National Ice Cream Day fell on Sunday, July 18th this year. I used to eat ice cream by the bowlful regularly when I was growing up. Vanilla was what my family usually had in the freezer, as it was the one flavor all of us could agree on. My generous, self-administered servings would be drizzled with Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and then also sprinkled over the top with crushed walnuts and sometimes marshmallows. It was bliss. I can’t remember the point at which I had stopped eating and drinking as much dairy in my young adulthood, but after years of reintroducing ice cream back into my diet, albeit in much more limited quantities than before, I’m back to enjoying the occasional frozen treat from time to time to the point where I now usually keep some in my freezer. It’s a joy to have it back in my life.
After dinner at the Chicken Coop. Watervliet, Michigan. Tuesday, August 16, 2011.
Lots of summer plans and activities that many of us had skipped last year due to quarantine have resumed, including road travel, which I have sorely missed. Almost a decade ago, during one of my many pilgrimages between my hometown of Flint and my adopted city of Chicago, I had stopped in the town of Watervliet in southwestern Michigan, west of Kalamazoo, for a bite to eat. The Chicken Coop fast food restaurant had many advertisements along eastbound I-94, and it had endeared itself to me simply by its name since my grandparents actually had a chicken coop on their farm in Ohio at one point. I have an unwritten rule that when I’m on holiday, I eat mostly whatever I want, and the greasier the better.
I was enjoying a satisfying, late lunch of freshly fried chicken fingers and french fries when I spotted this honey of a 1946 Ford pull into the parking lot of the adjacent Frosty Boy ice cream and sandwich shop. “Super DeLuxe” is its model name, but that sounds like it could also be the name of a sundae, or at least a size classification of one. When an opportunity like this plops itself right in front of me, I take it as a sign, so I strode purposefully next door with my camera and got a few clicks. The owners of this car noticed me taking pictures of it from outside the Frosty Boy, and I waved to them. If I had been feeling more adventurous that afternoon, I might have stopped over for a soft-serve ice cream cone and a chat, but perhaps I hadn’t been mentally ready for that kind of social interaction in that moment, which is 100% okay.
The last of the ’42 Fords had rolled off the assembly line on February 10th of that year. Following World War II, Ford resumed production of civilian vehicles on July 3, 1945, with an early introduction of its ’46 models. This extra lead time, as well as Chevrolet’s concurrent labor issues, enabled Ford to outsell its main rival for the ’46 model year by almost 70,000 units, or a margin of about 17.5% (468,000 units vs. 398,000). Dearborn’s advertising campaign included the tagline “There’s A Ford In Your Future!” Part of this model’s appeal was the availability of a 239.4 cubic inch V8 with 100 horsepower, which was first used in the ’39 Mercury, and also a thrifty 225.8 c.i. six with 90 horses.
We’ve all had to make sacrifices during the current pandemic, and it’s great to be feeling some sense of normalcy after 2020, with many of us carefully getting back to some of our regularly scheduled summer programming. Still, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through a time like WWII, when factory production resources of large corporations like Ford were diverted to building military planes, vehicles, weapons, and equipment, and one couldn’t even buy a new car. (The current microchip and car supply shortage issue is a separate topic.) Even with COVID-related caution still needed and a few things to forego right now in the name of safety, I’ll still never know the sense of relief my grandparents felt at the end of that war during which they were trying to raise a small family, at the time this car was new.
Sunday, August 5, 2012.
The 1946 Ford brochure photos were sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.com.