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1947 Hudson: I Fell Out of a Classic Car

Me and the Hudson


Act One: Falling Out of a Moving Car

We were going to pick up my sister, Bobbette, after her week of wilderness experience with the Campfire Girl troop. Uncle Andy and Aunt Vella rode up to Pasadena with us. My uncle was riding in the front seat as Dad drove, and I was in the back with Mom and my aunt.

There was a large "lump" in the floorboard of the 1947 Hudson, both in back and front-- the drive shaft or something , which was really not unusual in those days, but in addition to that, the car had some peculiar features.

Before Seatbelts

The back doors opened from the front and were hinged in the back.

The door handle on the inside was pushed downward to open the door, and the door locking knob was locked when the little stick button was pulled up. (Most cars locked with the stick pushed down).

I was between my mom and my aunt in the back seat, with the doors locked and Mom on my right. My hair was rolled in aluminum curlers, to give me the "Shirley Temple" look.

Around my waist I wore a leather cowboy belt and holster with a toy six-shooter cap gun. I stood to peer over the top of the front seat and to look out of the front windshield, standing on the floorboard "lump".

This photo shows a '47 Hudson. Maybe you can see that the back door is hinged on the rear side.

This photo shows a '47 Hudson. Maybe you can see that the back door is hinged on the rear side.

The Fall

Suddenly, Dad made a turn and I fell toward my right across Mom's legs with one of my arms striking the door handle, and the other simultaneously hitting the door lock and shoving it down into the unlocked position.

Dad was a very careful driver, so it was not an erratic or reckless move. I just lost my balance.

I kept going as the door opened, but Mom somehow caught me by one ankle. There was a lot of screaming and hollering inside the car imploring Dad to stop.

I guess I was as surprised as anyone that the door opened -- and the car was still moving.

My cap gun went flying out of the holster and into the street. Cars were coming behind us, so I was sure one of them would run over it. I could see underneath the car with the wheels bouncing and spinning swiftly. The pavement flew by below, as I hung upside down.

"Hmmm, interesting", I thought. I had never thought about looking under the car before and didn't know it had so many moving parts. I did not feel particularly frightened. I was not an excitable kid and, after all, I KNEW mom was holding my leg.

I KNEW she would would not let me fall. She liked me.

Hanging On

I also knew I would soon be back inside the car where I was supposed to be. At the time I didn't realize that she was also holding the door with her other hand so it wouldn't close on me when Dad slowed to a stop. It's a wonder we both didn't fly out. (Remember, no one had ever heard of car seat belts at this time.)

Dad didn't know why he was supposed to stop, and with traffic all around, he couldn't make a sudden move. I don't know how long it took, but after a few moments I was back in the car, on Mom's lap. She was dabbing my curler-covered head with a kleenex tissue which was dripping with bright red blood.

"It's just a scratch," she told me " just a scratch,
it's going to be OK. "

She kept repeating this over and over and she seemed to be a little shaky. I didn't have much pain, and wasn't really aware of having hit my head anywhere. I still wasn't worried... at least not nearly as worried as Mom was.

I did think that it must must have more than "a scratch", after three kleenexes full of blood, but I went along with the scratch theory so as not to upset my mom any more. She was normally a very calm person and seemed unusually nervous about the incident. My feeling was that everything was OK now, so what was the worry?

Post-War Boom

Like most autos coming out of Detroit after WW II, the 1946-47 Hudsons were pretty much the same as the '42 models, except in very small details.

Hudson produced ABOUT 92,000 cars for the model year, but fell from ninth to 11th on the industry board. Other brands were selling better in the unprecedented postwar boom. Still, Hudson sales exceeded $120 million in 1946. Most of ther models were selling for around $1,700

Hudson advertised this car in 1914.

Hudson advertised this car in 1914.

Post-war Cars Hit the Road

In business since at least 1914, Hudson Motor Car Company was making a sedan with a larger interior , a smoother ride and a more powerful engine than its competitors by 1936. It had a steering column gear shift which freed up some space in the front seat and seemed to be aiming for the family market. Of course, it was still the depression era and few families could afford such luxury.

American auto companies like almost all other producers of consumer goods, ceased commercial production in 1942 by order of the federal government, as manufacturing was switched toward total wartime production of military vehicles, aircraft and ship parts as well as weapons. The Hudson "Invader" engines powered many landing craft for the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy.

After the war Hudson resumed making cars for American buyers. The 1947 sea-foam green, four-door sedan was my Dad's first new car, and one of the first new models on the road since the start of World War II.

Act Two: The Procedure

Somehow we found a hospital or clinic of some sort. I believe my uncle had shouted out the window to a pedestrian on the street for directions, as we were in an unfamiliar town. We found an emergency room.

I was taken in and sat on a high hard table where a nurse looked at my head while and my mom continued to tell me it was "a scratch".

At five years old I knew what a scratch was, and there was never a scratch in the world that could produce three paper tissues full of blood.

But I wasn't really worried, it didn't hurt much except when the nurse put some stinging stuff on it.

It was a weekend and we had to wait awhile for a doctor to arrive.

He came through the door with a broad smile on his face saying loudly,"Well, I hear you have a big hole in your head!" I thought my mom was going to fall over!

The jolly doctor had blown her story. I tried to act surprised at his comment, so mom would think I believed her "scratch" story, when I knew all along she was just trying to keep me calm. Maybe my acting lessons helped out here a bit.

They laid me down on the high table and put some towels around my head and a sheet over my face so I couldn't see anything... this was the scariest part so far. The doctor continued to talk in a rather loud and jovial manner as he proceeded to prep the area and got ready to sew me up.

With sheets over my face, I couldn't see what they were doing. I could hear the clink of metal instruments on a metal tray. The high table was uncomfortably hard.

NOW, I had pain. Apparently they did not have a good way to deaden the feeling in my scalp. After five awful stitches I was declared "as good as new" though I had a little bald spot, and would be needing at least one less curler for a while.

The doctor's opinion was that the aluminum curlers I was wearing , some of which were a little dented or scratched, may have saved me from a nastier scrape wound. All I had was one rather neat L-shaped scalp cut from the edge of a metal curler. It was closed by five stitches.

I had no memory of hitting my head against anything, either the car door or the street. . . and to this day don't know what (other than the curler) caused the cut.

Doc Hudson

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Act Three: "Oh yeah, my sister."

We waited at the hospital for a time, because after Dad found out I was OK, he continued on his way to pick up Bobbette, and would come back with her to get us.

By this time, of course he was late... she was the last Camp Fire Girl waiting at the pick up point in a Pasadena park, and tearfully sure that she had been forgotten or abandoned by her family at the age of 12. At the time I think she kind of blamed me for her worrisome experience. Well, heck, I lost my cap gun, after all. That was really the worst thing.

No one seemed overly concerned with her dismay , but everyone was giving a lot of attention to the little squirt with the "scratch", or the hole in her head . . . according to which story you believed.

I can remember going out to the driveway a day or two later, when the Hudson was parked there, to take a look under the car again.

"Hmmm, interesting",
I thought... though it WAS more interesting when all the parts were moving.

Hudson Motor Cars in Literature and Movies

John Steinbeck has the Joads traveling from OK to CA in an overloaded Hudson In "The Grapes of Wrath".

A new 1949 Hudson is prominent in Jack Kerouacs autobiographical "On the Road".

Morgan Freeman chauffeurs Jessica Tandy in a Hudson and other cars while "Driving Miss Daisy".

Nicholas Sparks' romantic novel set in the 1940s, "The Notebook", features a Hudson car.

"Kelly's Heroes" a WWII drama (1970) has one of the the character played by Clint Eastwood fantasizing about buying a "a Hudson with an electric shift" with the proceeds from a bank robbery.

The animated film "Cars" 2006 has the voice of actor/racer Paul Newman as the voice of "Doc Hudson" the Hornet race car.


Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on April 14, 2018:

That incident did make an impression, in more ways than one -- plus the fact that the details of the story were retold in our family for years

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on April 14, 2018:

Wow, you have a great memory. I don't remember many things from my pre-school years.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on December 30, 2014:

Thanks, Bill --Sort of professional, it is half of a photo shot at my husband's H.S reunion-- they ran us through quickly, but at least he got us to laugh.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on December 30, 2014:

Y.W. Rochelle. PS, I love your new photo. It looks professionally done.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on December 30, 2014:

I think you are generally right on both points, however the door locks have improved on cars. Thanks for commenting, Billrrr.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on December 30, 2014:

Great story Rochelle. I guess it's my age, but I find the old cars much more fascinating than the new ones. Some of my older friends say the same thing about people!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 26, 2012:

Another Hudson adventure! Thanks, David. I think my family had a '59 Impala years after my Hudson experience, but it was usually safely parked in the garage when not on the road.

David A Logan Sr on January 24, 2012:

I Loved your story! my Memories of our Families Hudsons, (Dad had several) were fighting with my sister over the fold down center arm rest, asI could then see out of the windows! It was also the first car I ever drove. I was about 3 or 4. Dad left it running, me in it when he ran into the house for something. I knew Daddy moved the long stick by the steering wheel, (it was an automatic)and so did I. Reverse was all the way down in those days, and that were I ended up. The Big Hornet backed down the street until it hit a neighbors brand new '59 Impala, and apparently creamed it. The Hudson and I were fine, other than a broken tail light lens. A posed later 'photo exists of me at the wheel of the '53 Hudson Hornet.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 07, 2012:

Indeeed,Chad. A few people have commented on similar near-death experiences.

It must be supposed that there were several tragedies, and there is no one left to comment on those.

We were among the lucky ones who had parents with quick reflexes.

chad chowen on January 02, 2012:

Well, I almost fell out of my dad's 47 Hudson. I opened the rear door, wind caught it and pulled me halfway out. Dad caught me before I fell clear out and he was driving!!!! After that he put after market gadgets on that prevented opening rear doors until the front door was opened. Those suicide doors were dangerous!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on November 08, 2011:

I remember the details, probably because it was talked about for years, and people were always trying to figure out exactly how it happened. The conclusion was that most of the fault was in the design flaw.

A couple other people have commented on hearing of or actually experiencing the same thing. There must have been several that we never heard about.

Thanks for your comment.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on November 08, 2011:

I loved this story on several levels Rochelle. I was eager to learn your fate as you fell from the behemoth. And was also fascinated by your detailed description of the auto. Hudson, Nash, Henry J, and Studebaker cars always held some sort of a magic to me...maybe because my Dad was a plain vanilla (Ford) driver.

The reverse door opening and opposite locking device for the doors is puzzling. Obviously not family friendly. Do you actually remember these details or did you research the car's info. Either way I really liked this narrative.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 20, 2011:

Yo are right Randy-- Of course, there was less traffic and people didn't drive as fast. I think drivers were more focused on driving. No cell phones, not even a radio.

I am very pleased to have a comment from you, again. Thanks.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on October 20, 2011:

HA! Brings back memories of the old Hudsons I used to see when I was a child, Rochelle. When you hit a dash back then, you hit a dash. No padded dashes in those days!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 20, 2011:

That's amazing. I guess kids back then should have been wrapped in bubble wrap and made to wear aluminum curlers in their hair. You were very lucky since you fell all the way out. I think we later decided that the pull-up door locks were a bad design idea-- of course this was long before seatbelts and car seats. If it happened to two-- there must have been others.

Thanks for commenting.

Robert Stitt on October 19, 2011:

I'll be. The very same thing happened to me when I was very small. We were headed to London from Toronto on Hwy 2 between Paris and Brantford. I'm not sure how it started. I know that I was bundled up because it was winter. and when dad went around a corner the door flew open and out I went. Dad was driving fast at the time because it was a highway. They rushed me to a hospital in the west side Toronto. The injuries I suffered were just bruises, that's it. Mom figured the snowsuit I had on at the time that helped save me from more serious injuries. Anyways, thank you for sharing your story with me. It brought back memories that were deep. I would love to find a 47 Hudson in good shape and driveable.

Bob Stitt



Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 14, 2011:

Thanks, Morgan. I don't remember how long he had it-- might have been as long as '52. Not too much more than that, I think.

Morgan Paris on October 14, 2011:

Great story, with some great pics. Parents sure don't dress their young daughters in super short dresses any more, but I know that they used to, as the movie Kiss of Death starring Victor Mature and Richard Widmark that was made in the year 1947, has two young girls in it wearing similar type of dresses.

The car that your dad bought was known as a Symphonic Hudson, and was replaced on December 7th 1947 by the much more famous Step Down Hudson. Too bad your dad didn't wait a little bit longer and buy one of those gems! Perhaps you would not have fallen out of the car. By the way, how long did your dad own that Hudson?

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 26, 2011:

This one was all original.

Fastest Car Rider from California on June 26, 2011:

I love customize classic cars:)

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on February 13, 2011:

You are right, Dacomish. I corrected the reference to Hornet. I' know it was a Hudson, at least. I appreciate the heads-up on that.

Dacomish on February 12, 2011:

Sorry, but the 1947 was not a Hornet. The first year for the Hudson Hornet was 1951.

'47's were either supers or commodores.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on November 02, 2010:

I suppose it happened more than once. ANd having the door lock with the button pulled up was certainly a design flaw. Of course this was before anyone thought of seatbelts for cars. I'm Lucky that mom held on.

Jim Ervin on November 01, 2010:

Somewhere I have an old Life Magazine with a full page picture of a similar event which ended tragically. A little boy in a cowboy outfit opened the rear door of a 4 door sedan while one of his parents was driving. He fell out and was killed on the road. My mother always feared that problem with us kids and made sure that my father bought only a 2 door '49 Dodge when we were small.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on August 01, 2010:

I'm sure my dad thought it was awesome. Nobody could afford to buy a car during the depression-- and they weren't building anything but jeeps and tanks during WWII. I'm sure it was his first new car.

JUSTIN on July 31, 2010:


Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 23, 2010:

I think we all felt perfectly safe, and my dad was a good driver. I think they changed that door lock in later years. One thing that did seem safer about the old cars-- they were actually made out of metal, not plastic that looks like metal. The wound must not have been too deep.

Thanks for reading, earnesthub.

earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on January 23, 2010:

A great first hand story about the wonderful Hudsons. Isn't it funny how we never thought about safety in those years. Not even in car design.

Requiring 5 stitches is certainly a big hole in your head!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 20, 2010:

Them scratches can be nasty.

Funny, Huh? Ok-- well now it is. All"s well that ends well says the Bard.

Sara Tonyn from Ohio, the Buckeye State on January 20, 2010:

Funny story, LOL! I can really identify with the "only a scratch" assurances. 'Cept it took EIGHT stitches to close my "scratch". :)

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 28, 2009:

I think I'm ok now-- at least from that particular event, it was more than 60 years ago and I seem to heal quickly. :)

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on October 28, 2009:

Glad you're OK now. Keep on hubbing.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 28, 2009:

It was customary with us too-- often just to take grandma out.

Yhanks for visiting.

vrajavala from Port St. Lucie on October 28, 2009:

we had a Plymouth, and I remember that every Sunday we would go out for a ride.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on September 01, 2009:

Now that is amazing-- on the other hand, it happened so easily, I suppose there must be other instances.

The good news is, indeed, that we are two who lived to tell the tale-- er, maybe you haven't told yours yet?

My story should have been told earlier-- maybe it would have saved you some gravel imbedtation, some years later.

ralwus on September 01, 2009:

Well now, you can't be that much older than I. yer too pretty. Those cars were amazingly unsafe. Dad had to put a coat hanger around the post of that door to keep it shut after that until he got another car. I never stood next to a door ever again or leaned against one. LOL Yeah, first time I really had an occasion to tell it. Goodnight now, I need sleep. Slàinte mhath! Good health!

ralwus on September 01, 2009:

I'll be an SOB! the same thing happened to me in 1955. Don't recall the car, it was big and black and had the same type of doors, and big hump. My 15 year old brother was driving. Dad let him start at 14. The whole family was in the car, 7 kids and a friend of my oldest sisters and mom and dad. I had to stand up in the back. My brother did a fast U turn as someone forgot something, the door flew open and out I went into the gravel. I had shorts on. My knees and legs were all scratched up. Mom was hysterical. No broken bones, just some pea gravel needed plucked out and sugar and turpentine applied with a torn up clean white rag around my knees. My cap guns were safe at home. But I lost my coonskin hat. LOL

How many others did this happen too? Thanks for this story. We share something special huh? and we survived to tell it.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 16, 2009:

Thanks, Peggy. Many years later I told Mom I knew she wouldn't drop me. She said she wasn't so sure she would even stay in the car. Yes, It ended well.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 13, 2009:

This was a delightful story and while scary for a while (especially for your mom) "all's well that ends well" as the old saying goes. Those old cars are beauties!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 09, 2009:


I'll wait...

carazoo india from Bangalore, India on June 08, 2009:

Nice article. :-)

PR: wait... I: wait... L: wait... LD: wait... I: wait...wait... Rank: wait... Traffic: wait... Price: wait... C: wait...

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 08, 2009:

Yes, they were actually mae out of real metal, and most of the menfolks could repair them, themselves, if something went wrong. Thanks for the comment.

GiftedGrandma from USA on June 08, 2009:

Loved reading the experience you had, very well written Rochelle. The old cars were much better made then the paper thin ones of today. I miss them and love to go to the little car shows here in town when we know about them. I always take lots of photos.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 08, 2009:

Aside from being a four door sedan, I'm not sure what the exact model was. I know the "Hornet" is the one that did so well in the races. Seems to me that it did have the rocket logo on it. Now I'll have to ask my sister if she remembers.

Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on June 08, 2009:

I am so glad you wrote this story. Now I know why Daddy was so excited when he traded in the Jeep Willis for the Green Hudson Hornet! I don't know what year it was-but had to have been used. Mama and daddy never owned a new car. he called it his, "Green Hornet." I loved the jeep and cried when he got rid of it, so I resented the Green Hornet.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 08, 2009:

I think my dad loved that car. Being able to buy a new automobile at that time was a big deal after all of the economic struggles they had been through.

Equanimity could be my middle name if it were not so hard to spell.

I'm sure I had more cap guns.

My sis is a dear, we always got along well except for the time she gave me a can of peas for Christmas.

Some people have told me that I do have a hole in my head.

Sheila from The Other Bangor on June 08, 2009:

Beautiful car, though! Your equanimity in the face of danger is delightful. Did you get a new cap gun? Did your sister ever forgive you? Do you still have a hole in your head? :)

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