldsmobile like my grandfather. He and her brother were both GM people, so I assume she would’ve followed. Nana also required cars with lots of storage for her trademark white visor, oversized sunglasses, Family Circle magazines, and the ever accumulating stash of Dunkin’ Donuts napkins (she never had to buy Kleenex!).
I also recall one specific memory in her final years when she was enamored over a car we saw in a parking lot. It happened to be a new Jaguar XF. Nana had expensive tastes!
My grandmother passed away four years ago at the age of 86. Her 90th birthday would’ve been today. Although she never drove during my lifetime, I have a lifetime of cherished memories and stories of her, many that took place in cars. So, even though my grandmother didn’t drive, I’m sure most of yours did and I’m curious to know what they drove. Did they like big comfortable cars like mine, or smaller, more economical cars? Or, did they drive something surprising like the little old lady I saw climb up into a ice blue Tahoe the other day?