COAL: GM Gets the Green Light in this Family

When I was discharged from active duty in June 1958, I bought this ’52 Pontiac.


Americans love being photographed with their cars, and my family is no exception. My name is Larry Green and I’m 87 years young. My wife Barbara and I have had 13 cars since we were married, and I have photos of all but two of them: a 1960 Corvair and a 1986 Oldsmobile. I’m still looking and still hopeful. In the meantime, I’ve assembled a family car journey going back over 100 years, with Dead Swede as my ghostwriter. The main players here are Sennett and Emma Green, my grandparents; Julius and Elsie Green, my parents; and Mildred and Richard, my siblings. The Chevy bowtie figures prominently in the mix, along with a couple of Pontiacs and the odd Studebaker. So, let’s start our car photo journey in Whatcom County, Wash. during Prohibition.


My grandparents Sennett and Emma Green, with their 1919 Chevrolet touring car (1923)


My father, Julius, told me how the Chevrolet touring car came into the family. In 1923, he was 19 years old and living on a farm near Agate Bay, at the north end of Lake Whatcom. Though the roads out there were rugged going, his stepfather Sennett decided the family should buy a car. So, they headed down to the Chevrolet garage in nearby Bellingham, where Sennett selected a candidate. He told the salesman he would buy the car “if it would make it up the hill to the farm.” The only sticking point was that neither Julius nor Sennett knew how to drive, and neither of them had a driver’s license. Apparently, this was not a deal-breaker in 1923. The salesman made Julius drive the car around the block (to show that he could drive), and the deal was sealed. Eventually, the Greens got their first Chevrolet “up the hill” to Agate Bay.


My father Julius Green, left, and his future brother-in-law, Frank Plattner (1924)


Julius and Sennett both worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, building bridges on the section between Auburn and Sumas, Wash., (near the Canadian border). On Sunday night, they would drive the Chevrolet touring car to wherever they were working that week, then drive it home for the weekend on Friday night.


My dad’s first car, a 1925 Chevrolet Roadster (1925).


Julius bought his first new car in 1925, a Chevrolet Roadster. At a cost of $700, this included extras like a front bumper and spare tire. During the negotiations, Julius told the salesman he had a down payment of $200. The salesman countered with $300 down and asked him, “Can’t you borrow the extra $100 from someone?” Julius said, “You know me better than anyone in town, why don’t you loan me the hundred?” And so he did. The salesman, that is.


Elsie Green with her husband’s new 1928 Chevrolet Landau Deluxe (1928)


Around this time, Julius started dating Elsie Plattner, who also lived on Lake Whatcom. Elsie had a job as an egg-candler at the Washington Co-Op, which was on the Bellingham waterfront and is now called the “Granary Building.” Julius let Elsie drive the Roadster during the week, to avoid a long hike from the end of the streetcar line at Silver Beach to her family’s farm out near Dellesta Park. Julius Green and Elsie Plattner were married in June 1927. By 1928, Julius had added a new Chevrolet Landau Deluxe to his fleet.


My older sister Mildred by the Chevrolet Landau (1930s).


In time, Julius and Elsie had three children: Mildred, Richard, and me, Larry. They kept the Chevrolet Landau for over a decade as the family grew. Mildred’s photo above shows a glimpse of the decorative S-shaped scroll-work typical of Landau models.


The Chevy was a member of the family, along with Mildred, Julius, Richard, and Larry (1941).


Two photos from the early forties show the Greens straying from GM for the first time. A summery setting in 1941 shows the family having a picnic with their trusty 1928 Chevrolet. But a winter shot from that same year shows the family on a trip to Mount Baker, in a late-thirties Studebaker!


Late-thirties Studebaker with yours truly on the hood (1941).


Maybe the trip to Mount Baker was cause for an upgrade. Probably not, but I sure look happy up there on the hood ornament!


Me with my deer draped over a 1942 Chevrolet (1952).


Fast forward about a decade and here I am as the “Great White Hunter.” I was 15 years old and my sister’s husband had taken me hunting. It was my one and only deer hunt, using my brother’s 45/70 carbine. The photo is a little blurry, but my memory of that day is not.


My 1940 Pontiac, with Bellingham High School in the background (1954).


I bought my first car in 1954, when I was a junior at Bellingham High School. It was a 1940 Pontiac, featuring some cool fender skirts I installed myself. At the time, I was working in the mail room of our local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald. I sold the Pontiac in June 1955 when I went on active duty in the Navy for three years.


My wife Barbara’s mother, Eva Botts (1933).


When I got out of the Navy in 1958, I married Barbara Morrison and we started a family. So, to give Barbara (un)equal billing, I thought I would include a car from her side of the family. The far-flung bumper sticker suggests that Eva and her husband William really did “See the USA” in their Chevrolet. But upon closer inspection, I’m not so sure this is a 1931 Chevrolet Coupe. Any help out there on a solid ID?


Trailer camping near the Coupeville ferry landing (1970)


By 1970, we were driving a 1966 Chevrolet Nova station wagon. Here we are camping at Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island in Washington. There’s my brother Richard’s 1970 International Travelall, and his sons, Allan and Joel Green. The beachcombing there was great, right near the Coupeville ferry landing.


From left, Doug and Lea Hoff, Barbara Green, and John and Brenda Riseland (1971).


In 1971 we took a road trip to Watsonville, Calif. to visit friends. Here we are in San Francisco with our Nova, alongside some other interesting cars. I must have taken this shot, since I’m the odd man out. That’s Barbara in the middle with the purse. Well, this has been fun. You can bet I will be back when I find that photo of our 1960 Corvair. Heck, maybe even the ’86 Olds. In the meantime, make sure your next selfie has a car in the background.