3rd Ave, Grandpa, My Sister, A Big Green Cadillac, and Red Cowboy Boots

Grandpa started as a chauffeur around 1905; it was the early days of automobiles. The car was large, and the driver sat in the open. I recall seeing a few pictures of him wearing a fur coat and boots.

In the 1920s, grandpa was now driving a taxicab for a living. By 1930 had become an owner of a small taxi company. He worked long days inside the garage and still drove a taxi. Then after World War II, he sold the company.

But grandpa was a car guy. 1951-54, his car was a Green Cadillac with whitewall tires. He always washed that car, and the white walls on the tires were painted white for that bright, clean look. After cleaning the car, I often would ride in the front seat to the Mobile Gas Station; they had the flying red horse.

He would pull into the gas station, and three or four guys in blue uniforms would start working on the car. Each one would have a task, pumping the gas, checking the oil and water in the radiator, checking the tire pressure, and cleaning the car windows. All that for about 25 cents a gallon. Between 1951-54, mom would ask her father, grandpa, to babysit my sister and me. We loved it, and off into the back seat of the Cadillac we would go. It always seemed enormous. It was.

3Rd Ave JULY 1944 © by Andreas Feininger Life Magazine

Next, we would head down to Manhattan. From his taxicab days, grandpa had his favorite places. We would stop in businesses all over New York City where he knew people. Many would give us candy. He especially liked 3rd Ave. Back then, the 3rd Ave still had elevated subway tracks, commonly referred to as the 3rd Ave El. Real estate under the elevated subway lines was not considered a prime location. On 3rd Ave, there were many bars, and grandpa took my sister and me to them. We would sit in the big (we were little) booths drinking sodas and eating bar food. Mostly what I remember of those places is they all smelled terrible. I don’t know what prompted this, but grandpa once bought us red cowboy boots. My sister and I still remember wearing them and often bringing them up. When we arrived home wearing our red cowboy boots, I could still see a mom staring at them and saying, “dad, why are they wearing red cowboy boots” and grandpa leaving as fast as he could. I like to think he just wanted to buy them for us.

Through my work, I had daily meetings with clients on 3rd Ave. As I walked up and down 3rd Ave, often eating at some well-known places on 3rd Ave, I would think of grandpa, my sister, his big green Cadillac, and those red cowboy boots.

Why this post—A few days ago, through an ongoing email between friends, I saw this video:

This video reminded me of fond memories of grandpa, who passed away in 1962.

Paul Plaine

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