Wednesday, December 29, 2010
“K” is for Karen
Although not a man to be obsessed with material things, my grandfather’s 1952 Kaiser Deluxe was one of his most treasured possessions. In the last 30 years he owned it, it typically sat in one half of the garage, covered with a soft blanket, taken out once a year to be cleaned and waxed. It had been retired from active service about 1965 or so, but from the time he bought the car in 1952 until then, it was used daily.
The Kaiser-Frazer company churned out its first model with the Kaiser Special, a 4-door sedan, in 1947, and continued to produce automobiles in the United States until 1955. Midway through 1952, Bill Knutz, in Huron, South Dakota, purchased what would be his only brand-new car, at the age of 41. Typically a thrifty man by necessity, this seemed to be a very uncharacteristic thing for him to do, but he was moving his family from the farm to Gardena, California, had just sold his entire herd of cattle, and needed reliable transportation. Knowing these facts, It seems like a sensible and practical thing to do. But knowing his lifelong love of cars, I’m sure he was secretly and thoroughly thrilled about it.
Grandpa and I spent much time in that car, as it was his job to entertain me while my Grandma was shopping or getting groceries. He told me many stories during those hours, and he had me convinced that the “K” in the center of the steering wheel was for “Karen.” I bought it, hook, line and sinker, well past the point that I should have known better. There’s still a part of me that loves to think that if Grandpa had his way, that K would truly stand for “Karen.”
An uncle inherited the Kaiser after Grandpa’s death in 1996, and sold it, as I understand, to a collector. I’d love to know where it ended up, or even some day to see it again. Wherever it is, I just hope that its new owner knows what very special memories are embedded in that vehicle.