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My Mother's Studebaker Car Named Tillie

Updated on December 27, 2017
Peggy W profile image

Some songs can zap one back in time. Memories of the fun we had because of Chubby Checker's song, The Twist, in the 1960s are nostalgic.

Studebaker Car Photo


Memories of Past Times

When my younger brothers and I were youngsters living in the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin, my mother had an old Studebaker car and her name was "Tillie." We were fortunate in that my mother was a stay at home mom.

My dad drove his car into the City of Milwaukee each day to go to work which was about 30 miles east from where we lived. Thirty miles seemed quite the distance back then.

Of course roads have been greatly improved since those days and today we think nothing of traveling a similar distance all within this city where we now reside just to go to a symphony performance or even to go out to a special restaurant or to go to a friend's house for an evening of camaraderie.


At the time we thought nothing of the fact that my mother referred to her car as Tillie. My dad's car did not have a special name and why my mother's car was so named, I have no idea. We all just took it as a matter of course that Tillie was a part of our family's landscape of possessions at the time.

What made this car so special? Plenty!

Post World War II

In those days of growing up in the 1950s and following "the war to end all wars" (sadly that was not the case) not every family was fortunate enough to have a second car as well as a stay at home mom.

My parents worked hard and were thrifty in their spending habits and also believed in saving for a rainy day. They had built the house in which I first remember living. My memories did not capture the earlier days of living in a cottage on the lake next door to my paternal grandmother. Ah but I do remember the Studebaker car named Tillie!

Me having fun in my grandfather's gardening boots.  They lived near my parent's home.
Me having fun in my grandfather's gardening boots. They lived near my parent's home. | Source

Why was Tillie so Memorable?

First of all the cloth lining on the roof interior of the car had started disintegrating. When there was more of it hanging down than attached to the roof my parents decided to just remove all the remaining fragments. I have no idea if a new headliner was not in their budget or if they just decided that Tillie deserved a new more distinctive look. Whatever the case may have been the interior roof was painted instead. My mother seemed pleased and after all it was her second hand car to do with as she wished.

In addition to no headliner the primary reason that Tillie was unlike most other cars was the condition of her heater. Few cars back in those days offered air conditioning. Windows were simply rolled down and whatever breezes passed through the car offered a bit of respite from the summer heat.

However in Wisconsin the cold weather lasts for many months of the year. All cars of which I was familiar did provide heaters. Tillie's heater was obviously just plain old and worn out. That is not to say that Tillie's heater did not work. It worked but sadly just about at the end of any trip a faint bit of heat would start coming out of her.

Since we lived in the country and attended a private school my mother would drive us there and pick us up each day. In the dead of winter we would all be bundled up and shiver all the way to school. My mother tried her best to convince us that it was merely invigorating. Ha ha!

My mother and me in our front dated June of 1958.
My mother and me in our front dated June of 1958. | Source

Kids of a certain age like to blend in with their peers. Even though some other friend's parents did not even own a second car the fact that Tillie was so different embarrassed my brothers and me back then. We would ask my mother not to drop us off right by the school doors but to stay back a bit in the small parking lot so that other kids would not see us exiting from Tillie.

How silly! In later years my mother and I have often laughed about the old Studebaker named Tillie and those times of bygone days.

Where We Lived at the Time

Oconomowoc, Wisconsin:
Oconomowoc, WI 53066, USA

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Studebaker Car History

The new craze nowadays is the thought of using more hybrid cars which can travel further without spending so much money on fueling them with gasoline.

The history of Studebaker is interesting. Did you know that Studebaker actually made electric cars a couple of years before they introduced those powered by gasoline?

The gasoline powered ones came along in the year 1904. They were heavily marketed and sold beginning in 1912 and until they closed their last manufacturing operation in 1966 they were well received by the public and were known for their quality.

For many years when we lived in the Bear Creek subdivision in Houston, Texas, our next door neighbor could be seen working on his vintage Studebaker cars and or trucks. He spent many of his free hours in his garage or driveway lovingly restoring these vehicles. It was a thrill for him to take an old possibly rusted out non working vehicle and get it shined up and operational.

There are Studebaker meets (conventions) where like minded individuals take their vintage cars and meet up in various states. In 2013 it was in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the hosts were the Pikes Peak chapter. Our neighbors attended that convention as they do many others in various places around the country.

While my early memories of the Studebaker car named Tillie might not have been the greatest I have come to appreciate their beauty and uniqueness over the years especially because of being exposed to them with our next door neighbor's love of the brand.

Do you have special memories or stories related to the Studebaker? If so, please mention them in the comment section below. Thanks!

My mother and Sheba (our German Shepherd) in our front yard in Wisconsin.
My mother and Sheba (our German Shepherd) in our front yard in Wisconsin. | Source

© 2010 Peggy Woods


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