From Model T to Electric Chevy Volt, the incredible journey of a San Leandro centenarian

Updated: Jun 14

“I’m overwhelmed to drive something like this! After living through the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor, next thing you know they will be sending me to the moon!” That’s how 101-year-old San Leandro resident, Mickey Ganitch, felt sitting in the driver’s seat of his new, all-electric Chevy Bolt. It’s been quite a ride these last 101 years! Born on an Ohio farm in 1919, Mickey was the 12th of 14 children—now he is the last remaining sibling. In 1941 he joined the Navy and headed to Pearl Harbor. On that fateful day of December 7th, Mickey was suited up for a football game with seamen from the USS Arizona. Then the Japanese attack began, and instead of playing football, Mickey had a bird’s eye view of the horrific attack from his battle-station in the crow’s nest, 70 feet above the main deck of the USS Pennsylvania.


Mickey went on to fight in every major Pacific battle, his ship never sustaining a direct hit after Pearl Harbor—until the day before the war ended. That day, Mickey headed off to find a quiet location to write a letter when a torpedo hit where Mickey would normally be stationed, except that he was elsewhere, writing to one of his nine sisters. He lost 26 of his crew members that day. Mickey went on to serve in the Korean War and ended his Navy career at Alameda Naval Air Station. Never one to slow down and always ready to be of service, Mickey has a full plate of volunteer activities that still keep him very busy.

Mickey also has had a long and remarkable history with cars. “When I grew up, Model T Fords were the rage,” Mickey explained. He first learned to drive in a Model T, driving around the area's farms and fields, where driving up steep hills was best accomplished in reverse. When Mickey finally saved enough to buy a vehicle, it was a 1936 Indian brand motorcycle that became his first vehicle.


Mickey has an eye for bargain prices. He once spotted an extremely good deal for a Model A Ford—only a hundred dollars! It was the cheapest car he’d ever owned. A 1948 Pontiac was his most expensive car, but luxury cars are not Mickey’s style. “I don’t believe in expensive cars,” he said. Throughout his life, Mickey has owned many different cars. Having adopted three children, Mickey adjusted to buying cars that suit his family.

“It goes like a scared rabbit!” was Mickey’s first impression of his new all-electric car, a 2020 Chevy Volt. It wasn’t his original plan to buy an electric car, but the Volt got his attention. A quiet ride and more power were the traits that first stood out to Mickey. And with so many gadgets in the car, it makes him feel like Buck Rogers!


Mickey bought his Bolt for all the usual reasons one picks out a new car—it’s performance, features, driving ability. And the fact that it is good for the environment, well, Mickey feels really good about that. “Anything that’s good for the environment and helps everybody, I’m all for it,” he said. He now has an electric charging station near his garage, and he doesn’t miss trips to the gas station.


Today you can find Mickey driving his new electric car to help veterans. He is also looking forward to getting back to driving to his many speaking engagements, at schools and elsewhere, to share his life story. It’s an unbelievable story. A story of courage and service and a world of change viewed from the front seat. And at 101 years old, Mickey Ganitch is again part of defining the future with his all-electric Chevy Bolt.

Does Mickey recommend an electric vehicle? “Absolutely!”


Learn more about Mickey’s Pearl Harbor experience here.

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