The Great Depression

Seven-passenger Packard for sale

...Dad bought it for $100; the adventure begins

by Jim Driscoll

Look closely at the above seven-passenger Packard; in the roaring 20's it was a symbol of the luxury, wealth and extravagance of many Americans throughout the country.

In June 1933, my Father, Frank, bought this (1927?) Packard for $100; he had to borrow this princely sum and more, to finance an up-coming 12-day cross country trip. The prior car owner, out of work and broke, was glad to get the cash. These were bad days in California and throughout America. Now this touring vehicle was to become home for a family of nine; two adults and seven children to carry us from Glendale, California to Holyoke, Massachusetts.

As for the Packard, it was a sturdy and quality automobile which served us well throughout the entire journey. Our challenge was the seating plan - how do we fit nine people into a seven-passenger vehicle?

Very tightly!

Front seat:    Dad Frank (43)    Betty (18 months)    Mary (12)

Middle seat:    Bob (6)        Jean (5)        Jim (8)

Rear seat:    Eileen (10)    Patty (2 months)    Mother Mary (34)
(The middle seat was actually made up of two seats that folded out of the back of the front seat.)

Without going into a great amount of detail, the daily routine would include: for Mary and Frank the day would start in the motels (or facsimiles) at 4:30 a.m. doing diapers, making lunch and serving breakfast; on the road it would be lunches, pit stops, service stations (few and far between), fixing flat tires and broken axles, overheated radiators, looking for motels, etc. Needless to say, the above was a challenge but we kept moving east.

And Frank did all the driving - through oppressive desert heat - over mountainous terrains - and often on terrible unpaved roads.  

And so we made it! At Holyoke, MA the family was temporarily separated and would be reunited in a new home in Springfield, MA, where we stayed a short time before finally moving to a permanent location - Melrose, MA.

At that time, none of the children truly grasped the severity of the situation for Frank and Mary. We were told we were beginning a great adventure and that each day would be a picnic. And for the seven children it truly was just that. What a wonderful way to remember one's parents for their courage, faith and good spirit in this crisis period and the challenging years that followed.

Oh yes, about that wonderful old Packard that was so much a part of our successful journey: to this day no one can remember what ever happened to it. Maybe Frank sold it - for $100.

Author's note: A more complete story of the family trip east can be found under the title: "Mary, my back is against the wall."

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