My Cousin, My Grandpa, and Chief Pontiac

My post from August 11th of this year concerning the news of 1943 generated a very interesting response from my older cousin Chuck who lives in Cincinnati. In that post, I discussed the need to be accurate when writing historical fiction and wondered if I had assigned Reverend Hall, my minister in The Secret of Their Midnight Tears, the correct automobile. I opined that he would certainly not be driving the ’41 Nash that I saw in Winchester on the street one day. Chuck, however, wrote a wonderful email explaining that our Methodist minister grandfather, Edward Gisriel, actually had something even better in the years immediately following the war. I’ll let Chuck take it from here:

Maybe Rev. Hall didn’t have a flashy car, but Rev. Gisriel did.  He owned a 1947 Pontiac Chieftain—black with all of the bells and whistles, including a lighted acrylic Indian-head hood ornament.  As in the photo, the Reverend’s car was loaded with REAL chrome and a

1947 Pontiac Chieftan

driver’s side search light.  We would frequently drive to Seat Pleasant to one of his churches for evening activities:  movie night, minstrel shows and evening services.  The drive always began in the early afternoon and we would always stop by a running stream about half way there, eat our lunch, and spend some time skipping stones on the water.  

 After the evening event, sometimes very late at night (at least for me at 4 or 5 years of age) we would be driving back to Howard Street, where we both lived with my parents, and I clearly remember asking “Are you sure we are going the right way?”  This was well before Interstates and major road lighting, so it was always extremely dark and we’d be the only car on the back roads.  I must have asked the question thousands of times. It became a joke between us and the answer was always the same, always accompanied by his Methodist Evangelical hearty laugh: “Don’t worry.  Chief Pontiac is leading the way.”  Then I was assigned the task of finding a radio station by pushing the ivory buttons on the dash.  

 I will always remember these moments and the tremendous bond that grew between us.  He always encouraged my questions and always patiently answered.  This was something my father never did.  Granddad Gisriel and I shared a bedroom on Howard St. and we always listened to the Orioles game on the radio at bed time.  When he was away at night I would turn on the game and try to stay awake, listening for the Pontiac to pull into a garage, and then report the score as he got ready for bed.  On gameless nights, we would always play “Bet I can beat you to sleep”. That was probably to shut me up—and I never could tell who won.

Thanks, Chuck for sharing this beautiful story­. Don’t be surprised if I steal it and put it in a work of my own some time.

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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2 Responses to My Cousin, My Grandpa, and Chief Pontiac

  1. Al Smith says:

    A classy car and oh the chrome how I miss chrome on a car.


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