Dean Grennell is one of those rare fans who seem to have burst fullblown into fandom, attaining practically instant popularity and respect. (Other, more recent, examples would include Bob Leman and Les Nirenberg.) He entered fandom during the Seventh Fandom hullabaloo, but was never too closely associated with it -- partly because he was older than the Seventh Fandomites, but also because he was obviously more talented. He made a name for himself as a punster and editor of Grue, one of the best of all fan humorzines, but he always had his serious side too, as shown in the following piece from Bob Pavlat's Fapazine, Contour.
There is so much in autos, inanimate that I know they are, that arouses feelings of sadness and nostalgia in me. I think I find it more depressing to drive past a car-graveyard than a people-graveyard, though probably I wouldn't if the people's place had the inmates lying about on the surface decomposing, all shattered and torn and stretched out in attitudes of agony. I see these old jalopies and I can't help thinking that almost every one of them at some time was a joyous focal-point in someone's life. Every one of them was once selected and its color perhaps carefully picked out and the owner-to-be sat and waited impatiently for the factory to deliver it and one day the phone rang and it was the dealer saying your car's here, come on down and get it, and he drove his old car (which, too, had had its day) down for the last time, having carefully turned the seat-cushions in search of odd coins and removed the jack and tire-patch kit, and he drove it into the lot and shut off the switch for the last time and handed the keys to the dealer and Yessir, there she was! a brand-spanking new 1934 Hupmobile Eight with its big disc wheels sparkling black and its deep bottle-green sides reflecting bulgy buildings and fat people with tiny heads in its curving panels and its interior upholstered in light green plush and not even a speck of ground-in mud on the nubbled rubber of its running-boards and the little oval window on its speedometer showed the odometer dial standing at 9.4 ... rather, 00009.4 ... and the big wooden wheel with its four precisely dovetailed quadrants was smooth and gleaming and sensuous to touch and the smell, ah, the smell of the thing was best of all! Let Bradbury prate of his scents of sarsaparilla and be hanged. There is not in all the world so rich and opulent a smell as the inside of a new car, the winy tang of the tires, the exotic fruity fragrance of lacquer, the indescribable melange of a hundred tiny smells merged to an unforgettable whole.
So maybe by 1934 the Hupmobiles had hard-rubber steering wheels, I don't know. But the point is all of those cars once smelled new and now look at them. Don't stick your head through that broken window and sniff at them now in hopes of capturing some fleeting forgotten memory of that one-time smell. The scent of an old car, rotting away in the mercilessly patient attack of rain, sun, snow, and ice, is as distinctive as the smell of a new one and as depressing as the new one's is heartening.
I never look at a field of old cars but I think of that original owner, proudly driving it back home and in my mind's eye I share his moment of glory as he feels all eyes on him in envy (whether they are or not is immaterial; the feeling is there) and I sense the excitement as he turns into his driveway and his wife and children come running to see the new car and he proudly shows her the features ("Look, dear -- four-wheel brakes; the man said they're safer!") and the little boy runs around the car, his dog yapping at his heels, and looks up at the radiator cap which has a little disc-shaped protuberance sticking up with a column of red fluid to show when the radiator is too hot (make that year 1928 or 30 now, uh?) instead of the symbolic spear-shape that will be there one day, making the cars appear bent on assembling a pedestrian shishkebab, and back by the rear wheel the dog, with true canine irreverence, is in the act of baptizing it into the family ....
Yes, old cars depress me just as it does to drive past a home for the aged, looking at the people sitting there on the benches like condemned ones in some open-air death row from whence there is, finally, no appeal. I can't help skrenning back and seeing them as babies (and babies they must have been once), as kids, as adolescents, as young-marrieds just coming into parenthood, and so on to where they are now.
I don't know whether I feel the sorriest for them or for some young chap. whose name I've already forgotten. He was nineteen years old and he'll never know the feel of hard bench slats on his stiff old rump and the bitter frustration of staring enviously through his rheumy old eyes at the kids going by, the kids whose only virtue is that they were born after him, kids he used to regard with affectionate contempt because he was a grown man and they were -- well, they were kids -- and now look at them. Somehow they've taken over the whole earth and a cruel fate has refused to make an exception in his case and he's gotten old and tottery and semi-helpless and there's just nothing can be done.
No, as I say, this nineteen-year-old escaped all that back in 1870, which is when it said he died on his tombstone which sticks up at a wry angle in the little cemetary at Brownsville. I idly noted it while waiting for a customer to meet me there a few months back so we could measure up the school (for a furnace) across the street. I spent a pale sad morning speculating on poor what's-his-name, on what he'd missed and what he escaped and whatnot. It even gave his name sort of like "Peter Newcomb's son, Thomas," as if he wasn't a full man on his own hook yet.
I've even thought of looking up the backfiles of the local newspaper, if it goes back that far, to see if it says what happened to him. It's a pity, really, that he died so young, because he was one of those favored ones who picked the year of his birth with skill or luck. If he had been born in 1851, he'd have been too young for the Civil War though old enough to enjoy the excitement of it and he'd have been much too old for drafting by the time the Spanish-American War came along ... ah those lucky generations that are born between wars!
I shot pix for the Milwaukee Journal a couple weeks ago of a wreck where an Imperial had suh-MEARED a 54 Olds. A sad sight . . . both from Chicago, one going on vacation, one returning. The Imperial was the most de luxe model possible, with air-conditioning and everything ... seven gees if a dime. Both of them were packed with the junk people lug along on vacations. I could picture them stuffing it into the car and hollering over their shoulders, hey didja get the thermos jug? well get it! and like so, little knowing that in a few hours it would be the least important thing in the world whether the thermos jug was along or not.
You know, I think sometimes if a person could fully comprehend the intrinsic tragedy of life itself he would go quite mad in an instant.
(data entered by Judy Bemis)