Remembering good times of ‘Ford Times’

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There were many things I liked about going to my grandparents. Grandma always had a candy dish with those sugar-coated orange slices, or sometimes it was orange circus peanuts. She also made the best peach cobbler on the planet and had this way of pressing hamburger meat into slices of bread and then cooking them open face under the broiler. 

Grandpa, who my Mom always said was born in the wrong place and time to have been one of the cowboys he read about in all of those Western novels he so enjoyed, did train his horse, Tuffy, to do tricks. He would entertain my cousins and me — and terrify our mothers — by having us take a length of paper between our teeth which he would use a Western-style whip to whittle down to where there was barely enough to spit out. 

We’d stand there in full confidence, and not once did that whip touch any of our noses.

But there was at least one other thing about my grandparents’ house I fondly remember. When we went there, I got to read the Ford Times. 

‘Ford Times’ helped to provide perspective on the America we saw through the windshields of our cars | Larry Edsall photos

Before I saw my first copy of Car and Driver or started reading the auto and motorsports features in True magazine at the barber shop, I got, as Ford put it, a “view of America through the windshield” by reading the Ford Times, a monthly, 64-page magazine, each of the pages measuring 5 by 7 inches.

I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but Bob Golfen and I recently were reminiscing about the Ford Times, and I found someone on eBay offering to sell six issues from 1965 for $8, plus shipping. It turns out the content is even better than I remembered, though I didn’t remember how little of that content was about Ford’s newest vehicles, how much the magazine was about camping, or how the editors preferred original paintings to photography (and I wonder what those original illustrations might be worth in today’s art marketplace).

A variety of places to go and things to see and to do were featured in each issue

The magazine debuted in 1908, basically as a way for Ford to communicate with employees and dealers. Publication ceased during World War I and didn’t resume until 1943, and after the war with the emphasis on Ford vehicle owners who were encouraged to explore America in their cars. Publication ended 50 years later as part of a corporate cost-cutting program.

At its height, Ford Times was sent to 2 million households and featured stories by the likes of Faulkner, Steinbeck, Ogden Nash, Earl Stanley Gardner and E.B. White, illustrated by some of the country’s best illustrators and artists.

There’s a delightful retrospective on the internet about artist Charlie Harper, who contributed artwork to more than 120 issues between 1948 and 1982.

The magazine and its history and cultural role also are the subject of a 224-page (yet surprisingly easy and rapid reading) doctoral dissertation in 2012 by Rebecca Dean Swenson of the University of Minnesota. 

Recipes from featured restaurants were so popular and entire cook book was produced

My grandparents started receiving the magazine in 1957 when my grandfather bought a red-and-white Ford sedan, 3 on the tree and V8 engine. Two years later that car became my grandmother’s when grandpa bought a more upscale ’59 Ford Fairlane (or perhaps even a Galaxie?) in black and gold, and with an automatic transmission. 

I pretty much learned how to drive in grandma’s ’57, and it was probably in 1963 that the Ford Times started coming to our house when my parents  — much to my surprise and delight just a few months before I’d get my license — bought a ’64 Falcon Futura convertible (red with white top). 

Those Ford Times I recently acquired provided a wonderful and nostalgic trip back to my youth, an appreciation for the fact that a car magazine (or perhaps even an auto-oriented website?) can be about much more than just cars, and to wondering why publications such as the Ford Times are a thing of a bygone era. 

Camping was a frequent feature, of course with Ford vehicles carrying tents or pulling trailers

 

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

8 COMMENTS

  1. My dad was a Ford guy through and through. As a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I remember reading the Ford Times magazines. I always loved the articles that featured new models that were coming out. By some stroke of luck, my dad kept many of these magazines, which I still have. Occasionally I’ll read an issue and enjoy being carried back to the good old days!

  2. I was born and raised in Spokane , WA. My parents had a place on Lake PendOreile, ID. Among our neighbors was my buddy’s parents . His dad was an art professor at Miami of ( Oxford), OH. His dad , Ed Fullweider, has a side job. Contributing artist for The Ford Times. He and his wife , Katie, painted many pictures of North Idaho scenes. Every three years one of the job perks was a new Ford or Mercury. They also had a ‘28 Model A Roadster Pickup used to haul paint supplies to various local sites for Ford Times art jobs. The one Ford I particularly remembered was a heavily optioned 1956 “Parklane” two door wagon. It was the competitor for Chevrolet Nomad or Pontiac Safari. They’re seldom seen now. My dad was a Packard Man to the end ( “ Ask The Man Who Owns One”). Ed Fullweider finally talked him into a 1962 Ford “ Country Sedan”. With it came a complementary subscription to The Ford Times from Dr.( PhD) Fullweider.

    • My Dad had a Ford dealership in the 50’s & 60’s. One year we took a new ’59 T-Bird from outside of Baltimore to California. My Dad would make me read out loud articles from a stack of Ford Times that he brought along to help me with my reading while my Mom would do a daily test of my math skills with flashcards to keep up with my schooling exercises we were traveling. When we got back home my teachers were astounded how advanced my skills were for a 2nd grader. I also was very proficient in the details of every Ford model for 1959 from the advertisements. I also made a trip to Dearborn a few years later with my Dad for a dealers meeting and took a tour that included meeting some of the people who worked on the magazine. It’s a shame they discontinued it. It was a great promotional piece and created a sense of loyalty between Ford and the buyers.

    • My dad owned a 49 – 50 series Packard Custom. “Ask The Man Who Owns One” would not have sold many Packard’s from his perspective. His “Pregnant Elephant” was an automotive engineering debacle.

  3. That’s me and my brother in the last picture. Our dad worked for United Airlines "Friendly Skies" and was asked to use our family in two editions. And me in the right side pic also.

  4. When I was 10, my folks purchased a 1956 black and white Ford 4 Dr V8 Customline. When Ford Times started showing up in the mail and I read that little mag cover to cover. The artistic quality was fantastic. I particularly loved the small-scale Ford model ads for the car colors and imaginative backdrops. The 1959 two tone Galaxies were works of art for that era. The articles were well crafted for quick and informative reading. Those were great days.

  5. Hey there

    The Ford industry has been fascinating to read about. I was wondering if anyone knew where I may
    Be able To view so e of the first Ford Times volumes. Particularly volumes 3,4 with the promirtion of the Model T.
    Many thanks

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