Friday, January 25, 2013

Lifestyles and Their Cars


The ad people may just have gotten it right, after all: when it comes to cars, each model comes with its own ambience. Each one creates its own style.

For Bill Bean, that freedom that his wheels brought included not only a business life, but a private life. Cars got him where he wanted to go—whether that was to greater success, or to a greater fishing spot.

Now that the automobile has been on the scene for so many decades, I wonder what we can infer from our ancestors’ choice of vehicles. After all, once we got past the proverbial age of Ford—you can have your car in any color you want, just so long as it is black—there were so many choices. What did that say about the chooser in our family in each of the generations behind us?

De Soto Plymouth Bill Bean 1930s
From the Bean & Cavanaugh dealership in Alameda, California, there was plenty to choose from, for those who wanted style and had the pocketbook to support that taste in cars.

As for Bill’s own preferences, I can tell from the many photos in his collection that he liked his cars taking him wherever he wished to go—whether for business or pleasure.

Bill Bean collection Alameda California
I have no idea who the man is, enjoying the set-up this automobile afforded him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a fishing buddy of Bill’s. No doubt, it was Bill taking the picture, himself. The only thing I know for sure about this photo is that it was developed on August 30, 1941, for that is what the date stamp reveals on the reverse.

William Bean
I don’t know much about this other photo, either—except that I’m pretty sure it was Bill in the driver’s seat. Who knows what the story behind this vignette was. My guess—seeing the passenger door left open, too—is that Bill turned to his passenger and said, “Why don’t you hop out and take my picture?”

Again, no date—as was the case in so many of the photographs in this collection. Maddening that the guess work was left to others—but then, Bill probably had no idea anyone would be sifting through his stash of photographic memories, wondering about the back stories, after he was gone.

10 comments:

  1. This just raises MORE questions - did Bill LOVE the DeSoto brand or were all the other dealerships taken? How did DeSoto rank in the popularity spectrum, that is, how much clout did it have next to Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, etc.? I've never cared about cars, but you're making me now.

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    1. I'd like to know a bit more about that car history, too, Wendy. After all, by the time I knew him, the only car for Bill was a Chrysler. Of course, that was the only car his dealership sold then, too. Which reminds me of my own grandfather: the only car for him was a Buick...but then, that's the dealership he worked for. Maybe those loyalties are tied more to who provides the paycheck than which car was the best.

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    2. Sorry -- Chrysler then. Where did I get DeSoto? Oh, I guess an earlier dealership.

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    3. No, you had it right, Wendy. It's just that you might be on to something. It was later on that Bill had the Chrysler dealership, so obviously something changed...so maybe you're right that it wasn't that he loved the DeSoto brand, but just whatever company offered him the best deal for his dealership. But then...I don't know the history of the DeSoto. Why, for instance, did it disappear off the car scene? Did the company go bankrupt? Get bought out? That's why I need to spruce up on my car history...I have no idea what happened.

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    4. The DeSoto (sometimes De Soto) was a brand of automobile based in the United States, manufactured and marketed by the now-defunct DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1928 to 1961. The DeSoto logo featured a stylized image of Hernando de Soto. The De Soto marque was officially dropped 30 November 1960, with over two million vehicles built since 1928.

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  2. Chrysler developed the Desoto..then they acquired Dodge..and Dodge out sold DeSoto..the 1958 recession killed Desoto sales..and it stopped being manufactured in 1960. Dealerships could choose to be Chrysler DeSoto or Chrysler Dodge before that time..many chose Dodge. Sad sad that DeSotos were not popular..although their owners were very loyal...just not enough were sold. I think Chrysler began their Desoto division in the late 1920's. Walter Chrysler developed DeSoto:)

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    1. Far Side, I knew I could count on you for that historical perspective. I didn't know that about the De Soto, and had wondered where the Chrysler connection had come in, since I had always heard family say that Bill Bean's dealership sold Chryslers.

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  3. I remember riding in cars much like these, and I remember how much people loved their cars (folks are a bit more subdued today). My parents' first car had what I think was a "rumble seat" for me -- not very comfortable, but I was little. We liked Pontiacs, and I remember the entire drama of the family going to choose a car. (They were pretending that we kids had a "say.")

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    1. Mariann, interesting how people are a bit more subdued about their cars today, as you say--and yet have so many more comforts attached to the design and purchase options of what is available today.

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  4. I love those old pictures of the cars. My grandfather kept all of his old cars. He would never sell them or have them destroyed. And the cool thing is that he got a new car every 5 years and would just park the last one out back. By the time he died, he had 15 cars in the yard.

    Martin @ Fiesta Hyundai

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