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1941 Studebaker Commander

Right Side 1941 Studebaker Commander

Daddy Worked at Studebaker

by Norman Fikes

The following details of Studebaker may not be factual but they are the way I remember things. I was at the time somewhere between 12 to 15 years of age. Please look at my story through the eyes and understanding of a boy more interested in fun and games than how cars are made.

I lived in Mishawaka , Indiana with my dad and step-mother. Daddy worked at the Studebaker plant for over 22 years; I think. I was privileged to visit the factory several times and didn’t realize the value of it until later in my adult life.

I saw almost everything; looking down through a window watching several engines mounted on stands, running. Some at top speed some just normal; I was told one engine never stops and they never checked the oil, dad said they wanted to see how many hours it would go before blowing up!

I started at the beginning of the assembly line and walked along watching a frame become an automobile and driven off into the yard. Car bodies were coming down from a hole in the roof; two to four men working on one car at once depending where I was at on the line. Engines being hoisted into place; seems I remember passing Dad’s work station and he was putting lug nuts on and a wheel.

I would venture into an upper room and there were women sewing upholstery on seats. Then I saw the storm room where a car was and high pressure water pouring against it to see if it leaked anywhere. After a while I went to the foundry and saw a trough like thing with red hot liquid in it flowing down into an area below to molds for engine blocks. Out back were stacks and stacks of frames.

Dad would give me his badge and turn me free to go anywhere. When I passed his work station he would just say; “stay our of trouble son”. Once I went to the office to take a guided tour but after it started I found it very boring and kept slipping back to the end. When the tour guide took the others around a corner I disappeared on my own.

I would go with dad to get his check at times during lay-offs. We would go into a large room with windows with bars across them to pick up his check. Daddy told me how he got the job at Studebaker. He went in this same room, filled out an application and gave it to the man at one of the windows. The man told him they would call him if they needed anyone; but daddy told the man he would wait in one of the straight back chairs in that room. The man said that it would be about 30 days and dad told him it was alright he would be sitting right here whenever they needed him. He sat down and waited about 30 minutes, one of the line foremen came in and ask the clerk if he could get him a man fast because he had just fired a guy. The answer was; “See that guy sitting over there; get him out of my face. Daddy had a job at Studebaker.

I remember also about the merger between Studebaker and Packard. Dad took me with him to Notre Dame for the big celebration of the merger; comedian Bob Hope was there and a movie star name Terry Moore. Mostly I remember the venders of soft drinks and popcorn, etc.

When Studebaker shut down it nearly killed my dad. He told me the union had a big meeting with the company and offered to take a large pay cut. However he told me that company officials said that it was not the union; it was the government.

I have told the story to the best of my memory not intending to offend anyone or fabricate the truth. Maybe I have forgotten something; maybe my memory is blurred by time; after all that was about 60 years ago. I hope you have enjoyed it.

© 2011 nfikes

Extra Reading:

Wheelbarrow Johnny The Story of John Studebaker
Studebaker Stories
First Production Studebaker Avanti