The George Packard Series
George Packard was born in Chicago in 1946. His father, Joseph Packard, a nephew of James Ward and William Doud Packard, worked in the original Packard plant in Warren, Ohio. In 1905, Joseph relocated with the company to Detroit where, as head foreman of the assembly line, Joseph Packard was instrumental to the company’s success. During WW II, he supervised production of the famed P 51 airplane engine. At age 66 he retired, and moved to Chicago, where he quickly married and fathered George and his George’s sisters, Caroline and Marthe.
The Packard Motor Company was already fading, being squeezed out by the “Big Three”. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. Dad had given his best years to the company and was pretty much worn out. He died in 1951 when George was still a toddler. Still, George remembered his father with a warm light. Unlike the rest of the family, father had been a decent and honest person. Although he had become a wealthy man, Joseph Packard remained an unpretentious mechanic, simple in his ways. Even as an old man, he liked nothing better than to tinker in the garage. He still loved to work on cars. But he had married a young and ambitious wife, and, at her urging, he had purchased a large manor in the posh Lakeshore section. His son George, as well as his two daughters, Caroline and Marthe, were sent to expensive private schools. Presumably, they were being groomed to enter the upper echelons of Chicago high society. It didn’t work out that way. Poor George, poor Caroline, and poor Marthe. They never really made it to the upper echelons of society. As they grew older the Packard children struggled in vain to fulfill their mother’s lofty expectations – and to satisfy her insatiable thirst for upward mobility. The entire family wound up living what George considered a false life. All became heavy drinkers.
The post-war slide of the Packard line did little to help the atmosphere at home. His mother had been widowed at an early age and she felt cheated by life’s crueties. Income from the Company was diminishing. Due to the unfortunate mergers and joint projects with Studebaker, their income was reduced. The well had run dry. Mother was hard put to maintain her standing in Chicago society. She drank heavily.
George Packard had observed his family’s dissolution first-hand, and wanted no part of it.
After completing four years at MIT, and after a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, George returned to Chicago. He took a quick look around, and promptly packed his bags for California. He took the family’s old Studebaker (a graduation present) and headed west.