15 November 2012

Fair's Fair

It occurred to me that my previous post might have left the impression that my mother served in the military during World War II, and my father didn't. That's not true.

This was my father's main contribution to the war effort:

Between 1941 and 1945, Willys-Overland Motors in Toledo, Ohio, built a small four-wheel drive utility vehicle called the Willys MB. Production of this vehicle, popularly known as the Jeep, was considered essential to the war effort. It was so essential that, as a machinist employed by Willys-Overland, my father
was granted three deferments from military service.

He was finally drafted in 1944, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers. It was not a good fit. Fortunately the war ended in 1945, and the Army spat him back into civilian life. He went to the University of Toledo on the G.I. Bill, where he met my mother, and on to grad school at Caltech, which is how I came to be born in California. You knew this would eventually turn out to be about me, didn't you?

When my cousin was here for a visit earlier this year, he told me that our grandfather moved from Chicago to the Detroit area to work for Ford Motors. The story goes that Ford was not hiring Jews, so he went to work for Willys-Overland. This must've been before May 1914, because that was when my uncle was born in Toledo. (If you're not from around here, Toledo, Ohio is very close to Detroit, Michigan.) My grandfather was a cabinetmaker, and at the time, much of a car's chassis and frame was made of wood. My dad said my granddad was proud of the fact that he worked on the showroom models, the ones that had to be perfect. I don't know how long he worked there. In 1915 and 1916, the Toledo city directory gives his occupation as woodworker. By 1920, when my father was born, he had opened a grocery store. So this has nothing to do with my dad's military service, and it's not like my dad and my grandfather worked shoulder to shoulder on the production line or anything. They just worked for the same car company, 25 years apart.

Another digression: From 1926 to 1931, without help from anyone in my family, Willys-Overland produced a small car called the Whippet:

This also has nothing to do with my dad's military service. It doesn't really have anything to do with whippets either, but there it is.

My mom's family worked in the auto industry in Toledo, too, but that's a story I'll inflict on you another day.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you're uncovering / documenting some cool family history. And, the Whippet, that's just a fantastic piece of history there!