Last week out of the blue, I got a message on Facebook from Dagmar Nearpass talking about her father, who worked around 1955 for my grandfather. She mentioned that they lived in a brick Cape Cod house up the big hill from the nursery.
My grandfather, Albert Behnke, loved a lot of things: his family, his friends, his plants and his company. And, like a lot of men, he had a life-long love affair with cars. For him, it was the Cadillac. He worked hard, so every few years he would order a new Cadillac. He was able to get his first Cadillac (seen above) in 1955. My Uncle Albert recalls that back in those days, the Cadillac was the top symbol of success in the USA; the ultimate luxury car; the best made car. For a German immigrant who started with nothing, this was a big deal for him.
Albert also told me: “They always bought the Cadillacs at some place in Montgomery County near Silver Spring. Dad’s sales person was usually Jim Coleman who now has various car businesses. Buying the car was always a big deal. I don’t remember much discussion on how it was physically shaped – the fins etc. So the main thing was the color. Once it arrive, dad would go over it with fine tooth comb. The slightest defect had to be fixed. Probably drove the Cadillac place crazy. But in all the giant vacations out west USA, it never broke down totally. He would also have his Cadillac shipped back to Germany when he would go to visit.”
I have so many photos my grandmother, Rose Behnke, took of different cars and trucks we had over the years, but something about this one made me want to share it with you. I wish we still had this beauty. I always remember riding in the different Cadillac’s but never in something that looked this cool! Our good friend, Mr. Steinle, is the man in the suit and more than likely, the other two men were employees at the nursery.
Albert Behnke built the garage in the photo on the property for his pride and joy. And today it is still standing. Years after he stopped using it for his cars, it became a storage building for food for the swans and ducks along with everything my grandmother just could not throw away. Later, it became the Woody Plant Department’s office. We even for a time stored fertilizer in there. Now, it is home to Ducky Hong’s Bonsai Classroom where you can learn all about growing bonsai.
by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke Nurseries