Lizzie Part 2

These are my cousin Dee Dee’s memories of Lizzie. You can see more about Lizzie in Part 1

My cousin Dee Dee McNeil remembers Lizzie

Our grandfather called his Model T Ford “Lizzie.” I always referred to Poppy’s car as a Model T Ford, but when I looked up the photos, I think his car might have been a little later Ford Model B or Model 40.  This I decided after looking at photos of the Ford Motor Company 4- cylinder engine, 2-door cars. Lizzie was all black.

Just about every Sunday morning, me, my sisters (and sometimes our two cousins, Kris and Pearl) climbed up on the running board and piled into the backseat of Poppy’s historic black Ford that rumbled down Theodore Street on the East Side of Detroit, Michigan, towards Plymouth Congregational Church.  Our grandfather, who we called ‘Poppy,’ always drove, with his wife Fannie Graham sitting proudly in the passenger seat by her man’s side.  Unlike the youthful looking grandmother’s of today, our soft spoken, proud grandma always looked like a grandmother.  Her gray hair was always neatly braided into two braids that were bobby-pinned across the top of her head.  Her blue veins shown through slender hands with long, delicate fingers and when she was upset, her lips were pursed in a straight, stubborn line across her sweet face.  Every Sunday, in the summertime, (when we often stayed at our grandparent’s home) we rode in Lizzie to church and then to the cemetery to visit the graves of my mother’s two brothers who died as children.  In our innocence, we thought that lovely, well-kept cemetery was our private park, as we body-rolled down the slightly sloping hillsides, arms and legs flailing past the cemetery markers.

In the back yard.
My grandparents, Fannie & Mershell Graham in their yard, 1958.

I don’t remember Lizzie having leather seats or being fancy.  The seats were of some sort of cloth, because Nanny (our grandmother) used to sew and repair the small rips and tears.  She also darned Poppy’s socks, using a plastic egg and she taught me how to do the same as a young child of maybe eight or nine years old.  I remember, when I was older, nearing my teen years, several hippie looking, young, white boys used to drive up next to Poppy’s old iron car and roll down their windows to shout at him. 

“I’d love to buy your car.  Is it for sale?” 

Poppy always kept Lizzie sparkling clean and well kept.  If it was a cold morning before church, he’d have to let her run for 2-3 minutes before we took off. 

“She’s got to have her engine warmed up,” he’d tell me as he adjusted the ‘choke.’  Those cars had a throttle and a choke you adjusted by hand.  I think that old collectible car lasted so long because of Poppy’s good care and the fact that he never took it on the freeway.  He always putt-putted down the avenues at about twenty-five to thirty-miles per hour, much to the frustration of those driving behind him.  Several times I saw impatient, rude, and irate drivers pull around him and call him everything but a child of God for driving the speed limit.  I’d cringe, but he’d just whistle a tune, as though they were invisible and keep driving at his slow rate of speed.  There was always the slightest smell of gasoline and oil in the backseat of Lizzie.  Underneath the carpeted floor there were wooden floors.  All four cousins could curl up in that back seat of Poppy’s old Ford and we’d sing songs or giggle, the way little girls do, over little to nothing.  I remember there was a little switch on the wall inside the car that could turn on the overhead, inside light. Lizzie was a familiar ride and we felt safe and comfortable in that Ford Model “A”, until my Aunt Doris, (my mom’s sister) finally persuaded her dad to sell that car and step into the 2nd half of the twentieth century.  Today, those old Fords are a hot-rodder’s dream.

Read Part I here Lizzie

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