- Automobile History
1947 Hudson | I Fell Out of a Classic Car
Family album snapshots: Me and the Hudson
Act One: Falling out of a moving car.
We were going to pick up my sister, Bobbette, after her week of wilderness experience with the Campfire Girl troop. Uncle Andy and Aunt Vella rode up to Pasadena with us. My uncle was riding in the front seat as Dad drove, and I was in the back with Mom and my aunt.
There was a large "lump" in the floorboard of the 1947 Hudson, both in back and front-- the drive shaft or something , which was really not unusual in those days, but in addition to that, the car had some peculiar features.
The back doors opened from the front and were hinged in the back.
The door handle on the inside was pushed downward to open the door, and the door locking knob was locked when the little stick button was pulled up. (Most cars locked with the stick pushed down).
I was between my mom and my aunt in the back seat, with the doors locked and Mom on my right. My hair was rolled in aluminum curlers, to give me the "Shirley Temple" look.
Around my waist I wore a leather cowboy belt and holster with a toy six-shooter cap gun. I stood to peer over the top of the front seat and to look out of the front windshield, standing on the floorboard "lump".
Suddenly, Dad made a turn and I fell toward my right across Mom's legs with one of my arms striking the door handle, and the other simultaneously hitting the door lock and shoving it down into the unlocked position.
Dad was a very careful driver, so it was not an erratic or reckless move. I just lost my balance.
I kept going as the door opened, but Mom somehow caught me by one ankle. There was a lot of screaming and hollering inside the car imploring Dad to stop.
I guess I was as surprised as anyone that the door opened -- and the car was still moving.
My cap gun went flying out of the holster and into the street. Cars were coming behind us, so I was sure one of them would run over it. I could see underneath the car with the wheels bouncing and spinning swiftly. The pavement flew by below, as I hung upside down.
"Hmmm, interesting", I thought. I had never thought about looking under the car before and didn't know it had so many moving parts. I did not feel particularly frightened. I was not an excitable kid and, after all, I KNEW mom was holding my leg.
I KNEW she would would not let me fall. She liked me.
Like most autos coming out of Detroit after WW II, the 1946-47 Hudsons were pretty much the same as the '42 models, except in very small details.
Hudson produced ABOUT 92,000 cars for the model year, but fell from ninth to 11th on the industry board. Other brands were selling better in the unprecedented postwar boom. Still, Hudson sales exceeded $120 million in 1946. Most of ther models were selling for around $1,700
I also knew I would soon be back inside the car where I was supposed to be. At the time I didn't realize that she was also holding the door with her other hand so it wouldn't close on me when Dad slowed to a stop. It's a wonder we both didn't fly out. (Remember, no one had ever heard of car seat belts at this time.)
Dad didn't know why he was supposed to stop, and with traffic all around, he couldn't make a sudden move. I don't know how long it took, but after a few moments I was back in the car, on Mom's lap. She was dabbing my curler-covered head with a kleenex tissue which was dripping with bright red blood.
"It's just a scratch," she told me " just a scratch,
it's going to be OK. "
She kept repeating this over and over and she seemed to be a little shaky. I didn't have much pain, and wasn't really aware of having hit my head anywhere. I still wasn't worried... at least not nearly as worried as Mom was.
I did think that it must must have more than "a scratch", after three kleenexes full of blood, but I went along with the scratch theory so as not to upset my mom any more. She was normally a very calm person and seemed unusually nervous about the incident. My feeling was that everything was OK now, so what was the worry?
Post-war Cars Hit the Road
In business since at least 1914, Hudson Motor Car Company was making a sedan with a larger interior , a smoother ride and a more powerful engine than its competitors by 1936. It had a steering column gear shift which freed up some space in the front seat and seemed to be aiming for the family market. Of course, it was still the depression era and few families could afford such luxury.
American auto companies like almost all other producers of consumer goods, ceased commercial production in 1942 by order of the federal government, as manufacturing was switched toward total wartime production of military vehicles, aircraft and ship parts as well as weapons. The Hudson "Invader" engines powered many landing craft for the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy.
After the war Hudson resumed making cars for American buyers. The 1947 sea-foam green, four-door sedan was my Dad's first car, and one of the first new models on the road since the start of World War II.
A Racing Legend
Strong lightweight auto bodies combined with a high torque engine made Hudson Hornet the dominant race car on the Nascar circuit between 1950 and 1954, , but as a commercial product it was outdistanced by GM, Chrysler and Ford who captured the market with constant development and styling changes. Hudson sold out to Nash-Kevinator n 1954 under the American Motors name
In National Hot Rod Assn. events and at dirt tracks and drag strips the Hudson continued to make its name in racing well into the '60s
Act Two: The procedure.
Somehow we found a hospital or clinic of some sort. I believe my uncle had shouted out the window to a pedestrian on the street for directions, as we were in an unfamiliar town. We found an emergency room.
I was taken in and sat on a high hard table where a nurse looked at my head while and my mom continued to tell me it was "a scratch".
At five years old I knew what a scratch was, and there was never a scratch in the world that could produce three kleenexes full of blood.
But I wasn't really worried, it didn't hurt much except when the nurse put some stinging stuff on it.
Hudson Motor Cars in literature and movies.
John Steinbeck has the Joads traveling from OK to CA in an overloaded Hudson In "The Grapes of Wrath".
A new 1949 Hudson is prominent in Jack Kerouacs autobiographical "On the Road".
Morgan Freeman chauffeurs Jessica Tandy in a Hudson and other cars while "Driving Miss Daisy".
Nicholas Sparks' romantic novel set in the 1940s, "The Notebook", features a Hudson car.
"Kelly's Heroes" a WWII drama (1970) has one of the the character played by Clint Eastwood fantasizing about buying a "a Hudson with an electric shift" with the proceeds from a bank robbery.
The animated film "Cars" 2006 has the voice of actor/racer Paul Newman as the voice of "Doc Hudson" the Hornet race car.
It was a weekend and we had to wait awhile for a doctor to arrive.
He came through the door with a broad smile on his face saying loudly,"Well, I hear you have a big hole in your head!" I thought my mom was going to fall over!
The jolly doctor had blown her story. I tried to act surprised at his comment, so mom would think I believed her "scratch" story, when I knew all along she was just trying to keep me calm. Maybe my acting lessons helped out here a bit.
They laid me down on the high table and put some towels around my head and a sheet over my face so I couldn't see anything... this was the scariest part so far. The doctor continued to talk in a rather loud and jovial manner as he proceeded to prep the area and got ready to sew me up.
With sheets over my face, I couldn't see what they were doing. I could hear the clink of metal instruments on a metal tray. The high table was uncomfortably hard.
NOW, I had pain. Apparently they did not have a good way to deaden the feeling in my scalp. After five awful stitches I was declared "as good as new" though I had a little bald spot, and would be needing at least one less curler for a while.
The doctor's opinion was that the aluminum curlers I was wearing , some of which were a little dented or scratched, may have saved me from a nastier scrape wound. All I had was one rather neat L-shaped scalp cut from the edge of a metal curler. It was closed by five stitches.
I had no memory of hitting my head against anything, either the car door or the street. . . and to this day don't know what (other than the curler) caused the cut.
Act Three: Oh yeah, my sister
We waited at the hospital for a time, because after Dad found out I was OK, he continued on his way to pick up Bobbette, and would come back with her to get us.
By this time, of course he was late... she was the last Camp Fire Girl waiting at the pick up point in a Pasadena park, and tearfully sure that she had been forgotten or abandoned by her family at the age of 12. At the time I think she kind of blamed me for her worrisome experience. Well, heck, I lost my cap gun, after all. That was really the worst thing.
No one seemed overly concerned with her dismay , but everyone was giving a lot of attention to the little squirt with the "scratch", or the hole in her head . . . according to which story you believed.
I can remember going out to the driveway a day or two later, when the Hudson was parked there, to take a look under the car again.
"Hmmm, interesting", I thought... though it WAS more interesting when all the parts were moving.